CaRDI event to focus on strong families, communities

New approaches to community health and well-being, and changing social, economic and demographic trends affecting families and communities are among topics to be tackled at the 2015 Community Development Institute, July 14-15 at Cornell’s ILR Conference Center.

Participants will share information and emerging ideas in community development research, policy and practice; and strategies to strengthen and support the connections between strong families and strong communities.

Topics will include community support and federal policy initiatives for working parents; fiscally stressed local governments, communities and families; navigating cultural differences; school-community connections; mapping community linkages to target collaborative interventions; and innovative community projects.

The institute is “relational, not just informational,” said Robin Blakely-Armitage, senior extension associate with Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI), which organized the event. “We’re providing a space for interaction between academic researchers, community practitioners and policymakers, to build on the work they are doing on issues that are common across the state, and see how they can better link their efforts to build family and community capacity.”

Focusing on critical elements of the community development process, the annual institute is designed for a diverse audience of local government and school officials, practitioners and community leaders from across New York state, extension educators and research faculty.

Cornell faculty participants July 14-15 include Vicki Bogan, associate professor in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; Rachel Dunifon, professor of policy analysis and management; professor Tom Hirschl and associate professor John Sipple, development sociology; and Mildred Warner, professor of city and regional planning. Federal and state-level policy perspectives will be offered by representatives from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s offices, respectively.

For faculty, the event presents “an opportunity to engage with a broader set of stakeholders, resulting in better-informed research and impacts,” Blakely-Armitage said. “Their work is strengthened by building these relationships. Faculty who participate may be inspired to partner with a community or take a new direction in their research. It’s another way of highlighting how the university can be engaged.”

The two-day institute is co-sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension and is open to the public; register online by July 7. A reduced registration fee for nonprofits is available; contact Jen Jensen, CaRDI communications and outreach coordinator, at for details.

At CaRDI’s inaugural Community Development Institute in 2013, Cornell faculty, CCE educators,  and community leaders focused on resources and strategies for informed community decision-making. In 2014, the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell partnered with CaRDI on a forum in the Hudson Valley, on water resource infrastructure as a critical community development concern.

“The format of our community development institutes provides space for everyone to have a voice, not just the panelists and presenters,” Jensen said. “There’s time in every section for everyone to add their perspective, a challenge or a new idea that hasn’t been raised yet.”

CaRDI is a multidisciplinary applied social science unit housed in the Department of Development Sociology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. As a campus hub for community development research, training and engagement, CaRDI supports Cornell’s land-grant mission through a variety of programs and focal areas, such as land use, regional economic development, energy and demographics – and seeks to strengthen the capacity, resiliency and sustainability of communities statewide.

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Joe Schwartz