In Saskatchewan’s Regional Economic Development Authorities: A Background Document, Neville Fernandes provides a brief history of the Saskatchewan government’s role in encouraging community economic development initiatives through the creation of Regional Economic Development Authorities (REDAs). Fernandes also sketches out REDAs’ value to Saskatchewan’s particular socio-economic circumstance, explains how they function, and supplies the reader with additional material on the topic.
To understand the REDA principle, one must also be familiar with two other related concepts. The notion of “Community Development” refers to communities seeking to empower themselves, in a grassroots fashion, to “achieve sustainable development and a substantially self-directed future” (p.4). “Community Economic Development” (CED) is an aspect of community development that “focuses on wealth and job creation, value-added activities, business development, and enhanced community viability” (p.5). REDAs were initiated by the New Democratic Party government in the early 1990s to foster CED on a regional level out of a realization that economic globalization was making the province’s traditional bases—agriculture and natural resources—less reliable and viable in the long term. An additional factor is the rapidly increasing Aboriginal population who will need to develop specialized work skills to take part in this new economy. REDAs encourage CED in new technology fields related to agriculture, biotechnology, and telecommunications and other information systems, as well as resource extraction and processing. REDAs also have the potential of increasing citizen participation in the economic life of his/her community. In short, “The REDA initiative is designed to assist communities in improving their opportunities, abilities, and economic development services to create jobs, wealth, and an enhanced quality of life” (p.10).
To establish a REDA, a region’s residents and economic stakeholders must engage in an intraregional investigation to co-ordinate existing resources and programs, evaluate CED organizations’ strengths and duties , and determine the services that it wishes to provide. While the requirements for being incorporated into a REDA are rather flexible, it must, among other things, demonstrate CED coordination in the region, represent a diverse mix of stakeholders, be formally incorporated as a business partnership, and establish a strategic plan of shared vision, goals, and services. The benefits of establishing a REDA include: sustained and coordinated CED activity; service provision; increased member efficiency; promotion of partnerships and co-operation; and increasing community viability. To aid with start-up costs, the provincial government takes part in a cost-sharing program in a REDA’s early stages.
Thus far, Saskatchewan’s REDAs have produced numerous community development successes, several of which are detailed in this report’s literature review. The flexible nature of the REDA to adapt to a region’s particular strengths and needs has been of particular importance, even as that lack of standardization makes it difficult to evaluate or compare against other REDAs. Defining success, therefore, must be as flexible as the structure and aims of the individual REDAs themselves