Local Economy Funders

Joel Solomon and Carol Newell

The most significant barriers to scaling the local living economies movement are that the innovators are disconnected and re-inventing the wheel, and they are wildly under-resourced.
                                      — The Monitor Institute

While still burgeoning, funders at every level are starting to recognize the crucial role of philanthropy in creating the conditions for healthy, diversified local economies and they are catalyzing a new approach. These include a few national foundations with local economies programs, dozens of community foundations, and now, some innovative individuals who are coupling their family foundation donations with their angel investing to build sustainable economies in particular places – from Vancouver, BC, to Missoula, MT, to Madison, WI.

These pioneering funders are financing local businesses and funding the nonprofit networks that support them, in localizing food, energy, manufacturing, and more. They are taking socially responsible investment (SRI) from 1.0 to 2.0, but while these pioneers are bold and innovative, they are building the path while walking on it. They have been mostly working independently to identify effective business models and programs and to determine how to evaluate what works. BALLE has identified a group of these path-finders who are focused on a regional approach to grant making and impacting change in specific communities. This group is now meeting together to learn from each other, share best practices and to define a new approach to local economy funding. It is our hope that their innovation and example will attract many more participating funders and investors to scale this movement.

Carol Newell and Joel Solomon of Renewal, in Vancouver, BC  are founding participants in BALLE’s Local Economy Funder Circle.  A case study of their work can be found here.

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