This website provides open-source tools and materials to enhance the understanding of local and rural economies.

Community economics

Community dialog is always difficult. But, as University Extension educators Braak and Lewin experienced, a community dialog on the local economy is almost impossible. Their work on rural economic development needed community input. When it comes to economics, however, community dialog easily turns into a series of political monologues. Sadly, the complexity of regional economics just does not pair well with political dogmas. A discussion on durable economic growth and job creation is very difficult without an understanding of the fundamental drivers of a local economy. So, they realized they needed to tackle that understanding first.

The power of scenario games

Braak and Lewin started playing scenario games to help communities see economic fundamentals in action. This allowed community members to discuss the effects in a more value-neutral setting. “The Dollar Game“, one of these scenario games, developed into a fun workshop. It brought back a sense of (economic) self determination to communities. Willem and Paul adapted The Dollar Game into a formal curriculum that is now used by several practitioners and educators. This website seemed a logical step to make the Dollar Game curriculum and some of its concepts more widely available.

Willem J. Braak

Willem J Braak Willem J Braak
ECS Insights
Carmel, CA
contact: email

Willem is not a typical academician; he worked as an  executive in the medical device industry and then as co-founder of a chain of retail coffee roasters. After selling the coffee business, he worked with rural communities in the intermountain west through the University of Idaho Extension organization, where he and Paul Lewin met. He favors the “carrot” in policy setting and firmly believes that a conducive policy environment and conditional settings can solve many of a community’s issues.

You can learn more about Willem’s background at www.linkedin.com

Paul A. Lewin

P.Lewin Paul A. Lewin, PhD
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID
contact: email

Before joining the University of Idaho faculty, Paul worked in community & economic development across South America, and subsequently as economist in both government and private sector positions in Europe and the US. Paul has a background in Agricultural Engineering and Agricultural Economics, and received his PhD in Applied Economics from Oregon State University. Paul now works as UI Extension’s  Economic Development Specialist, is Associate Professor with the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and Director of its Rural Studies Program.

You can learn more about Paul’s background at UI’s website.