The BALLE Conference is an annual gathering of economists, small business owners, investors, and supporters who
promote, advocate, and educate about local living and community-driven economic development.
Some of you may have seen posts on social media talking about BALLE a few months ago; others may not be as familiar with the organization. So, here it is: BALLE is North America’s fastest growing network of socially responsible businesses, comprised of over 80 community networks in 30 U.S. states and Canadian provinces representing over 22,000 independent business members across the U.S. and Canada. The organization believes that local, independent businesses are among the most potent change agents, uniquely prepared to take on today’s challenges with a sense
of place and a relationship-based approach. Further, BALLE believes businesses are more than employers and profit-makers; they are neighbors, community builders and the starting point for social innovation, aligning commerce with the common good through transparency and accountability.
Now for the ‘why you should care’ part:
The 2013 BALLE Business Conference will
be held in Buffalo, and, with it, will bring over 700 social entrepreneurs,
local business network leaders, investors and change agents to Western New York
to connect, share and learn new ways to build an innovative and sustainable
future and toward fostering strong local economies. The economic impact for
this 4-day national conference is anticipated to be $716,000.
I sat down with Sarah Bishop, Buffalo
First! Executive Director, who spoke at this year’s BALLE conference in Grand
Rapids. As Buffalo First!’s mission is to create a more just, sustainable and
local living economy in Buffalo and Western New York, Sarah and her team have
been champions in bringing BALLE here next year. In fact, anyone that knows
Sarah knows her passion for building sustainable local economies through the
promotion of local business. I want to share with you what this conference
means to Buffalo through her eyes:
“Buffalo has been a prime example of
how a city can change itself from within. We know better than anyone how a
bottom-up approach with emphasis on local decision making, community
participation and grassroots mobilization can render
marked change and reenergize an urban core,” said Sarah. “We hope that the people of Buffalo will see
this conference for what it is: an opportunity to connect with the nation’s
local movement founders, leaders, and visionaries.”
She continued, “Buffalo First! believes
this is a significant moment for the BALLE community. As they continue to
grapple with the best methodologies for supporting the New Economy in
ethnically and socioeconomically diverse places, we know they will find a number
of models and metrics here in Buffalo.”
Finally, when I asked her, ‘what does
having this conference Buffalo mean to our city?’, she answered simply with:
“A chance to lead.”
The photographs shown were taken from this
year’s BALLE conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They include Business First!
Executive Director Sarah Bishop, BALLE Executive Director Michelle Long and BALLE
Co-Founder Judy Wicks. Check out this year’s conference highlights here.
Photo Credits: Lars Kongshaug and BALLE ©