Practical tools for local economic transformation

A Generation Local

A growing number of young people know what must be done to cure our ailing global economy. They are not only protesting a failing system but are also building its replacement. New agrarians are being met by fellow new economists in urban neighborhoods, small towns, and remote villages. They are coming home – a Generation Local. You will find them in farm fields, small-batch manufacturing, local marketplaces, recycling ventures, renewable energy coops, farm-to-table restaurants, and community planning meetings. They are forming the foundation of a green, place-based, face-to-face economy built on democratically structured institutions.

How do we equip this new generation of local economists? How do we train them in the same disciplined way that the sustainable agriculture community has developed apprenticeship programs for future farmers? How do we strengthen their values, align their initiatives, unify their voices, and amplify their impact? How do we bring a movement to scale?  

The Local Economy Movement is emerging out of the mutual interest and collaboration of small producers and their local citizens/consumers. Together they are creating the institutional infrastructure that complements the powerful local-food movement:

  • Community Supported Agriculture farms are linking farmers directly with their customers to share the risk of operating costs. 
  • Community Supported Industry initiatives are growing more jobs through manufacturing focused on import replacement. 
  • Community Land Trusts are offering a way for residents of a region to acquire land and permanently dedicate sites for workforce housing, sustainable farming, or green industry.
  • Investment clubs are connecting investors with regional small businesses in need of capital.
  • BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) networks are bringing local businesses together to share resources and market jointly.
  • Coops are turning workers into owner/managers.

In the Berkshires, a local currency is partnering with community banks to provide low cost loans in a scrip that circulates only in the region, validating the small businesses that make up the backbone of that economy. In North Carolina, Rural Advancement Foundation International is providing grants to area farmers to innovate new products and then shares the plans for that innovation online so other farmers can replicate solutions. In Democracy Collaborative’s Cleveland Model, anchor institutions are contracting with worker-owned businesses to provide needed services and in the process are creating secure, well-paid jobs for a previously disenfranchised population. 

No longer unique experiments, these programs are being replicated in cities and towns around the country and around the world, drawing media attention and enthusiastic participation. 

Challenge

The challenge to advocates of a just and ecologically sustainable economic system is to:

  • demonstrate theoretically and by example how these programs connect as complementary components of a whole-systems regional economy;
  • codify these programs through engaging stories and handbooks of organizational documents, referencing organizations already assembling this material and creating new documentation where needed;
  • develop effective curriculum, instruction materials, and workshops for training;

A new economy curriculum is a vehicle for organizations to share knowledge, tools, and experiences with a new generation of local economists.   

 

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