Community Building Toolkit


North Dakota communities are facing a variety of challenges. Many smaller communities are in need of resources to stimulate local prosperity and growth in order to reverse years of continual outmigration while western counties and larger metropolitan areas in North Dakota are challenged to support growing populations and to promote and sustain recent economic growth. Therefore, resources to encourage and support community building are valuable tools for North Dakota’s current economy.

There are many ways to define and describe a community. A community can be defined by a geographical area (e.g., geo-political boundaries, selected neighborhoods, retail trade areas, or in reference to specific settings like workplace, church, and school district). Community can also be defined by members sharing common interests and perspectives, members involved in joint action, or the interpersonal relationships of its members.

One of the primary research approaches in community building and development is that of the Community Capitals Framework (CCF), developed by sociologists Cornelia and Jan Flora at Iowa State University. According to their research, communities most successful in supporting sustainable community development and economic growth paid attention to seven types of community capital (i.e., natural, cultural, human, social, political, financial, and built). The capitals interact among each other in such a way that investments in one capital can lead to asset building in another. To further understand the Community Capitals Framework, please refer to our framework page.

what's available

ND Compass offers a toolkit to help in the community building effort
According to the Community Capital Framework approach, sustainable development is seen as the balanced development of the seven community capitals. In order to identify and understand them, ND Compass provides a set of key measures grouped under the seven capitals. Within each capital, click on a key measure and choose "Breakdown" to see what specific indicators, geographies, and characteristics are available. To find more detailed information, including data sources, definitions, or qualifications, go to the "View" drop down menu found above each key measure graph and choose "Data & Notes." Links to additional data sources can be found on the left hand side under “More Measures.” Additional resources are available under “Ideas at Work” and the “Library.” The toolkit aims to help identify forms of capital in the community; understand how capital is invested at the present time and measure progress; educate the community; and lead communities in the right direction, so they are better equipped to form plans of action and intervention to assure continued support of community capitals in the future.


Megan Laudenschlager: Supporting and Accelerating Community Development in Rural North Dakota.

“Warwick has historically been a small town with the earliest population estimates dating back to the 1920s, when the community reached its peak population of 290 residents.  In 2010, the most recent U.S. Census, Warwick’s population dwindled to 65 residents.  At one time a bustling spot of activity, the community, too, has fallen prey to the grips of long-term outmigration… With the continuing population decline of the area, I often wonder what the community will look like 20 years from now… Strengthen ND was founded in August 2015 with a vision of working across North Dakota to elevate nonprofits and rural communities to support a high quality of life and resources for vulnerable populations.”

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Joshua Marineau and Onnolee Nordstrom: Learning from Fargo: An Exploration of the Fargo-Moorhead Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

“Today, rural areas are confronted with many challenges. For instance, many have watched their dominant industries such as agriculture, mining, and lumber decline and “brains drain”. Energizing entrepreneurship has become a primary strategy for countering these trends and an attractive economic development tool. This is because entrepreneurship creates wealth, not just wages. And the wealth created by entrepreneurs is reinvested in the community. This is more beneficial for revitalization than just job creation, which brings wages to rural communities but does not always keep this corporate wealth within the boundaries of the community.”

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North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

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