A Look Back at the 2016 BALLE Leadership Summit

In December, BALLE's first-ever invitational Summit brought together nearly 200 leaders from across North America, bringing the local economy ecosystem to life.

The BALLE Leadership Summit that took place in December 2016 was our first-ever invitational convening designed to intentionally weave together our three communities of practice (BALLE Fellows, Community Foundation Circle, and Investors Circle) and other leaders from across North America.

During our time together, we saw our local economy ecosystem come to life, demonstrating the power of what’s possible when this community of entrepreneurs, investors and change-makers is activated and aligned.

We are grateful for the support of the sponsors, presenters and staff who made it possible for 200 participants from 89 communities and 32 states to come together to learn, laugh and lead the conversations necessary to move our models, and our vision, forward.

Many of the attendees shared that the Summit equipped them with vital connections and to support their work at home, and that they benefitted from exposure to a broader ecosystem of leaders with a variety of backgrounds. They reported gaining new links to financial institutions and business networks to advance their projects, with more than 100 intended collaborations in the works as a direct result of our time together.

Here are just a few of the insights attendees have shared:

“The Summit gave me an opportunity to see the range of players in this ecosystem, hear their stories, and understand the ways that our roles interweave.”

“The BALLE Summit curated a brilliant expanse of leaders co-acting for economic and social justice and deepened my commitment to transforming business into a powerful force for democratizing wealth in my community.”

“It was a great opportunity to break out of our respective boxes and come together with change makers both in our own community as well as be inspired by national efforts.”

“The combination of Fellows (practitioners), investors and funders made for a very rich conversation. It was large enough for many perspectives but small enough to be able to talk to almost everyone.”


Fellows from all four cohorts of the BALLE Local Economy Fellowship.

Project Updates

Several presenters and their community initiatives have been presented with new opportunities for growth and impact, thanks to connections and conversations that took place at the Summit:

Aaron Tanaka and Deborah Frieze introduced us to the Boston Ujima Project, a multi-stakeholder development initiative that leverages many players in Boston’s local ecosystem, and guided us through a process to help us identify gaps and systematic issues at play in creating a healthy local economy. They’ll now have the opportunity to present their framework at the Neighborhood Economics conference May 25-26 in Washington, DC.


BALLE Fellow Aaron Tanaka and Investor Circle member Deborah Frieze present an interactive workshop on the Boston Ujima Project. Photo: TechBoogie Media

Tara Marchant of the Emerald Cities Initiative shared how their national network is building multi-sector partnerships that prioritize environmental sustainability and equity for communities of color. Their new project MyCultiver, aims to produce up to 200,000 healthy, locally-sourced meals per day to distribute to anchor institutions, including health systems such as Kaiser Permanente, while supporting regional food production and creating jobs and cooperative ownership opportunities for residents. They are now recruiting for the first 20 union jobs at a new food service facility in Richmond.

Thank you to everyone who made the Summit a powerful, positive event for so many people, and for everything you do to build an economy that works for all. While our work is not easy, and there’s no fixed template, we know that the network of leaders in the BALLE community holds the solutions to create healthy, equitable economies everywhere. We are creating the change we wish to see. And we are doing it together.

Categories: Events