Hundreds of Localists from all over North America gathered in Oakland, California, last week for the Business Alliance of Local Living Economies (BALLE) Conference. This conference is an annual gathering of individuals working to build strong and sustainable local economies in their own communities, and serves as a place to share ideas and build relationships with those working together towards a singular mission: Prosperity for All.
Prosperity for All was an underlying theme of the entire conference. Here in Arizona, we're working towards building a strong local economy that allows any local business owner (or aspiring owner) to thrive, prosper, and contribute to their community. We met others from around the country that are working to do the same thing in their own communities. Collective impact and collaboration were also stressed throughout the conference as major themes, as our impact can be much greater when working together. We were encouraged to meet those around us and seek out unique partnerships.
There were a number of informative workshops and sessions to attend throughout the conference. Local First Arizona Director Kimber Lanning even served as a panelist and facilitator for a couple of the sessions, including those titled A Localist Policy Agenda and The New Food Economy: Soil, Systems, Society. In these sessions, Kimber discussed many of Local First Arizona's policy successes in recent years (see examples here, here, and here), and discussing best practices for developing a local food plan. Over the past few years, Local First Arizona has had a strong presence in leading the discussion at BALLE conferences, and we are excited to share our successes and best practices so that they can be replicated across the country.
At the conference, it was announced that Local First Arizona's own Carlos Velasco, Director of our Spanish-speaking outreach initiative Fuerza Local, had been accepted into the BALLE Local Economy Fellowship! This Fellowship is an immersive, 18-month program designed solely to advance the new economy movement. Where other programs focus on individual social entrepreneurs trying to scale single enterprises, BALLE seeks the most innovative local economy connectors - people who each represent, convene, and influence whole communities of local businesses – to be part of a program deeply rooted in shared learning, collaboration and local impact.
We were also proud to represent Arizona with our amazing custom printed Localist shirts, printed locally by Fed By Threads in Tucson. These shirts are unique because they are completely 100% American made, with cotton grown and spun right here in the U.S. With each garment that we purchased, Fed By Threads also fed 12 emergency meals to food insecure Americans. Who knew that with just one shirt you can support American growers, manufacturers, job creation, and feed the hungry?! If you're lucky, you can snag one of these limited edition shirts for $20 at some of our Independents Week events coming up, including the Tucson Passport to Local Success, Phoenix Independents Bowl, and the Independents Week Pub Crawl.
At the very end of the conference, it was announced that the location for the 2015 BALLE Conference would be in Phoenix, Arizona!
We are excited to show the transformation Phoenix has gone through in the past few years to Localists from all over the globe and share the BALLE experience with Arizonans! We've already started the planning for amazing speakers and workshops for BALLE 2015. Sign up for the Local First Arizona newsletter to be sure you're on the list to get the latest information when registration is available.