Eighteen members of government, business, philanthropy and economic development from one Pennsylvania town decided to attend BALLE 2014 together, and launch a Localism initiative set to scale back home. Written with ASSETS Lancaster.
ASSETS, a microenterprise development organization in Lancaster, PA, is seeding and supporting businesses who aim to impact social and environmental issues. In June, 18 individuals from Lancaster will travel to the BALLE 2014 conference, handpicked by ASSETS staff and board from government, business, philanthropy and economic development sectors.
ASSETS sees the delegation to the BALLE conference as an opportunity to inspire and encourage creative, business-driven action toward a more equitable, diverse local economy through cross-sector collaboration. The Lancaster delegation includes both long-term localists and mainstream leaders. Attendees come from local businesses, Chamber of Commerce, the Lancaster City Alliance, Lancaster City Government & City Economic Development, The Lancaster County Community Foundation, and Community First Fund.
“We need allies. We can’t leave people out of the discussion, and can’t tackle poverty by ourselves,” says Angelique Arroyo, Communications and Outreach Coordinator at ASSETS.
“If we get these community and business leaders immersed in the BALLE experience – the tours, the speakers, the business ideas and investment strategies–they’ll likely return with new tools, inspiration, and connections for creative reinvestment in our city,” adds Jessica King, Executive Director at ASSETS. “That’s really the only expectation.”
Economic prosperity doesn’t develop alone, notes Charlie Crystle, CEO of The Lancaster Food Company.
“My co-founder Craig Lauer and I are trying to address a part of the problem, partly inspired by Greyston Bakery, but we need understanding partners throughout the city.” The Lancaster Food Company makes wholesale organic breads and spreads to create thriving-wage employment for vulnerable populations in Lancaster’s high-poverty areas.
One post-conference strategy to share ideas and inspiration consists of an expanding series of “Jeffersonian Dinners” after the conference. These dinners of 12 – 15 people provide a way to discuss ideas and courses of action. Each person leaves that dinner and commits to hosting a dinner of their own with 12 – 15 new people in the coming months. “Conversations lead to ideas and connections, which might lead to action, and create the context for a new wave of entrepreneurship and investment,” says Crystle.
Planners hope to become a regular tradition. “Next year we’d like to send three or four folks from BALLE 2014 to serve as guides for a new group in 2015,” says King. “Maybe we can make it an annual tradition for years to come in support of Lancaster’s progress around ‘prosperity for all.’ We think it’s worth it.”