BALLE Fellows Explore Cincinnati Local Economy Ecosystem

"It made me think about my place a lot – who has been here, who is being pushed out, how we might maintain and build the kind of communities we want to live in, and my role in all of this.” -Anthony Chang

If there’s one thing Localists have in common, it’s love and pride for their community – you’ll hear each say that their city or town is “the greatest place” in North America.

For the 2016 BALLE Fellows cohort, those “great places” are Lancaster, the Bronx, Santa Ana, Chattanooga, Toronto, Little Rock, Oakland, Asheville, Pittsburgh, and others.

Last week, Local Economy Fellows Derrick Braziel and Kristen Barker hosted their cohort’s most recent program immersion in their home city of Cincinnati: they got to show off their “greatest city,” including the communities where they live and work, the economic struggles there including systemic racism, inequality, and the pressures of gentrification, along with the innovative solutions being developed to build a local economy that works for all.

The 2016 Cohort gathers in front of Fellow Derrick Braziel’s Mortar in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

In addition to leadership development programming, the 2016 Fellows toured Derrick’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, visited Our Harvest Urban Farm, met with local officials, and had a meal served by a graduate of the accelerator program, Mortar, that Derrick co-founded.

Every Fellowship immersion takes place in or near the home city of one of the Fellows. This allows each cohort to see local economy ecosystems at work in communities other than their own and leverages the deep connections of local Fellows to foster understanding, inspiration, and new relationships in each community visited. These visits invite reflections on Fellows’ own communities, begin conversations around how solutions might be adapted in other places, reinforce the idea that our struggles are shared, and remind us that, truly, we are all in this together.

Reflections from Fellows about their time in Cincinnati:

“I need to get out of my bubble, spend more time in places I’ve never been before, and understand their history and context. I just spent a week in Cincinnati, Ohio – a city and state I had never been to before – learning about the region’s history and current challenges and opportunities.

… I soaked up the city’s history of immigrants from Germany, key role in the Underground Railroad, and as a landing place for people migrating from Appalachia to urban centers. I took in the current context of being a city that is pretty much half Black and half White, headquarters to one of the highest per capita rates of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., and home both to the challenges of gentrification and displacement that many communities in our country face as well as potential solutions that represent a new way of tackling these issues.

It was emotionally confusing (fun, interesting, and sad at the same time) to walk and explore the rapidly gentrifying Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It was a good place and context for me to see [the film] Get Out and talk about the state of our country, our urban/rural divide, and our history of oppression. It made me think about my place a lot – who has been here, who is being pushed out, how we might maintain and build the kind of communities we want to live in, and my role in all of this.”

Anthony Chang
Kitchen Table Advisors
Oakland, CA


“Given the climate in the US right now, it’s a privilege to be amongst the Fellows and to learn how they are resisting and building at this time. They are the unsung heroes of the resistance, organizing to build community wealth and courageously challenging systems of oppression on a daily basis.

As I listen to their stories, I’m consistently reminded that Canada suffers from many of the same broken systems but that we are mostly in denial about that, which is worse. Leveraging my privilege of being here, I’m going to bring back what I learn here to amplify their work and truth.”

Adil Dhalla
Centre for Social Innovation
Toronto, ON


“My heart is so full after an incredible week-long immersion with my BALLE family. So many laughs, tears, and lessons learned in the Greatest City in America!”

Derrick Braziel
Cincinnati, OH