Judy had built a strong, local business, the White Dog Cafe, and then created a business network, the Sustainable Business Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, all based on a vision that led to the formation of the Localist values. She wondered whether she could spread this framework for building a sustainable local economy to the rest of the country. Through her involvement with the Social Venture Network (SVN), a community of company founders, private investors, social entrepreneurs and key influencers who share a commitment to building a just and sustainable world through business, she met Laury Hammel, owner of the Boston Longfellow Health Clubs. Together, they and others recognized the need for a new organization, network, movement, and vision to grow sustainable local economies, and crafted this vision paper.
Laury and Judy were founding co-chairs of BALLE, with Michael Shuman and David Korten on the founding board of directors. Michelle Long and Derek Long were BALLE’s first staff directors, and Don Shaffer, was BALLE’s second executive director. Under Laury’s leadership, BALLE eventually spun off from SVN to become its own nonprofit organization, and held its first national conference in Portland, Oregon in 2003.
For its first ten years, BALLE focused its work on helping to move local economies onto the national agenda and to catalyze local business networks by resourcing and supporting them. We believed, and still do, that the most direct route to change comes from local businesses working together to address the economic, environmental and societal challenges of their own communities.
We have learned over the years, that whether these networks are formal membership organizations or even just a monthly potluck group, by strengthening the connections to each other, we are a force to be reckoned with. We’ve also learned that there are many different ways to gather and take action locally.
In 2012 BALLE adopted a broader, more inclusive model that allows everyone to join. Now within our network we have urban manufacturing alliances, economic development offices of cities pursuing Localism, and a triple bottom line bank that offers regular brown bag lectures to help their businesses succeed. BALLE members connect locally to take action at home and connect nationally to find the people, ideas and resources they need to succeed. We all benefit from better ideas and a stronger voice.