Local First 3.0

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"To connect deeply within, to connect deeply with one another, to connect in reverence to the natural world: these are local behaviors. That is real prosperity … it's not a distant act, it's a local act by its very nature." ~Michelle Long

Local First is more than just a catchy slogan. It’s sophisticated work to change our cultural narrative. It has made possible a shift from “there is no alternative” to the idea that a purchase impacts another human being; that there is the possibility of a relationship and real care in our exchanges. Local First means increasing demand for locally owned, made and grown businesses, goods and services. And it means telling a new story — one where we support local, cooperative and community-owned businesses and each other.

This track captures some of the best learning amassed by the BALLE community over the past 14 years and the importance of measuring what matters. For folks new to Localism, don’t be scared away by the 3.0 — our website and YouTube channel offer great background resources and there are plenty of folks at the conference who will gladly catch you up over a meal or beverage. 

Track Facilitators: Elissa Hillary, Kimber Lanning

PART A: Local Strategies for Real Prosperity

The term “Local First” was coined at BALLE’s very first annual conference and today represents a sophisticated cultural narrative that has shifted the purchasing, investment, and policy choices of hundreds of communities. The academic literature has now proven that the best mechanism for funneling wealth into the fewest hands is large, transnational corporations, and that the best path to the most jobs and the most wealth for the most people is more density and diversity of local ownership per community. This strategy is now driving growth in local job creation, entrepreneurship, and overall community well-being, across North America and beyond.

In this session, we’ll connect the built environment to healthy economies and lifestyles. We’ll demonstrate how new businesses revitalize old buildings, contribute to more diverse and resilient economies, and employ more people of color and more women-owned businesses. You’ll also hear the language being shared from community to community that resonates best with city officials and developers in spreading these solutions more widely.

Conversation host: Gateway Bank


PART B: Measuring What Matters

After more than a dozen years of local first campaigns and procurement and investment strategies, 12 communities in the BALLE network partnered with B Lab last year to measure what matters. Together we analyzed the metrics these communities were currently using and what they wished to measure. We cross-referenced the B Corporation Impact Assessment to identify the most relevant questions for local economy impact and customized new questions, which assess things like the impact of cooperation between local businesses, to create a new Local Economy Quick Impact Assessment (QIA). This unique tool measures the impact of local businesses working together to solve social, environmental, and economic challenges in their communities.

In this session, we’ll hear early results from pilot participants like Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the community foundation realized that one of the best ways to invest in Grand Rapids was to build the capacity and success of more local mission-aligned businesses. The foundation made a $200,000 grant to the Localist business network, Local First West Michigan, to increase technical assistance for new economy innovation through local businesses. Together they are using the Local Economy QIA as their evaluation tool.