BALLE Travel Fund Accelerates Connections & Collaborations

Pilot of new grant program supports 19 BALLE Fellows cover travel expenses to each other's communities, resulting in powerful new connections and inspiring new projects.

So often in our work at BALLE, we see evidence to support the words of Margaret Wheatley, the author and thought-leader who informs our theory of change.

“When they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a comprehensive level,” Wheatley says.

At our 2016 BALLE Leadership Summit, with this in mind, leaders and donors envisioned and launched a BALLE Travel Fund – dollars to invest in BALLE Fellows, to cover travel to each other’s communities, learn more deeply about each other’s work, launch collaborations, and share models that might be adapted in other communities.

BALLE awarded more than $13,000 in small grants that allowed 19 of our Fellows – more than a quarter of all BALLE Fellows – to travel or host one or more Fellows. The collaborations and connections that are a direct result of these trips demonstrate that connecting these powerful leaders to each other is resulting in an acceleration of their work, and the larger change it’s building toward.

Co-launching a new community engagement venture: Vicki Pozzebon (Prospera Partners) and Ellen Shephard (Community Allies) were awarded funds to travel and co-present at the National Main Streets Conference in Pennsylvania. Afterward, they drove to meet Fellows Leanne Kreuger-Braneky and Elissa Hillary, who were also in the area. On that drive, “on a high” from the Radical Inclusion workshop they’d presented to community developers, Vicki says “Ellen and I realized we could form a stronger consulting collaborative and designed a business strategy to grow our businesses together.”

Accelerating Collaborative Development in the Arkansas Delta: Inspired by a conversation about business transitions resulting from entrepreneur retirement, Ines Polonius (Communities Unlimited, headquartered in Fayetteville, AR) invited Hilary Abell (Project Equity, Oakland, CA) to visit Arkansas to provide a training on starting cooperatives and business conversions for the CU Entrepreneurship and Community Sustainability teams. “Thanks to BALLE, Hilary set CU on the path of becoming a resource for communities, workers, small businesses and rural consumers interested in starting a cooperative,” Ines says. “CU would like to become one of Project Equity’s regional partners and has taken the first steps toward that end.”

Sharing on the main stage – and backstage: Elissa Hilary (Local First West Michigan) was awarded funds to support her trip to the Local Sustainable Economies Conference, where she presented on the mainstage and gave a workshop on Local First’s efforts to engage local businesses around building an inclusive, equitable regional economy. Afterward, she connected with many including Judy Wicks (BALLE co-founder), Amy Robinson (LOCO bc), Kimber Lanning (Local First Arizona), and Deborah Frieze (Boston Impact Initiative). Meeting with Deborah, Elissa learned more about her work in Boston to inform creating a similar initiative in Michigan. Connecting with Kimber, the two shared best practices between their similar communities, and committed to future conversations about regional membership models.

Collaborating to create the DC Peer Loan Fund: Harold Pettigrew (Wacif) invited Brendan Martin (The Working World) for a “lunch and learn” presentation so that he and other DC leaders could gain insights into the business model and principles behind The Working World. They also explored specific opportunities to support the creation of a DC Peer Loan Fund. Fellow Yanique Redwood (Consumer Health Foundation) and other area leaders attended. “There is a true opportunity to shape DC’s ecosystem in support of the cooperative movement,” Harold says. “We are in early stages, and Brendan’s insights were helpful in shaping our efforts as a financial institution with government and philanthropy. The worker-owned cooperative model is new for many of us, and information, insights, and examples like what Brendan shared are needed to help challenge and expand our thinking locally.”

Following the success of our 2017 launch, we aim to continue the Travel Fund program in 2018. We rely on the support of our donors to make programs like this possible. If you’d like to make a contribution to connect local leaders, so their efforts can accelerate into powerful change on a comprehensive level, please donate online or email Katheryn Witt.