BALLE Summit 2017: Activating Local Economy Ecosystems

“The BALLE Summit was amazing. The people and the organizations represented were inspiring and energized me to return to my community and get to work!” —Summit Participant

BALLE’s team and new Executive Director Rodney Foxworth continue to process all the wisdom we took in at the Nov. 15-17 BALLE Leadership Summit, an invitational conference attended by our communities of practice (BALLE Fellows, Local Economy Foundation Circle, and Investors Circle) and other invited guests.

Connections were sparked and deepened. Leaders who are imagining and creating the future shared their solutions and challenges. Many developed a clearer understanding of their role in their own local economy ecosystem. And we held in our hearts all who were not able to attend – people having babies, on the campaign trail, or called to one of the many commitments we all face as entrepreneurs and investors. These leaders were missed and their spirits were present.

For those who were present and those who were not, we wanted to recall some of what we all experienced:

  • We explored local economy ecosystems. “It completely changed the way I see my work, to discover the ways I connect to a bigger ecosystem of actors, and will change the way I build partnerships and work across different communities,” one participant said. Together we looked at a range of local ecosystems in action: the many players supporting Latino farmers and farmworkers in Northern California; collective efforts to transform communities in the Arkansas Delta, building value chains to grow, process, and market an emergent biofuel crop; the intersections of private business and public policy in local ecosystems; and more.
  • We saw examples of how to shift capital into communities. Many at the Summit are actively moving money to build economies that work for all: we learned how Boston’s Ujima Project, Project Runway, and Kiva are engaging new kinds of investors while closing the “friends and family” gap for entrepreneurs of color; we heard from Shake The Foundations how that affinity group is hosting conversations that move the needle on how foundations can shift their assets under management to truly invest in the communities they serve.
  • We considered what prioritizing equity looks like in action. A pre-Summit workshop dove deep into how to identify, understand, and address structural inequities both as individuals and organizations; we spoke about how to bring the kinds of conversations that happen in diverse spaces like this Summit back home to our communities; we heard Ignite talks from leaders who shared deep personal stories about what prioritizing equity would mean for their own lives and communities.
  • We were provoked, inspired, and challenged by a vision session with Laura Flanders, David Korten, and Alfa Demmellash to consider the future of work – and how to move beyond capitalism. “What do we believe about human nature and economics, and how can we choose better?” David asked. “Love is an abundant resource… that is not controlled by white men,” Alfa added. Watch the the Facebook Live video of the conversation streamed by New Economy Coalition.
  • We talked about the role media plays in shaping our future world. Whose truths do we hold up? How do we make meaning of all that is in transition right now? In our opening session Laura Flanders helped set a tone for positive inquiry, considering some of the toughest questions of our time. Our Fireside Chat invited journalists, publishers, and others to contribute their vision for the role of media in the emerging new economy.
  • We danced. In true BALLE fashion, we weren’t all business, and truly, we let loose. People who are not dancers danced. People who are fluent, expressive dancers danced. The celebration and connection of the full community was powerful. BALLE has always been “a better party” — and so it was.

We are so grateful to each of you who made the 2017 Leadership Summit an amazing experience. We can’t wait to see you again soon.


“The BALLE Summit is the charging station for my personal and professional batteries. Knowing that we are doing our local economy work alongside so many competent and passionate individuals is truly inspiring.”

“The context and culture of truth-telling, openness, and exchange that emerged at this Summit felt really important for our collective work and movement at this moment in time.”

“BALLE creates such a unique and special community. It was way beyond typical network organizations or trade conferences — there was something spiritual about the BALLE Summit and I think that’s what made it stand out.”