The View from My Writing Perch (And 5 other sparks from the BALLE Summit)

Here are 5 things that ignited my mind and warmed my heart at the BALLE Leadership Summit, November 15-17.

By Andrea Dean, BALLE Fellow

I could go on and on about the vibrant blue of the ocean, the curvy magnificence of the sand dunes, the crispness of the air, and the feel of the warm sunshine on my face, but I won’t. Yeah… I’m laying it on a little thick, but only because I want to evoke the peace and power I experienced at the BALLE Summit. Beyond the natural beauty of Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula (which, let’s be real, isn’t usually the reason we busy local economy leaders attend events like this),  here are 5 other things that ignited my mind and warmed my heart at the Summit:

  1. Cooperatives
    There was lots of talk about cooperative structures.  First, I had the pleasure to chat with Kristin Barker from the Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative in the car on the way to Monterey. We talked about her work with union coops and a farm coop. A simple tip for co-op success that she offered was the importance of the weekly meeting where they ask everyone to say two positive things and one challenging thing. Kristin says that this simple exercise connects the co-op and management teams on a human level and helps to surface issues before they become problems. Brendan Martin from The Working World staged a skit in which the concept of a financial cooperative emerged as the star of the show. Hilary Abell from Project Equity tuned me into the power of cooperatives to redistribute wealth to workers, especially as baby boomers are retiring from their successful businesses en masse.
  2. Connection, Connection, Connection
    I met Julian McKinley from Capital Institute who is connecting me to successful regenerative farm models. I shared insight from my farm projects with Susan Jennings from Community Solutions, who is about to be knee-deep in a farm project of her own. I shared a long beach walk and spiritual deep dive talk with Sandy Wiggins, BALLE’s Board Chair, and Christine Hanna of Yes! Magazine and I had an afternoon fireside sharing about our lives. Heather Van Dusen, from B Lab, I just plain liked, and I hope will come visit me in Hawaii. So many connections at BALLE Summits happen informally. It’s just as important to hang out and let things unfold as it is to attend sessions.
  3. Nun Money (and other sources of funding)
    The BALLE team excels at bringing together local economy leaders with local economy funders. I met Stephanie Meade from New Resource Bank.  I got to reconnect with friend Kate Danaher from RSF Social Finance, and had a lovely bus ride and chat with Andrew Baskin from Lift Economy.  And, yup, even the nuns are hip to financing the new economy, through some of the financial organizations present at the Summit.
  4. Ecosystem Thinking
    This is the idea that will keep me lying awake at night for weeks, maybe the rest of the year. Judy Wicks, our BALLE Mamma, started the conference by saying, “There’s no such thing as one sustainable business. It’s the whole ecosystem.” I’m laying tracks, thinking about connections, wondering about how to grow the ecosystem in my world.
  5. Bringing the Sexy Back
    Making farming sexy came up a number of times. I’m not a big believer that farming is sexy. I think it looks sexy from the outside. Marketing makes farming and farm products look sexy—but the actual day-to-day of fixing water lines, hauling manure, and working in the hot sun and cold rain? Not so sexy. However, the New Economy leaders who come to the BALLE Summit are sexy. Smart sexy. Idea sexy. Brainy sexy. The conversations are stimulating. And these people sure know how to dance.

There were many reasons why I couldn’t make it to the BALLE Summit this year, but I went anyway. We are the builders of the local economy movement, and at this yearly gathering, we exchange ideas, support each other, connect as human beings and relax back into who we are.

Oh, and that view:

Categories: BALLE Fellows, Events