ASk A Researcher

May 2014

Why All Community Development Decisions Should Use the Community Capitals Framework

Kathleen Tweeten is the director of the NDSU Extension Center for Community Vitality.  She is also the program leader for community vitality and a state specialist in community economic development.  Her areas of specialty are business retention and expansion and community and organization strategic planning.  She is a nationally certified TalentSmart trainer in Emotional Intelligence and is an international instructor for Business Retention and Expansion International certification courses. 



Q: What are community capitals?
Community capitals are invested assets or resources that belong to a community and represent all aspects of community life. A sustainable and entrepreneurial community wisely manages all of its capitals and resources to enhance their value and continually improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.

Q: What is the Community Capitals Framework?
The Community Capitals Framework (CCF) has been developed by sociologists Cornelia and Jan Flora at Iowa State University. They asked themselves, why some communities are more successful than others in addressing change. Their research showed that it has to do with the management of community resources. The communities most successful in supporting sustainable community development and economic growth,  invested in several community resources they labeled as capitals: natural (e.g., rivers, parks, agriculture), cultural (e.g., culture, tradition, language, and also the everyday ways of thinking and doing), human (e.g., skills, knowledge, health), social (e.g., the network, the trust, the link to resources), political (e.g., policy, voice), financial (e.g., jobs, money, profit, philanthropy), and built (e.g., infrastructure, technology). By considering all these areas of capital, you get a comprehensive view of the community, which then helps community leadership to identify ways of investing existing resources to obtain strategic outcomes.

Q: How is the Community Capitals framework (CCF) used in community development?
Community leaders are seeking to understand how to revitalize their economies and are looking for models that will help them decide what investments are most effective in improving quality of life and economic well-being. The CCF is a way of looking at the community in its entirety. In order to maintain a healthy and thriving community it is important to recognize the dependency and interaction that each capital has with the other capitals. It is important to remember that community capitals are not independent; changes to one can increase or decrease other capitals. For example, if we build a new park, this will increase the natural and social capitals of the community. However, this may decrease other capitals, such as financial capital, by not being able to grant community funds for needed expansions such a childcare facility, as well as future built capital, because the land/space will not be available for building affordable housing.

Another common example in the area of economic development is in the attraction of a major company. A new company may be very beneficial for financial and built capitals, but detrimental to natural capital, if the quality of air or water decreases. On the other hand, a new company may mean new training resulting in a more skilled workforce and thereby increasing human capital. A new company may also force other businesses to close, because they cannot afford higher wages, which reduces social, and possibly financial and political capitals. Each capital must be examined closely so that a certain balance is maintained and the tradeoffs are recognized and accepted by the community. Balance is critical for a good quality of life. If all seven of the capitals (i.e., social, human, built, natural, cultural, political, financial) are considered when making community and economic development decisions, results are greatly improved and development activities have greater citizen buy in.  

Q: How do you assess community assets and resources to help make informed development decisions?
To assess the assets and resources in a community, you would create an asset inventory by collecting data especially for this assessment (i.e., primary data) through observations, interviews with community officials, and other stakeholders or surveys. In addition, you would consult secondary data sources, such as state and local community websites (e.g., North Dakota Compass (, federal websites (e.g., U.S. Census Bureau), aerial maps, architectural blueprints of community buildings, and other local documents that can provide useful information. All the data will need to be analyzed using quantitative and/or qualitative research methods to accurately depict what the data is telling you about your community.

Q: Would you like to add anything else about community capitals?
The importance of place cannot be over emphasized. This is the core piece that is kept front and center when using the community capitals framework in development decisions. The framework gives community leaders good information on which to make decisions. A final note: Decisions must be in sync with the culture and vision of the people who live in the community to reduce conflict and to increase citizen buy in.

