Women-led Community Development Organizations (CDOs) in Miami-Dade County: A Model of Community Development Efforts Impacting the Economic Security of Women Dissertation

(2013). Women-led Community Development Organizations (CDOs) in Miami-Dade County: A Model of Community Development Efforts Impacting the Economic Security of Women . 10.25148/etd.FI13080718

thesis or dissertation chair


  • Solomon, Jan Lindsay


  • Recent studies on the economic status of women in Miami-Dade County (MDC) reveal an alarming rate of economic insecurity and significant obstacles for women to achieve economic security. Consistent barriers to women’s economic security affect not only the health and wellbeing of women and their families, but also economic prospects for the community. A key study reveals in Miami-Dade County, “Thirty-nine percent of single female-headed families with at least one child are living at or below the federal poverty level” and “over half of working women do not earn adequate income to cover their basic necessities” (Brion 2009, 1). Moreover, conventional measures of poverty do not adequately capture women’s struggles to support themselves and their families, nor do they document the numbers of women seeking basic self-sufficiency. Even though there is lack of accurate data on women in the county, which is a critical problem, there is also a dearth of social science research on existing efforts to enhance women’s economic security in Miami-Dade County. My research contributes to closing the information gap by examining the characteristics and strategies of women-led community development organizations (CDOs) in MDC, working to address women’s economic insecurity.

    The research is informed by a framework developed by Marilyn Gittell, who pioneered an approach to study women-led CDOs in the United States. On the basis of research in nine U.S. cities, she concluded that women-led groups increased community participation and “by creating community networks and civic action, they represent a model for community development efforts” (Gittell, et al. 2000, 123).

    My study documents the strategies and networks of women-led CDOs in MDC that prioritize women’s economic security. Their strategies are especially important during these times of economic recession and government reductions in funding towards social services.

    The focus of the research is women-led CDOs that work to improve social services access, economic opportunity, civic participation and capacity, and women’s rights. Although many women-led CDOs prioritize building social infrastructures that promote change, inequalities in economic and political status for women without economic security remain a challenge (Young 2004).

    My research supports previous studies by Gittell, et al., finding that women-led CDOs in Miami-Dade County have key characteristics of a model of community development efforts that use networking and collaboration to strengthen their broad, integrated approach. The resulting community partnerships, coupled with participation by constituents in the development process, build a foundation to influence policy decisions for social change.

    In addition, my findings show that women-led CDOs in Miami-Dade County have a major focus on alleviating poverty and economic insecurity, particularly that of women. Finally, it was found that a majority of the five organizations network transnationally, using lessons learned to inform their work of expanding the agency of their constituents and placing the economic empowerment of women as central in the process of family and community development.

publication date

  • June 21, 2013


  • Collaboration
  • Community Development
  • Economic Security
  • Leadership
  • Women

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)