While I have always appreciated the value of mathematics and number crunching as tools of development, I think they can be a double-edged sword when addressing struggling societies. While economists wield their blades for cost-benefit analysis and reduction of social programs, sociologists champion the living and breathing infrastructure in those communities, the people.
As is typical of the workings of our world, these polarizing forces have to be balanced for bad economic conditions to heal and improve.
A focused example of how this might effect a local community is through that entity's purchasing policies and practices. I advocate local purchasing preference and local business accountability. Preference being, local buys local within its means. Business accountability can be defined as development of verifiable standards that validate claims of local identity. This identification process can be achieved through certification requirements that include percentile standards for use of local suppliers and incorporate a rating system like LEED.
If you are a local business with, hypothetically, half of all your suppliers, servicers and providers living and serving locally, then your business deserves a 5 out 5 on that point. Are those suppliers themselves using second-tier suppliers who can claim local identity? Question two, do those businesses live in your community, or do they just come for the money and take it out of the community at the end of the day? That's verifiable from the phone book and I am confident that local business owners will gladly provide confirmation on that detail. If the owner is local, than that is 5 out of 5 as well. Do they provide donations to local non-profit organizations? Do they volunteer time and/or resources to benefit the community? Do they offer internships and educational opportunities for the local population?
Without question these activities will draw the ire of of business owners who ultimately fall outside the localized criteria loop, but even a socialist like myself knows that its just the nature of capitalism to adapt or die. Harsh as that sounds, its a principle that all business owners live with everyday. Additionally, the whole process of accountability and support is not designed to drive them out of business, but to make sure that your community's health gets put way up high on their priority charts.
Another excellent way to quell discontent is to synergize social-groups or organizations with "non-local" businesses to help locate, and connect with, local suppliers. Possibilities may even exist in creating small business incubator programs that use locally emerging entreprenuers designed to help solve compliance issues with these companies. Look at minority development practices in metropolitan cities for more on any of the information above.