Wrapping Up the BALLE Conference

LFA BALLE 2013 Group Pic Earlier this month, Local First Arizona sent a delegation to attend the 2013 Business Alliance of Local Living Economies (BALLE) Conference. It was three days filled with unique learning opportunities, inspiring presentations, and opportunities to learn from other localists around the country. Read on to hear what our team thought about this year's conference (or join the conversation on Twitter by searching #BALLE2013):

"I love the BALLE convention every year because I get to hear about all of the new people out there who are trying to start networks in their home towns- the places they love. There is so much energy and enthusiasm it's impossible not to be inspired. It's also very gratifying to discover that our network- Local First Arizona- is so well respected across the country. People know who we are and they want to know how we have done this work and grown so big and made such an impact! I love to share our strategies and talk about our work in hopes it will help someone else have the same successes." - Kimber Lanning, Director of Local First Arizona

IMG_1674"The BALLE conference is fascinating from my perspective; it's incredible to meet people doing what we do here at Local First Arizona from all across the continent and through out the world. The BALLE conference is a blend of business people, social entrepreneurialists, advocates, environmentalists, academics, and everyone in between, coming together to share ideas about how to foster local economies that are socially and environmentally sound. It's not your average conference- rather than focusing on "tools" you can take home to implement in a cookie cutter way, the conference focuses on connecting, idea-sharing and problem-solving for people doing this important work. This year, the theme of "ecosystems" is what struck the loudest chord with me. When we as LFA staff are talking to audiences in Arizona about the importance of supporting local economies, we often use the word "ecosystem" to refer to the diversity of local businesses that exist together, each lending something important and unique to the culture, environment and economic fabric of a place. It was validating to hear people and groups from around the country use this same vocabulary. One of the speeches I left thinking about was Janine Beynus, Founder of Biomimicry, who spoke of Mutualisim- the theory that evolution just might favor those who are adept at making partnerships, not the ones who practice an "every man for himself" type of survival of the fittest. She also spoke of the "Me to We" Movement, the need to cooperate with competitors instead of merely compete against them, along with the importance of helping everyone to "catch their own fish." Hearing Janine speak, I thought to myself, "This is what WE are doing!!" It feels great to know others are thinking it, doing it, and preaching it, too." - Margaree Bigler, Local Foods Representative of Local First Arizona

"I was thrilled to be able to share ideas that we are working on in Arizona and also hear about projects in other parts of the country. I was also impressed to see that we all share the common long-term goal of a local-based and sustainable economy even with the growing diversity of the attendees (Buy Local networks, entrepreneurs, food specialists, investors, etc)." - Russ Baurichter, Membership Coordinator, Local First Arizona

IMG_1683"Part economic business conference, part soul-searching retreat and part really good time, the BALLE conference is a must-attend for anyone interested in the changing landscape of local business. Highly discussed topics included the transformation that is moving business from an ego-system to an eco-system. Local business owners who run their businesses with the dual goals of profitability and social responsibility have the power to positively affect their community, their country … and maybe most importantly, themselves. Inspired to join the movement? Start by doing small things with great love, delighting others daily, acting generously in business and being the change you want to see in the world." - Jill Hoffman, Scott's Marketplace, Local First Arizona Member

"My first experience at the BALLE conference this year was enlightening and inspiring. I truly enjoyed seeing the type of work that coalitions like ourselves are accomplishing nationwide. From discovering new topics to sharing ideas and positive solutions with fellow organizations, it was a great environment to get re-inspired and motivated to continue the critical work here in Arizona and our own unique communities. As a part of the Local First Arizona team, it felt great to know that our organization is not only expanding the local movement, but is also very forward-thinking and is creating diverse ideas. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to connect with so many like-minded change agents and am excited to see how the local living economy movement grows!" - Chrisal Valencia, Membership & Events Coordinator, Local First Arizona

IMG_1660"The BALLE experience provided me with the opportunity to refresh my ideals, ideas and prospectives about the local movement. It reaffirms my believe that centralized economies are the key to not only building stronger economies, but also to fostering greater purpose base on spiritual and morals values that can provide an equal plaint field for all." - Carlos Velasco, Fuerza Local, Local First Arizona

"My first BALLE Conference was a real eye-opener to what localists around the globe are working on in their own communities to support their local economies. Being the only organization of its kind in Arizona, it can sometimes feel like we're "going it alone," but now I'm much more enlightened to campaigns and organizations that are doing similar work in many diverse regions. I am so honored to have met many inspring individuals at this conference, and it has given me even greater motivation and strength to continue the work I am doing at Local First Arizona." - Erica Pederson, Communications & Membership Coordinator, Local First Arizona

"This is the third BALLE conference I’ve attended and each year it inspires me. The BALLE network is full of very intelligent people who are working hard to improve communities and spread the message about the impact of independent businesses. The conference is about business owners, Local First networks, funders, farmers, social entrepreneurs, visionaries, sustainability experts - all coming together to relate their experiences and share best practices. It was great to be in a room full of people who aren’t just talking about making changes, they are making changes." - Helene Tack, Development Director, Local First Arizona