Ask a researcher archive

Nancy Hodur: Improving Oral Health for Older Adults in North Dakota
November 2018

Rachelle Vettern: Engaging Volunteers across Generations
October 2018

Karen Olson: The 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book reveals strengths and challenges for children in North Dakota – and emphasizes that an inaccurate census in 2020 threatens to worsen existing challenges for North Dakota youth
July 2018

Lori Capouch: Is food access a concern in rural North Dakota?
May 2018

Deb Nelson: Williston Basin 2016: Employment, Population, and Housing Forecasts – An Overview
January 2018

Karen Olson: North Dakota among Top 10 States in Country for Child Well-Being
July 2017

Nancy Hodur: SEAL!North Dakota: A School Dental Sealant Program
June 2017

Grace Njau: A Brief Introduction to the North Dakota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)
April 2017

Ina Cernusca: North Dakota’s Women study: A brief overview
March 2017

Dean Bangsund: Effects of Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion on Spring Planting for Producers
February 2017

Deb Nelson: Vision West: Leading, Educating, and Collaborating to Mobilize the 19 Western North Dakota Counties Towards Resilience and Prosperity
December 2016

Nancy Hodur: North Dakota Statewide Housing Needs Assessment: A Brief Overview of the Population and Housing Forecast component
November 2016

Social Isolation: Experiential Narratives of African Refugee Women in the Fargo-Moorhead Community
September 2016

Sean Brotherson: Father Involvement and the Future of Children and Families
July 2016

Carol Cwiak: Bakken Oil: What Have We Learned and What Will We Do Differently Next Time
June 2016

Jessica Creuzer: The Changing Face of Western North Dakota: What are the Effects of Increased Travel from Energy Development
April 2016

ND Compass: City Profiles
February 2016

ND Department of Health: Making Change Happen
January 2016

Jennifer Weber: A Bold New Direction for the North Dakota University System - The NDUS Edge Dashboards
December 2015

Wendy Troop-Gordon: What Has Science Taught Us About Bullying?
November 2015

ND Compass: A Look at the Youngest North Dakotans
October 2015

Kendra Erickson-Dockter: Growing Older in North Dakota
September 2015

Michael Ziesch: Data You Can Trust: The Labor Market Information Center
August 2015

Malini Srivastava and Troy Raisanen: efargo: City Scale Sustainability
July 2015

Kevin Iverson: The State Repository of Census Information- The North Dakota Census
June 2015

Wonwoo Byun: Reducing Sedentary Behavior is a Key for Obesity Prevention in Children
May 2015

Kathryn Gordon: The Science of Suicide Prevention
April 2015

ND Compass: Tell a Story with Data! The Importance of Crade-to-Career Success
March 2015

Abby Gold: Community Food Systems: Food Charters and More
February 2015

Heather Fuller-Iglesias: The Importance of Recognizing the Role of Social Support in Human Development Across the Lifespan
January 2015

Michael Carbone: Using Data to End Homelessness
December 2014

Randal Coon: Tribal Colleges Contribute to the State's Economy
November 2014

Deb White: Women's Representation in Elected Office
October 2014

Randal Coon: Pull Factors Measure Retail Trade Performance
September 2014

Karen Olson: North Dakota ranks Well Nationally with Regard to Overall Child Well-Being; However, Substantial Opportunities for Improvement Exist
August 2014

Julie Garden-Robinson: Guard Against Grilling Gaffes: Healthy Grilling and Food Safety Tips
July 2014

Michael Noone: Extreme Weather Patterns- North Dakota Has It All
June 2014

Kathleen Tweeten: Why All Community Development Decisions Should Use the Community Capitals Framework
May 2014

Clayton Hilmert: Stress effects on pregnancy: The impact of the 2009 Red River flood on birth weight
April 2014

Karen Ehrens: Food Deserts and how they impact North Dakota
March 2014

Gretchen Dobervich and Kendra Erickson-Dockter: New Geographic Profiles: How they can work for you
February 2014

Compass Staff: "New Compass Team Brings Changes in 2014"
January 2014

Donna Grandbois: "Fargo-Moorhead American Indian Community-Sponsored Health Needs Assessment"
November 2013

Karen Olson: "North Dakota KIDS COUNT - why it counts for you
October 2013

Nancy Hodur: "Western North Dakota School Administrators Face Challenges"
August 2013

Megan Chmielewski: "Annual population estimates tell interesting stories about North Dakota's growth patterns"
July 2013

Ramona Danielson: "Learn how to make the ND Compass website work for you"
May 2013

Karen Olson: "About the American Community Survey (ACS)"
February 2013

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

© 2019. All rights reserved.