Hello, BALLE (& an Appreciative Farewell to TDC)
Posted on April 3, 2009
Alissa and I are excited to announce that, effective this week, the Small-Mart Initiative is joining forces with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, based in San Francisco. Our offices will remain in Washington, and our efforts will continue to focus on nurturing local businesses and promoting community self-reliance. Of particular importance to those of you who regularly read our blog, our regular commentaries will continue—except that there will be even more of them, from more voices in our movement.
We'd like to take a few minutes to lay out for you our plans: some history about our work, some background on BALLE, and some information about what these changes mean about our existing resources and next projects.
As most of you know, our work has come out of advocacy around the arguments in two books I wrote: Going Local (1998) and The Small-Mart Revolution (2006). All kinds of projects spun out from this work: hundreds of public talks and debates; a dozen leakage analyses and other economic develop studies; and major in-depth studies of business subsidies and community food enterprises.
In 2002, I started to work as a half-time contractor for the Training and Development Corporation (TDC), a national not-for-profit think tank, design shop, and management company based in Bucksport, Maine. TDC was founded in 1975 to improve the performance of people and institutions in the economy, and our role was to help create its Worksphere Program. In 2004, I joined TDC full-time as vice president for enterprise development, and in early 2007, I hired Alissa Barron as a research and communications manager. Over the past year, thanks largely to Alissa's efforts, we were able to put all our research, policy and advocacy efforts into www.small-mart.org.
Before we explain our decision to move to BALLE, we should first say how grateful we've been for the home TDC has provided for our work. The folks at TDC have been terrific colleagues – smart, visionary, and downright decent. And our sincere hope is that BALLE-TDC collaborations will continue in our new capacity.
Now a few words about BALLE...
BALLE grew out of sense of frustration with the big-business obsessions of economic development and the belief, by many small business leaders, that other "socially responsible business" organizations like Business for Social Responsibility had all but abandoned locally owned business. A preliminary gathering to discuss these issues was organized at the Poconos summer home of Judy Wicks, chief proprietor of the White Dog Café in Philadelphia, and the arguments of Going Local provided the backdrop. In 2001, these ideas became the focal point of an annual meeting of the Social Ventures Network, where Judy was chair, and the result was the birth of BALLE.
Today, eight years later, BALLE works "to build local living economies that foster vibrant communities, a healthy natural environment, and prosperity for all." Over the past decade, the organization has laid the foundation for a local and community-based economic development movement active in more than 70 communities in North America and abroad, representing over 22,000 independent businesses. It is now one of the fastest growing business groups in the world.
I had joined the BALLE board at the outset, and remained actively involved as a board member until about a year ago. At that point, I was beginning to conceive of creating a consulting arm of BALLE (with TDC participation), and had to resign from the board to avoid any conflicts of interest. Since then, BALLE has hired a new director, secured new resources, and offered to give us a more financially secure home. The decision to shift from TDC to BALLE seemed like a natural step.
Though BALLE is based in San Francisco, we will remain in the Washington, D.C. area, opening BALLE's new east coast office. Our new beat will be BALLE's research and public policy division. I will serve as its director, and Alissa as its program manager.
Meaning for Small-Mart Work
The move to BALLE offers us an opportunity to integrate our work thoroughly into the organization and expand it substantially. Here are the highlights:
- Blog: We will maintain our blog as a site for independent commentary and guest opinion pieces. Until we announce otherwise, the blog will still be accessible through www.small-mart.org, and through links on the BALLE website, www.livingeconomies.org.
- Speaking: We will continue to offer talks, keynotes and training workshops—with significant discounts for BALLE members.
- Research: Guided by BALLE's priorities, we will continue to carry out a range of local economic development and public policy research projects at the national, state and local levels.
- Website: Over the coming weeks, we will transition to the BALLE website most Small-Mart.org content other than our blog. This includes our events calendar, bookstore, free downloads library, news and media pages, and resources for taking action.
- E-zine: We no longer intend to publish our periodic e-newsletter, the Small-Mart Chronicle. Instead, we will merge Small-Mart's e-zine distribution list with that for BALLE's newsletter ("BALLE Buzz"), and your welcome email will contain information about opportunities related to BALLE's annual conference in May. (The BALLE welcome email will provide an option for unsubscribing if you prefer not to receive BALLE news. But, we sincerely hope you’ll stick with us!)
Joining forces with BALLE means our constituents will also have access to an array of additional resources and services, including:
- BALLE Annual Conference: The seventh annual conference will take place in Denver from May 21-23. Join us and hundreds of business owners, entrepreneurs, economic development professionals, network leaders, and community leaders as we chart the next phase in the expansion and success of local living economies.
- BALLE Speakers' Bureau
- BALLE Basics and Boot Camp: Free bi-monthly conference-call orientation sessions and a 2-hour "boot camp" webinar
- BALLE Buzz: A bi-monthly newsletter full of the latest ideas, resources, and case studies from the front lines of the field
- BALLE Guides: How-To Guides for sustainable community economic development that focus on specific business sectors
- BALLE Bold: An advanced tier of strengthening services that includes access to seasoned BALLE trainers and strategic partners
We thank you for all the support and engagement over the past two years, and we look forward to continued work with you through BALLE.