Localism is grounded in the belief that relationships matter, most. The way we interact with where we live — who we do business with — how we connect with people, other life, the land — all of it matters.

We also believe that localism starts with you.

It begins with how you see the world, and extends to relationships in your business and with your community, and the actions you take to strengthen the fabric of the place you live. As localists, we recognize the powerful ripple effect of our everyday decisions.

Andrea Dean Localist

BALLE Local Economy Fellow Andrea Dean supports the development of sustainable community food systems.

Localism can start with the simple commitment to “buy local” — keeping your dollars where your heart lives. It also means supporting your community to identify, launch and grow the businesses that are needed to serve your community. Taken further, localism encompasses our relationships with the people who grow our food, offer local goods and services, and invest in our enterprises. In its fullest expression, localism means that economic accountability is held locally and equitably, everywhere.

Over the past 15 years we’ve worked with our community to develop the Local Economy Framework, made up of 8 strategies that reflect localism in action. Where people are deploying these strategies in a local ecosystem, we see healthier, more equitable local economies.

This work is not easy and there is no fixed template: and there is much we have learned, in collaboration with leaders across North America, to identify clear models where healthy business relationships make deeper well-being possible. Our network has been doing the difficult, necessary work of building an economy that is in service to us, not the other way around.

“At its heart our movement for local living economies is about love.”
– 
Judy Wicks, BALLE Co-founder

Our Local Economy Framework provides more detail on how we define localism. Or you can read about how localism is creating quality jobs, shifting capital from Wall Street to Main Street and prioritizing historically oppressed and under-resourced communities.  

Localism is ultimately about building communities that are healthy, equitable and regenerative — backed by local economies that are stronger and more resilient. It means we use regional resources to meet our needs — reconnecting eaters with farmers, investors with entrepreneurs, and business owners with the communities and natural places on which they depend. It recognizes that we’re all in this together, and that we are all better off, when we are all better off.

Charleston2011

  • Some people see localism as an economic extension of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community”: the idea that we all have value, and we are all connected. Our interdependence — and economic action that directly supports our own communities — invites us to work in relationship with one another, in solidarity, to create more progress for more of us.

  • Another inspiration point comes from Ghandi, whose Swadeshi (“self-sufficiency”) movement in India in the 1920s promoted the spinning of cloth, or khādī, for rural self-employment and self-reliance, instead of relying on cloth manufactured industrially in Britain. This practice was an integral part of the Indian Independence movement.
  • Wendell Berry is another leader devoted to localism, and the belief that one’s work should be rooted in and responsive to one’s place. His visionary call for a “50-year farm bill” to address soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities is one example of Berry’s commitment to his own rural community. His “Solving for pattern” essay outlines the process of finding solutions that solve multiple problems, while minimizing the creation of new problems: this proactive, holistic and regenerative approach is wholly aligned with our Local Economy Framework.

We recognize that we live in a world with global markets; and many think that “localism” means small. There are many stories and data that shows the power of localism, and scale that can be achieved while building community self-reliance.

We’re also curious: are you a localist? How would you define localism? What examples can you share that are examples of healthy, equitable communities?