A Grassroots Approach to Economic Development


A workbook detailing a new approach to economic development from the local economy perspective. Complete with twelve chapters of actionable tasks and hands-on activities, from Entrepreneurship and Community Capital to Public Policy and Local Investment.

If economic development were working as it’s intended, this workbook would be unnecessary. But for millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed at this moment, for the tens of millions who have been stuck in poverty for generations, and for the thousands of U.S. communities that can no longer even afford to keep schools open or roads paved, economic development has fallen short. A new approach is needed; one that at the very least supplements existing approaches.

This workbook has been designed for laypeople who are concerned about their community economy and eager to improve it. We expect that it will be used by existing business networks. But we also anticipate that many of the exercises and ideas will prove useful for college, advanced high school, or adult education courses. We also suspect that teams of politicians, policymakers and even economic developers might find the resources here valuable for their own program planning.

The workbook contains 12 chapters, each organized around sets of tasks linked to the following questions:

  • Vision – What should LLE economic development really aim to achieve?
  • Indicators – What are the measures by which a community can know whether its LLE economic development initiatives are successful?
  • Assets – What are the assets in a community, particularly in the categories of labor, land and capital, which can support new or expanded LLE businesses?
  • Leakages – Where are dollars leaking out of a community and what kinds of new or expanded LLE businesses can plug these leaks?
  • Building Blocks – What are the essential clusters of businesses needed for LLE economic development, and how can they be nurtured?
  • Business Alliance – How can LLE businesses be organized into an alliance, linked with BALLE or a similar organization, which enables them to be more powerful together than they are apart?
  • Local Purchasing – How can consumers, businesses and government purchasing agents be induced to purchase more goods and services locally?
  • Entrepreneurship – How can LLE business leadership at the management and workforce levels be nurtured?
  • Local Investing – How can a community tap and recycle its savings into more loans and investments for local business?
  • Meta-Businesses – What are the most promising kinds of business models that might enable signifi cant parts of economic development to be undertaken directly by LLE entrepreneurs?
  • Public Policy – How can laws, regulations and other government initiatives be shifted to be more supportive of LLE business?

By Michael Shuman & Kate Poole

173 pages
Price: $100

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