BALLE 2017 Summit: Looking Back, Moving Forward

The BALLE Leadership Summit was a powerful moment for the movement to build healthy, equitable local economies.

Last November at Asilomar, BALLE convened the leaders across North America who are building local economies that work for all.

We heard from the founding voices of the local economy movement — BALLE Cofounder Judy Wicks, David Korten, and Michael Shuman — alongside the leaders shaping the future, including BALLE’s new executive director, Rodney Foxworth, BALLE Board Co-chair Kimber Lanning, and BALLE board member Alfa Demmellash. We heard from our beautiful, courageous 2016 Local Economy Fellows, and their fellow Fellows from previous cohorts. We heard from Foundation Circle leaders, who continue to push their own learning edges, while directing more capital into their communities to fulfill their missions. We heard from investors excited to discover so many visionary, investable ideas and leaders in one place.

At the Summit we explored what it looks like to shift capital, as we prioritize equity, hearing from on the ground leaders and the funders investing in them — who are showing us that another world is possible. We discovered more about our roles and relationships to one another, as we activate our local economy ecosystems.

“Genuine connection, excellent and varied content, beautiful location: an amazing combination of spiritual renewal, great networking and deep learning. This was the best professional retreat I’ve ever attended. The integrity, brilliance and enthusiasm of the BALLE team and mission were felt in all aspects of this event, making it easy to have profound revelations and walk away feeling both educated and invigorated.”  First-time BALLE Summit Participant

Throughout the Summit experience we emphasized connection, in all ways — from custom introductions by staff and board to other participants; and open space for meditation, focused learning, and networking; to crowdsourcing connections through our 1:1 Connection Cards. 89% reported that the Summit was very or extremely effective creating or deepening relationships with other leaders.

BALLE’s 2017 Summit program included:

  • A balance between visioning new systems and understanding and critiquing dominant systems, including a skit where people embodied different roles in today’s economic model, and imagined better ways to facilitate the flow of community capital
  • Sessions that helped people understand how to “bring home” learnings from the Summit, with an emphasis on translating about equity in communications for a range of communities
  • Revisiting BALLE’s founding vision and the evolution of local economy building
  • Approaches to developing healthy, equitable and long-term partnerships between funders and practitioners
  • Pre-conference events including a rural economy tour of worker-owned farm businesses, and a workshop on cultivating leadership for racial equity, personally and organizationally
  • A Fireside Chat exploring the role and responsibility of media in the new economy

Powerful experiences happen when teams and talent come together, after months of co-creation and collaboration. We are grateful for the support of the sponsors, presenters, facilitators, Network leaders and staff who made it possible for people representing 63 diverse communities across North America to be welcomed, challenged, and connected with others on the journey to build healthy, equitable local economies.

“My Summit experience was a pivotal moment along my personal and professional journey to create lasting change. It was an amazing experience. I still feel the energy. Can’t wait to continue to connect with everyone, learn more about BALLE, and develop my own leadership skills.” First-time Summit participant

There were several project updates from our Leadership Network at the 2017 Summit:

  • Brendan Martin shared about the progress of his Financial Commons project, as he continues to reinforce and grow the impact of infrastructure he has been building for a number of years, from legal and financial structures to shared platforms and systems for distributed ownership models. Brendan is currently working with a number of BALLE Network leaders, including Ana Urzua in Santa Ana, Kristen Barker in Cincinnati, and Yorman Nuñez, in the Bronx.
  • Jessica Norwood announced that the Runway Project, previewed at the 2016 BALLE Summit, had made its first loans to entrepreneurs of color within its first year. They continue to welcome new investors and look forward to closing the “friends and family” gap for more startups led by people of color.
  • Jennifer Near, Regan Priztker, and the Shake the Foundations group continue to support each other and peers in moving their grant and investment capital to democratic and community controlled vehicles, such as the Financial Cooperative. They will share some of their learnings about the opportunities and challenges of moving philanthropic capital toward an equitable, regenerative, and community and worker-owned economy through a series of blogs and speaking engagements at conferences in early 2018.
  • Aaron Tanaka, Nia Evans, and Lucas Turner-Owens from Boston’s Ujima Project have launched their own Capital Fund, with local investors determining the businesses and organizations that will receive investments. This builds on the Place-Based Impact Investing Workshop in Boston led by Solidago Capital, Transform Finance and BALLE in the summer of 2017.

We are already well underway imagining the 2018 Summit and how to build on the incredible momentum, valuable connections, and active collaborations that continue to emerge from the 2017 gathering.

If you have questions about or are interested in participating in the 2018 Summit, you can email

You can read more about the 2017 BALLE Summit here.

A special thanks to our generous sponsors:

Organic Valley
RSF Social Finance
Cohen Milstein
New Resource Bank
Good Work Institute
Rising Tide Capital
Social K

And our Foundation partners:

The Kendeda Fund, The Sandy River Charitable Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Solidago Foundation, Lydia B Stokes Foundation

Categories: Events