GeoTagging with Google Earth – Put What Your Community Has on the Map!

Every community area has unused and underutilized assets such as vacant lots, empty buildings, blighted properties, discarded equipment, even unrecovered waste in the form of lost heat, materials, by-products, etc. Take your camera phone, snap pics of what you see, and map what’s there. It’s worth more than you may think.

Originally posted to Open for Consideration on Tumblr by Steve Bosserman on September 4, 2010

How Do You Participate in YOUR Local Economy?

The most important characteristic of business models in a local economy is universal participation by community members. In other words, all community members contribute to their local economy however they can. This may be counterintuitive if one thinks of business models from a typical global economy perspective. Let’s consider some of the main differences between the two economic views.

In a local economy, members are both the market for and the means by which their needs are met. This is quite the opposite of what happens in the global economy where those who produce, process, prepare, and distribute are often separated from one another by considerable distance and even further removed from the end-user or customer. Because of this, the consequence of buying decisions on a particular community does not impact consumer choices within the global economy.

As a result, the purpose of a local economy is to assure sustainability of the community that defines it. The community is the central focus. Community members contribute in whatever ways they can to establish, manage, and maintain the requisite level of business activity within the community that meets their needs. The intent is to advance interdependence among many businesses in the interest of resilience, adaptability, and self-reliance.

In contrast, each business in the global economy strives to be first to market, remain alone in that market for as long as possible, and be deemed best in the market among any other competitors should they appear. The business is the center of attention. A wide array of stakeholders comprised of management, employers, suppliers, and investors promote the business in an effort to gain acceptable returns. The objective is to survive in an intensely competitive environment that challenges the right of each business to exist on a routine basis.

Given participation in a local economy is so important, what does it look like?

Essentially, community members participate in their local economy along five pathways of action:

  • They buy from local businesses
  • They believe that interdependent local businesses must be successful to assure community sustainability
  • They advocate on behalf of local businesses and the local economy
  • They administer to the rules of the local economy so that businesses within it have opportunities to function more effectively and efficiently
  • They invest in businesses

The following graphic recasts the five paths mentioned above as vectors positioned on a backdrop of concentric circles that represent level of participation as indicated by the teardrop scale at the bottom which begins with limited involvement at the status quo center and progresses through three levels to much wider participation in the outer ring.

The view below offers additional descriptors for each vector, level by level. Although this particular example relates to a local food system, the diagram applies to any product or service related to meeting the basic needs of a community.

But these details are not answers. They are merely placeholders to spur your thinking.

How do you participate in YOUR local economy?

What are the appropriate labels to indicate involvement by you and your community members?

Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development on Tumblr by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riff on Michael Shuman

For thousands of people around the world each day the Google News Alerts service deposits the results of key word searches among the thousands of news sources in Google’s global network in email inboxes, mine included. Among the terms I have setup for searches is “community currencies.” This morning the following item appeared:

Candidates for Ward 1

Raise the Hammer – Canada

… His ideas of how credit unions, commercial banks and thrifts with community ownership structures, and local currencies can keep community wealth circulating in …

The content trailer was intriguing, leading me on a two-hour surfing odyssey. The results are logged below in the event that others might be interested in some of the touch points I encountered along the way.

First, click to the article on the Raise the Hammer website; then, click to learn more about the Raise the Hammer community action initiative in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which, according to Wikipedia is the 8th largest city in Canada with a population of slightly over 700,000.

Municipal elections are coming up and one of the candidates is a person named Brian McHattie. In a response to a request from Raise the Hammer, Mr. McHattie stated the five most important steps he would take if elected; his fifth and final point was as follows:

5) Develop a Community Economic Development Strategy. ‘Recently, Environment Hamilton brought U.S. economist Michael Shuman to Hamilton to talk about a strategy where communities adopt a strategy of self-reliance with local production for local consumption.

His ideas of how credit unions, commercial banks and thrifts with community ownership structures, and local currencies can keep community wealth circulating in and working for the community must be investigated as a basis for Hamilton’s economy, along with import substitution and directing City purchasing power to locally owned businesses, thereby keeping money circulating within the city – plugging the leaky bucket.’

