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 happening

  • Political Capital:  Civic engagement increases a community’s political capital. Voting offers people the means to elect representatives and to influence policy to best meet their needs and the needs in their community. Voter turnout in North Dakota has always been high relative to the nation, yet voter engagement in the state has been slipping.  Voter turnout dropped from 2008 to 2016 in two-thirds of the North Dakota’s counties. In 2016, a presidential election year, the voting-age turnout in metropolitan areas was slightly higher than in non-metropolitan areas (64% and 59%, respectively). Region VII (Burleigh, Emmons, Kidder, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sheridan, and Sioux counties), had the highest voting-age turnout at 70 percent, in 2016. Region III (Benson, Cavalier, Eddy, Rolette, and Towner counties), had the lowest turnout at 53 percent.
  • Financial Capital: Indicators, such as economic outputs, the number of jobs, median income, and poverty, reflect the financial status of a community. North Dakota’s economy has grown substantially over the past 10 years. After remarkable growth from 2008 to 2014, North Dakota’s economy declined 3 percent in 2015, and 7 percent in 2016, due to dropping commodity prices both in the oil and gas industry and agriculture. Despite the decline in statewide GDP, with more diversified economies, the economic output in all metropolitan areas grew in 2015, and continued the growth in Fargo and Grand Forks in 2016. While in 2016 the Bismarck metro area’s GDP decreased by 4 percent, the Grand Forks metropolitan area GDP grew by 3 percent, and Fargo metropolitan area’s GDP increased by 2 percent. Median household income varied greatly by county in 2015, from $89,860 in Williams County to $32,895 in Sioux County. Certain rural areas and individuals living on Native American reservations typically have lower incomes and are significantly more likely to be affected by poverty. The number of jobs fluctuated largely, especially in the Western counties in North Dakota. While the core oil and gas producing counties (Williams, McKenzie, Mountrail, and Dunn) lost a large amount of jobs in 2015 and 2016, they still had the highest increase in the number of jobs from 2000 to 2016 (from 134% to 264%).
  • Cultural Capital: North Dakota’s communities are becoming more racially diverse. The North Dakota population of color (i.e., non-white) experienced a 5 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 and a 54 percent increase from 2010 to 2016, which is by far the greatest percentage change of any state. Communities with greater diversity will benefit from recognizing and celebrating the traditions, values, heritage, arts, and social history of each cultural group.
  • Social Capital:While measuring social capital is difficult, a good start is to study and understand the demographic structure of the community. Population growth slowed over the past year, yet North Dakota still experienced the highest percentage growth of all states from 2010 to 2016. North Dakota’s counties experienced differential population change. From 2015 to 2016, core oil and gas producing counties saw population declines, reversing the trend of rapid growth from recent years. Mostly rural counties saw little change or continued the historic downward trend while metropolitan counties maintained moderate growth. However, despite the population loss, the population in North Dakota’s oil producing counties greatly exceeded their 2010 levels with a 98 percent increase in population in McKenzie County, a 53 percent increase in Williams County, and a 29 percent increase in Stark County.

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.

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

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