BALLE was founded in 2001 to nurture and curate the emergence of a new economy – one that will gradually displace our destructive and failing economy with a system that supports the health, prosperity, and happiness for all people and regenerates the vital ecosystems upon which our economy depends. With a focus on real change within a generation, BALLE works to identify and connect pioneering leaders, spread solutions, and attract investment toward local economies.

As an organization that is built upon relationships and that highlights solutions across economic systems, there are many leaders who have inspired our work and many more that we will continue to learn with and from.

“At its heart our movement for local living economies is about love.”
~ Judy Wicks, BALLE Co-founder


Here’s a snapshot of milestones in our first 15 years:

  • 2001. BALLE was founded in 2001 by Judy Wicks, a Philadelphia restaurateur, and a local business owner in Boston, Laury Hammel. Judy had built a strong, local business, the White Dog Cafe, and then created a business network, the Sustainable Business Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, based on a vision that led to the formation of the Localist values. Together, they and others recognized the need for a new organization, network, movement, and vision to grow equitable local economies. BALLE focused its early work on helping to move local economies onto the national agenda and to catalyze local business networks by resourcing and supporting them. Laury and Judy were founding co-chairs of BALLE, with Michael Shuman and David Korten on the founding board of directors. Michelle Long and Derek Long were BALLE’s first staff, and Don Shaffer, was BALLE’s second executive director.  BALLE eventually spun off from Social Venture Network to become its own nonprofit organization.
  • 2003. BALLE held its first national conference in Portland, Oregon, which became an annual event for leaders in the Localism movement. At this first event, the term “Think Local First” was coined. A year later, BALLE founded the initial “think local first” campaigns, and created the framework that launched “buy local” campaigns in thousands of communities across the country.
  • 2007. BLabs launches at a BALLE national conference, introducing the original 19 BCorps and setting the stage to redefine success in business to include social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
  • 2009. 80 BALLE-supported local first business networks across North America championing sustainable business practices and green jobs, local collaboration, sustainable food, green building, renewable energy, and the crucial nature of local ownership for equitable societies and democracy.
  • 2011. First community capital all day intensive the day before the Bellingham BALLE conference. This workshop led to community capital initiatives springing up in communities in many states around the country.
  • 2011. Launched the Local Economy Fellowshipa program designed to identify, connect, nourish, and illuminate the leading local economy “connectors” — people who were championing a new vision for their communities and bringing together community businesses and the ecosystem leaders that support them. The Fellowship aimed to address the movement’s leading barriers: the pioneers felt alone, the movement was wildly under-resourced, and they, like all of us, to some extent have unconsciously adopted the extractive and biased economy we grew up in.
  • 2013. Organized the Local Economy Investors Circle, a group of funders who are pioneering integrated capital investment strategies and shifting capital to the innovators creating the solutions needed to create resilient local economies.
  • 2014. Started the Local Economy Foundation Circle (formerly Community Foundation Circle). Co-created with RSF Social Finance, this is a unique group of place-based foundation innovators who are pioneering values-driven local investment in their communities and working to align more than $5.49 billion in collective assets under management to their missions.
  • 2015. Piloted the Well-being in Business Lab with dozens of Oakland’s most inspiring business founders, leaders, investors, and organizers, paving the way for the launch of the Connection Circle program. 
  • 2016. Together this community developed the Local Economy Framework. Partnered with Kaiser Permanente and MIT to create The Future of Health is Local, a field guide that shows hospitals, health care providers, and other health institutions how they can be smarter with their business investments, improve health in their communities, and help build strong local economies at the same time.