Enter the name, “Michael Shuman.” So who is this Michael Shuman person?

A Google search found several listings one linked to a biographical article in The Nation. The next click goes to the homepage for The Nation and more background on the publication.

Another link in the search about Michael Shuman referenced “Community-based Economies1 at a forum on August 3, 2006 sponsored by the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center and partners.

No journey is complete unless some inviting by-ways are explored 😉 One side-road was a closer look at the terms “Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, and Local Economies.” A click in a Google search led to the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and its Institute for Economy and the Environment. One of the faculty members, Dr. Rolf Wüstenhagen, co-authored a paper, “Structure of Sustainable Economic Value in Social Entrepreneurial Enterprises” that can be downloaded as a PDF file. Any research that can find better ways to determine value of such endeavors is worth its weight in gold and Dr. Wuestenhagen’s study is certainly a useful approach!

Another trail through the woods led to a startup originally named “Chesapeake Friendly Chicken,” funded in part by USDA grants, but now grant-independent and listed as “Bay Friendly Chicken.” There are several write-ups about this company from a wide range of perspectives including CNN Money and Animal Liberation Front. This represents an “educational process” from which many with a similar entrepreneurial spirit in agricultural production and process can learn.

But I digress, back to Mr. Shuman. His bio in the The Small-Mart Revolution—How Local Businesses Are Beating The Global Competition he is listed a Vice President for Enterprise Development with the Training & Development Center (TDC) based in Maine. The founder and president of TDC is Charles “Chuck” Tetro. Mssrs. Tetro and Shuman team as co-presenters and co-facilitators. One of those collaborations was to deliver a course at Whidbey Institute in Clinton, WA. The flyer announcing the session exploring!2 read as follows:

“Exploring Local Living Economies and Community-based Business” with Michael Shuman and Chuck Tetro Sunday, July 17 to Sunday July 24, 2005, A Residential Course at the Whidbey Institute in Clinton, WA: Michael Shuman is the author of GOING LOCAL: CREATING SELF-RELIANT COMMUNITIES IN A GLOBAL AGE and Vice President of Enterprise Development for the Training & Development Corporation. Among his current projects are a poultry company in Eastern Maryland financed through local stock, a small-business venture fund in New Mexico, and a local debit card in Maine. He speaks and consults around the country on strategies for strengthening local and regional economies, and he is one of the founding board members for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a network of, by, and for community-based-businesses.”

Mr. Shuman is a busy person! A search for Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) uncovers an active North American network. The search results also show a connection to the specific term “Living Economies” and a link to livingeconomies.org which proves to be the home page for bealocalist.org, aka, BALLE. At one time, Mr. Shuman was on the BALLE board. His former BALLE bio mentioned a website under development named, “CommunityFood” (no longer functional) that is intended “to support marketing by family farmers.” The website layout is an excellent framework / template to utilize in moving the localization of agriculture across North America. And in looking at all the blank states on the BALLE homepage map of chapters / members it appears there are thousands of opportunities 😉

Mr. Shuman’s latest book, THE SMALL-MART REVOLUTION: HOW LOCAL BUSINESSES ARE BEATING THE GLOBAL COMPETITION, published in 2006 by Berrett-Koehler and distributed by Amazon and others, continues to expand his theses in a powerful, yet engaging and entertaining manner, according to the reviewers. But see for yourself.

And this is wonderful place to stop for a while. I’m sure the odyssey will begin anew when another compelling news blurb pops into the inbox — happy reading and exploring!3

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Saturday, October 21, 2006

  1. Information about Michael Shuman’s forum at the University of Wyoming referenced in my original posting is no longer available online. 
  2. Links to the flyer and related information about Charles Tetro and Michael Shuman are no longer available online. 
  3. Much of the information about Michael Shuman and the terminology, projects, organizations, and source materials referenced in my original posting evolved over the intervening years. I attempted to keep as much of the original text as possible, except in several instances where deviations became inevitable. Mr. Shuman is still “living the dream” helping others develop local economies as this January 27, 2019 post to his website attests: Why Local Economies Matter. I will pick up the topic of localization in a separate post at a later date.

