Engaging the Past to Create a New Future: A Comparative Study of Heritage-driven Community Development Initiatives in the Great Northern Peninsula

Leanna Butters, Obafemi McArthur Okusipe, Seth Bomangsaan Eledi, Kelly Vodden


In many rural regions, a strong sense of local heritage and place-based identities are increasingly recognized development assets. In this paper, we assess heritage-driven community development initiatives as catalysts for rural community development in the Northern Peninsula region of Newfoundland and Labrador. The authors examine three rural community projects using an outcome-based evaluation approach and primary and secondary data sources to assess the contribution of these initiatives to community sustainability and resilience. The projects examined include initiatives based on French historical and cultural heritage, natural heritage, and influential historic characters. The assessment employs a multiple-capitals framework to consider contributions made in enhancing or mobilizing four categories of community capital: natural, human, social, and economic. Related challenges and opportunities are also considered. The research reveals that these community development initiatives have enhanced and mobilized all forms of community capital but significant gaps remain between realized and desired outcomes, creating a challenge for future growth and resilience. Future directions for community development practice and regional development policy are presented, including the need for community-based initiatives to enhance their engagement with visitors, residents and regional networks, for capacity development and for continued policy and program support for the region’s heritage and place-based social economy.

Keywords: rural community development, tourism, heritage, resilience, sustainability perceptions

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.