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BALLE EVOLVES 2017 impact report

Dear Friends,

In 2016, I joined the BALLE family as a Local Economy Fellow. I was focused on cultivating an ecosystem that aligns social entrepreneurs, philanthropy, and economic development efforts, and helping individuals and institutions better invest in the promising ideas of local social change leaders and enterprises in Baltimore, Maryland. When I became a Fellow, I joined an incomparable network of visionary leaders from across North America, whose experiences deepened my own expertise in economic innovation. I was able to learn alongside and in collaboration with individuals who were developing the most creative, ambitious, and credible economic solutions, each of whom were guided, like myself, by a deep and abiding love of their community.

As my experience as a Fellow came to a close in late 2017, I stepped into the role of Executive Director, following the inimitable Michelle Long. Michelle's courage, creativity, and love enabled BALLE to foster local economy development at the ground level, where social equity and collaboration emerged as priorities. It is an honor to guide BALLE, with so many other leaders, past and present, who are building the future today.

As I transition from BALLE Fellow to BALLE Executive Director, I am humbled and honored to continue working with each and every leader in our community, and our Network of Local Economy Fellows, Foundation Circle, and community-focused investors, who are building healthy, equitable local economies. BALLE will continue to work at the systems level, convening funders, investors, and Fellows across ecosystems, to create local economies that work for all.

It is my pleasure to share these stories and some of the outcomes of our efforts in 2017.

Love and Power,

Connections, Sharing, Counsel

BALLE Network Leaders are accelerating positive change in their communities by aligning their efforts directly; building on shared infrastructure and successful financial models; and working to change policy to create local economies that work for all. Our staff is committed to weaving together individuals and initiatives across the Network to facilitate the flow of social, financial, and natural capital.

Left to right: Local Economy Fellow and CEO of Communities Unlimited, Ines Polonius; Local Economy Investor's Circle member Pat Riley; and Foundation Circle member and Chief Program Officer at Arkansas Community Foundation, Sarah Kinser.

Local economy ecosystems build strength, resilience and greater equity through collaboration, over time. There are few better examples than the work of Local Economy Fellow and CEO of Communities Unlimited, Ines Polonius; Local Economy Investor's Circle member Pat Riley; and Foundation Circle member Sarah Kinser, Chief Program Officer at Arkansas Community Foundation. In September 2017 these central Arkansas leaders designed and hosted a convening of national investors, funders, and BALLE Network leaders and partners to help people understand their relationships to each other, and ways to accelerate shared goals. Of note: a $1mil impact investment by Riley through a Donor Advised Fund at the Arkansas Community Foundation provided access to capital for Polonius, whose Communities Unlimited was able to make loans and connect 16 households to a shared water system when their wells went dry; extend resources for a small business outside of Pine Bluff, AR, to ensure there are heating and air services accessible across a large rural area; and continue to build a healthy foods value chain, coordinating directly with local farmers.

Read more about the entrepreneurial revival happening in rural De Witt, AR, which was included in the fall 2017 central Arkansas Local Economy Accelerator.

Left to right: Chattanooga artist and mentor, Rondell Crier; Local Economy Foundation Circle member and Executive Director of the Footprint Foundation, Lisa Pinckney; Local Economy Fellow and Co-Founder and Executive Director of Chattanooga LAUNCH, Hal Bowling.

Foundation Circle member Lisa Pinckney, Executive Director of the Footprint Foundation, has been weaving and accelerating local economy efforts in Chattanooga, TN for years. Along with local artist Rondell Crier, and BALLE Fellow Hal Bowling, and many others, Lisa has been seeding and guiding collaborations for years. After her first Foundation Circle immersion, Pinckney immediately saw the power of BALLE’s approach, so that "when the BALLE Summit came about I couldn’t wait to share that with other people. I brought a group in 2016 and an even bigger group in 2017. I know for a fact because of participating at the Summit, and having an intention to collaborate, we have been able to accelerate our work.”

Read more about the ways that local economy principles come to life in this community the New York Times' Chattanooga Is Changing, but Its Charms Remain.

Strength of Organizations
Deborah Frieze and Aaron Tanaka present on the Boston Ujima Project at BALLE's Leadership Summit.

