BLOG | Building Better Regions Community of Practice and Research Grantees Make Early Progress in Support of Regional Coalitions
In 2022, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), working with leading economic development organizations, established a robust networking, technical assistance, and research program to guide innovation in place-based economic development. Using the work of the 60 coalitions selected to participate in EDA’s historic $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge as a living laboratory, the Building Better Regions Community of Practice – as well as three separate research projects – is now well underway.
“I’m thrilled by the early achievements of our Build Back Better Regional Challenge Community of Practice and research grantees,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “Particularly exciting is the collaborative approach each of the grantees has taken in working toward the common goal of identifying and amplifying learnings from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge that can benefit communities across the country in building a better America.”
Since October, the Building Better Regions Community of Practice, led by RTI International and SSTI, has undertaken a series of one-on-one consultations with Build Back Better Regional Challenge coalitions to understand their early achievements and challenges. The community of practice has also launched a public digital resource center that will serve as a hub for all future activity.
“In just four months, we’ve successfully laid the groundwork for a productive, long-term effort that will support coalitions in their individual efforts and uncover learnings that can fundamentally transform the way the United States does place-based economic development,” said Tim Gabel, President and CEO of RTI International. “Looking ahead into the second quarter of 2023, we are anticipating the launch of topical workshops and peer exchanges to support the work of Build Back Better Regional Challenge coalitions. Our dedicated website will enable us to bring all interested communities along for the journey.”
Meanwhile, research partners from across the country will be helping EDA, grantees, and the public, better understand the Build Back Better Regional Challenge’s impact. Some of the many initiatives include:
- The Purdue University Center for Regional Development is conducting a three-year project to evaluate the initial outcomes and impact of all 21 BBBRC phase II grantees through quarterly surveys and yearly Ripple Effect Mapping (REM) sessions.
- Over the next year, Brookings Metro will be conducting a deep dive into case studies of a few of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge awardees to understand the economic and civic preconditions of a successful regional cluster.
- And, through August 2026, the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute, in partnership with the New Growth Innovation Network (NGIN), will look across the 53 grantees of both the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and the Good Jobs Challenge to identify best practices in the pursuit of equitable and inclusive growth, bringing together learnings from across EDA’s two largest American Rescue Plan programs.
Together, this research portfolio is designed to generate short-term insights to help grantees execute better projects, while also positioning EDA for effective long-run evaluation.
“Our investigation and documentation of key learnings and measurable outcomes of equitable economic development in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge is benefitting from coordination and consultation with our colleagues at Purdue University, Brookings Metro, and NGIN,” said Sarah Crane, Research Manager of the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute. “In addition, the work of RTI International and SSTI in curating the Building Better Regions Community of Practice is providing important, epistemic direction to the research programs, helping ensure results find real-world application.”
To learn more and connect with the Building Better Regions Community of Practice, and the Build Back Better Regional Challenge research projects, visit buildingbetterregionscop.org/connect.