Localize – Link – Globalize

In the 17 July 2006 issue of Newsweek International, an article by Ron Moreau and Sudip Mazumdar entitled, “Bigger, Faster, Better: India’s top tycoon hopes to kick the country’s nascent boom into hyperdrive by remaking its stores, farms and even its biggest cities,” provides a compelling twist in corporate social responsibility. Earlier this year, Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, Ltd, announced the creation of a new, major business venture under the Reliance umbrella, Reliance Retail, Ltd. This is only one step in Mr. Ambani’s far-reaching vision in retailing that seeks to bring broad-sweeping changes in agricultural production and retailing across India as well as how people live in urban areas:

…Ambani, 49, has finalized plans to invest more than $11 billion over the next decade to build two new satellite cities outside creaking, overcrowded Mumbai and Delhi. He foresees these metropolises emerging within just four years, each with a population of 5 million people making $5,000 a year, on average (or seven times India’s norm), and hosting top multinational companies. And that is all pretty simple – a development on steroids – compared with the idea that really gets Ambani going.

Ambani’s favorite scheme aims to revolutionize in one swoop two of India’s largest but most backward sectors: farming and retail. Despite boom times, India is still a nation where 100 million mostly small farmers work with ox and plow, where 96 percent of retail stores are mom-and-pop shops and most of the roads between farm and store are mud tracks. Ambani plans to invest $5 billion by 2011 to put both the farms and the stores on the road to modernity, connect them through a distribution system guided by the latest logistics technology, and create enough of a surplus to generate $20 billion in agricultural exports annually.

I don’t have a clue whether Mr. Ambani will be successful in achieving what he envisions. Actually, that is not the point. What is significant, though, is that he apparently understands the connections between the circumstances surrounding those who produce food, and food production, logistics, and retail sales to consumers; he is willing to challenge the inadequacies and deficiencies in the current system; and even more, he is taking no small risks in making a significant play to install an alternative system that is more respectful, efficient, and sustainable for those who participate at the “ground level,” so to speak.

Basically, Mr. Ambani is addressing the problem by taking an approach that runs backwards from the conventional wisdom of a globalized model. He is, first, raising the capability and capacity of the farmer / producer, establishing an infrastructure to move productive output swiftly and safely to downstream stages in the value-chain, and providing fair compensation for the farmer / producer to assure sustainability:

To transform Indian farmers into quality suppliers for his new retail chain, Ambani plans to create 1,600 farm-supply hubs across India, providing technical know-how and credit, selling seeds, fertilizer and fuel, and buying produce.

Then, he is scaling the output of the farmer / producer to exceed local demands for food stuff and move the overage into the global market:

He also plans to build some 85 logistics centers to move food to retail outlets and to ports and airports for export. Reliance is gearing up to train tens of thousands of new employees in the next six to eight months to do everything from erecting prefab warehouses to transporting fresh produce. Even Reliance’s admirers note that with little experience in farming or retail, Ambani is taking his biggest risks yet. “There will be mistakes,” Ambani admits. “But we are not scared. We will correct our mistakes fast and move on.”

This is opposite to the typical globalizing business model that strips output from agricultural producers for a pittance and pumps it into the global market at the outset without regard or interest in the sustainability of the producer’s business or preserving the sanctity of the local community. The consequence of the more typical approach is farm consolidation, loss of livelihood and location, and dependence on globalized agriculture for local food supplies – not a good position to be in if supply chains are disrupted.

The critical path is to stabilize the producer / provider at the individual / family / community level; link producers / providers with others through flexible and dynamic networks capable of moving information, goods, and services in response to demand AT A LOCAL LEVEL; and lastly, scale the operations to match output with fluctuations in demand on a global level. This simple three-step formula – localize, link, and globalize – is a useful scorecard to measure the validity of any strategy aimed at utilizing natural resources or leveraging human resources in particular areas. If it strives to globalize first or prematurely, the approach is exploitative at best and unconscionable at worst!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Sunday, August 27, 2006