BALLE Fellow Aaron Tanaka worked with Deborah Frieze of the Local Economy Investors Circle to co-design the Boston Ujima Project, which brings together grassroots community organizations, small businesses and cooperatives, labor unions, faith and civic organizations, funders, and impact investors to create a community-controlled local economy led by working class residents of color in Boston. BALLE has played a central role in supporting leaders like Deborah and Aaron to deepen their work and strengthen their organization, by accessing human and social capital in addition to financial capital. Starting as an ambitious concept in 2015, and thanks to the support of the Boston Impact Initiative and local investors, the Boston Ujima Project has evolved into a fully staffed organization. In 2017 Ujima hired its first Executive Director, Nia Evans; formally opened for membership; and debuted the launch of a capital fund in which each investor — regardless of investment amount — has one vote in determining which local organizations are resourced.

Shifting Capital
Brendan Martin presenting at the BALLE Summit.

Brendan Martin is the founder and president of The Working World, a cooperative financial institution and business incubator that lends people the tools to democratically build lasting wealth for themselves, their businesses, and their communities. As a Fellow, Brendan engaged a number of BALLE Network leaders, sharing his expertise in the development of the legal and financial structures, shared platforms and systems, and other business pragmatics. Brendan has honed The Working World’s National Peer Network and Financial Commons throughout his time as a Fellow, bringing together place-based organizations from around the country and creating a national infrastructure for cooperative lending and non-extractive finance. This Network, which now includes several BALLE leaders, provides training, ongoing mentorships, and regular collaboration in addition to building the necessary infrastructure through which the Working World’s national revolving loan fund can invest in cooperative community development.

In addition to the work of Fellows and investors, BALLE's Local Economy Foundation Circle continues to support leaders at community foundations, health foundations, and family offices with a place-based mission in their journey from theory to action. The second Foundation Circle cohort has deployed nearly all of the capital they committed to move into place-based efforts.

Total reported for 2016-2018 cohort of the Local Economy Foundation Circle
Transformational Leadership Development
“The informed decision we needed to make in our grantmaking and investing had to bring into account social impact. BALLE’s Foundation Circle taught me that voice is important. It has to be diversified. You have to be intentional as you bring people to the table, if you’re going to build a program to serve the community,” shared Patti Chandler, Vice President of Finance and Operations at the Baltimore Community Foundation and member of the 2016 Foundation Circle cohort. Chandler’s work with the Foundation Circle led to the commitment of $4mil into place-based impact investing in Baltimore.
Increasing Influence

As BALLE’s local economy leaders drive cultural and systems changes with and within their communities, their familiarity with the barriers they face in advancing sustainable, holistic change grows deeper. Increasingly, these barriers have come in the form of local, state, and federal policy. In order to advance their local economy-focused efforts in a turbulent political climate, we have seen BALLE Fellows forge ahead into the world of policy and electoral politics, both as advisors and candidates themselves, developing progressive platforms responsive to the unique needs of both rural and urban communities.

“My connection with the BALLE Network in 2017 has been extraordinary. Members have been indispensable resources in my research on best practices for equitable economic development policy for cities, and rebuilding commercial districts in minority neighborhoods. I'm a consultant to a progressive mayoral candidate in Chicago, leading his economic development policy platform. Through BALLE I have access to people who created some of the best economic development policies and programs across North America.” — BALLE Fellow Ellen Shepard, Community Allies, Chicago, IL
Prioritizing Equity

In 2017, as an organization BALLE experienced transformation at all levels. We opened our hearts and our work to new leadership within our staff and our Board. We embraced equity as a priority even more deeply, and examined our roles in ushering it in both as a practice and a value within our organizations and institutions, while intentionally making space for new voices and new leaders to emerge.

In 2017 BALLE hosted our second annual Summit, focused on shifting capital, prioritizing equity, and activating local economy ecosystems. People explored their roles to one another while establishing relationships that have turned into collaborations, with an emphasis on voices that have been excluded and under-resourced. The Summit centered voices of color as organizations considered what it means to go beyond diversity and inclusion to true equity, and sharing power.

Our 2017 Summit highlights reel provides a sense of who participated, and the range of content covered.

Awards for 2016 Local Economy Fellows presented at 2017 Summit, designed and made by Fellow Toby Barrazzuol, Vancouver, BC

Each of our BALLE Fellows, Investors, and members of the Foundation Circle engage in work that requires a fundamental shift in the way we operate as institutions, communities, and individuals.

This works challenges all that we think we know, and invites us to envision new ways of connecting to, investing in, and understanding the world around us. It is a journey that unfolds and rewards us in new ways every day.

Thank you for learning more about our 2017 impact, for BALLE as an organization, as a Leadership Network, and in the broader community we share.

Being on the journey to create healthy, equitable local economies with leaders like you keeps us committed to our evolution and growing our positive impact.

Thank you to everyone whose financial support makes our work possible:

Here's to an even more inspiring and effective 2018!

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