Some believe that the best strategy for social change is through bottom up, grassroots action. It's a trickle-up theory of change. It definitely has merit, especially these days when national governments the world over seem completely co-opted by corporate interests. City councils, local businesses, neighborhood associations, school boards… these are some of the channels through which citizens can change their communities for the better. This can add up to big changes when many communities transform themselves.
With that in mind, the Center for a New American Dream has been putting together a Community Action Kit that people can lean on as they engage with their environment on different levels. Shareable collaborated on the first entry in the kit, the Guide to Sharing. And now comes the Guide to Going Local.
The Going Local guide is a partnership with BALLE and New Dream lays out the case right from the start with key arguments as to why going local is important:
- Building communities that are healthier and more sustainable, supported by local economies that are stronger and more resilient;
Keeping money local and communities vibrant;
Using local and regional resources to meet our needs, not being dependent on resources shipped from halfway across the globe;
Reconnecting eaters with farmers, investors with entrepreneurs, and business owners with the communities and natural places on which they depend;
Creating more high-quality local jobs — for our neighbors, our families, and ourselves; and
Recognizing that we can’t just “do it alone” and that, in the end, we’re all better off when we’re all better off.
While the first point made could actually be the only point needed, the subsequent suggestions get into the more nuanced actions that every community member should step up to. The goal, here, is not to seek good economic fortune alone, but to also achieve a notable measure of well-being. Without the latter, a city may boom, but it will not thrive.
Edmond Mille — Vegetable Fruit & Potatoes; Maastricht, Netherlands. Photo credit: Lightmash / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA.
To that end, the Guide to Going Local sets the pace with the first of four Action Ideas: Build Pride in Your Local Place. Doing so involves art, music, nature, gardens, public spaces, and more — all in a bid to celebrate and enhance the cultural and physical landscape of a given community.
Once civic pride is established and spread, the guide moves on to outline three economic practices:
- Foster Local Entrepreneurship — with a focus on pop-up retail
- Buy Local (and Sustainable) — with a focus on cash mobs
- Invest Locally — with a focus on pitchfests
Within those are myriad ideas familiar to the Shareable audience — repair cafes, pop-up retail stores, business incubators, business networks, coworking spaces, green businesses, CSAs, co-ops, community banks, lending circles, micro grants, and crowdfunding.
By honing so many sharing-based solutions down to a solitary goal of going local — and framing them within that context — the guide does community members a nice service by making it that much easier to see how small choices and changes add up and ripple out. No guide to anything will ever be completely comprehensive or perfectly suited to everyone's needs; but, if you want to affect change in your community, the Guide to Going Local is a helpful reference.