Discovering and applying new and innovative economic development tools, models, policies, and programs
Creating Jobs and Wealth in Distressed Michigan Communities

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The REI University Center is calling for Co-Learning Plan author(s)! 

Co-Learning is a process in which multiple parties collaborate to generate new knowledge in Economic Development. In a Co-Learning Project, innovative economic development tools, models, strategies, policies, and practices are researched, and the findings and recommendations serve as a key resource for economic development practitioners and policymakers in Michigan. Co-Learning Plans can be written by practitioners, decision makers, community leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars, or other stakeholders. The Co-Learning Plan selection is a competitive process, and REI typically funds between 4-6 Co-Learning Projects with up to $8,000 in funding each year. This project gives you the opportunity to further understand a topic area of interest while producing research that has the potential to help communities in the future.

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Learn About Co-Learning Plan Project Topics for the 2020 Project Year:

Well-Being Index in Michigan: Communities are beginning to think about the well-being of their residents. Gallup and Mayo Clinic have developed well-being tools to measure quality of life in states. Are there models where well-being constructs are working? How would a Michigan well-being index work? Might Michigan employers receive a tax credit for providing inexpensive onsite day care, onsite preventive health care clinics, and teleworking spaces?

Triple Bottom Line Manufacturing Authority: Can Michigan create a new Manufacturing Authority where guiding principles that promote manufacturing by entities could endorse a Triple Bottom Line (socially, environmentally and economically balanced) approach? Could the primary purpose of a new TBL Michigan Manufacturing Authority be to retain and attract investment and employment opportunities in order to promote sustainable and vibrant economic growth based upon manufacturing that is globally competitive in a diversity of sectors including and without limitation to technology, water, energy, transportation, environmental, healthcare, loss, dispute resolution, logistics and related research and development.

The Future of “work”: What is the history of work and jobs? How will we address the continued decline in the numbers of living wage jobs and work created? Currently, how are community and economic developers preparing for less and less available jobs? How will this predicted transition play out in our communities? How will we know when we should stop trying to “create jobs?” Are we still measuring the impacts of economic development using numbers of jobs created, retained etc. What should we measure in community and economic development in the near future? Instead of “working” at “jobs” what will we do? Will it be necessary to have a job in the future? 

Ethics in Economic Development: There be Pirates!!  It is a common practice within the economic development community for professionals to seek out and recruit business and industry from other communities/states. The practice of economic development "piracy" often leads to overall job loss (companies downsize) increased public costs (both to the sending and receiving community) with limited long term economic gains for workers or communities. Economic development piracy when conducted by publicly funded economic development professionals raises questions as to the ethical behavior of these professionals such as, how does this practice serve the long term public good? What overall benefits/costs result from economic development piracy and who pays and who gains? This Co-Learning Plan would examine the ethical principles guiding publicly funded economic professionals and identify the ethical dilemmas that economic development piracy raises in the profession and possible strategies and policies that the profession and communities/states might employ to minimize the negative impacts of economic development piracy.

Paying for Infrastructure: A critical part of public economic development is the investment in modern and cost effective utility infrastructure such as sewer, water and energy/electricity. What new models, policies and practices are there that can inform economic development professionals and state and local government officials on planning and financing the renovation or new construction of a sustainable modern utility infrastructure for communities?

Extended Producer Responsibility: EPR can be described as a system of policies and practices that extend the responsibility of a "product" at the end of its post-consumer life to the original producer. Popularized in part by William McDonough & Michael Braungart in their 2002 book "Cradle to Cradle" extended producer policies and practices seek to maximize the sustainability of manufactured goods by reducing waste and increasing the recycling of valuable materials. Many modern companies have found this method of product design and production both profitable and environmentally beneficial. Many consumers prefer products that practice cradle to cradle material use and salvage. In Michigan the auto industry is a leader in this regard for example by re-utilizing salvaged steel. Our international neighbor, Canada, has adopted a number of provincial policies to expand extended producer responsibility to a variety of products. Little is known about Michigan's circular economy or the potential impact of extended producer responsible to create jobs and support new business development in the state. This Co-Learning Plan would examine and describe the economic, social, and environmental impacts of adopting Extended Producer Responsibilities to industries in Michigan and discuss the pros and cons of these policies and practices of sustainable and equitable economic development.

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