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Posted - 07/08/2011
CityLab7 / Fertile Grounds – 2011 BALLE Conference Highlights
Balle Place Matters

Stephen Antupit and Chris Saleeba, of CityLab7 and the Fertile Grounds project, were brimming with enthusiasm and creativity after their recent trip to the 2011 BALLE Conference in Bellingham, WA.

“What’s in it for WE vs. what’s in it for ME?,” “Locavesting,” “The age of Pro-creativity,” and gaining new skills to navigate the Donor – NonProfit relationship were the key themes of the conference.

Chris Saleeba and Stephen Antupit approached Invoking the Pause as they wanted to use the new Synchronicity Fund to make it possible for them to attend the 2011 Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Conference. And their overall experience was certainly in-line with the spirit of the synchronicity.

Similar to the synergy of the 2010 ITP Convening, they found themselves again reconnecting with their peers, stakeholders and thought leaders in the Local Food Movement and were able to cross-pollinate new ideas for their own work.

Chris attended a session on Thursday on Identifying and Understanding Opportunities in Local Food Systems Development; Ari Derfel of Slow Money, Martin Ping of the Hawthorne Valley Association, Tammy Morales of Urban Food Link, Vicki Pozzebon of Santa Fe Alliance were the speakers.

His key take-away was the theme of putting the Farmer as the center of the community, and referenced a farm in upstate New York which brings schools and grocery stores to the farm itself; and thus, food is reinstated as the focal point of the community rather then relegated to a business interaction.

Chris’ second session was led by Raphael Bemporad, Chief Strategy Officer of BBMG (click here to read more about Raphael’s work.) There was a lot of enthusiasm from Chris about this session, and he referenced new ideas that were gleaned from these concepts:

  • Branding 2.0 that is focused on a new breed of values-based consumers
  • Leveraging technology to locate your target market
  • Finding ways to reach consumers without screaming the sustainability agenda
  • Localism is not just about the product — it’s about an experience, creating community through consumerism. Incorporating experience-based consumerism into marketing is a new trend.
  • Targeting consumers who aren’t simply “local-holics” but those who would shop at Whole Foods *and* Wal-Mart. These are the “swing voters” of the local food movement, and he suggested new ways of creating customer loyalty. This concept had the Fertile Grounds crew all a-flutter with ideas… to be continued.

Chris said, “This session helped me to re-think our communication strategy for Fertile Grounds. I realize we want to paint a broader picture of how Fertile Grounds is engaged in the overall Sustainability and Localism Movement.”

Stephen Antupit attended the conference on Friday and was most excited about the opportunity to connect with peers and exchange ideas. Getting a sense of all of the other players in the Local Food Movement helped him to get out of the day-to-day planning of the project and think on a larger scale.

He attended a session titled, “Community Innovators: 11 Networks of Local Entrepreneurs that have Transformed Their Communities,” and said that this session reminded him of the ITP Convening, as well.

“When a group of people who have previously been working independently come together and realize that we all have something in common, you can’t explain how it changes the work. This conference in some ways is supporting people in a different, yet similar way that Maggie has done with the Invoking the Pause Convening program. That was a lesson in synchronicity for me.”

In the sessions he attended on Local Investing, he shared that “crowd-funding” has become an exciting new phenomenon in technology connects individual donors to projects seeking funding in their own community. He referenced Amy Cortese and her book titled, Locavesting. She documents a new way of making money by investing in this new trend of Localism.

Finally, Stephen cited a key takeaway from the Capital Raising Session he attended was to recalibrate his approach to fundraising: focusing on partnerships first, seeking investors second. Joel Solomon of RSF Social Finance and Renewal Partners of Vancouver, BC, suggested that seeing investors as key sources of strategy will help move your project forward.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, Joel encouraged seeking partnerships for more than monetary resources, and instead leveraging a partner’s time and industry wisdom. Relationships with strategic partners can benefit a project beyond a fundraising cycle and help to keep a project from being bogged down in minutia and short-sightedness.

“Ultimately, my sense from this conference overall is that it really was about the Return on Relationships. The people who are part of this movement understand this fully. It is relationships that ultimately offer the shift towards positive change,” Stephen said.