BALLE fellows


New Local Economy Cohort Spotlights Rural and Indigenous Leaders

Locavesting Staff | March 20, 2018


The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) unveiled its latest group of Local Economy Fellows on Tuesday.

The 25 new Fellows—representing BALLE’s fifth such cohort—are a diverse range of leaders tackling challenges in rural, indigenous, and second-tier urban communities across 16 American states and three Canadian provinces.

The fellowships are awarded to systems entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders working to create healthy, inclusive, and equitable local economies.

In selecting its 2018 Fellows, BALLE deliberately cast a wide net. “In the fall of 2016, we asked our community where we should look for the next cohort of Fellows, and the overwhelming recommendation was to put emphasis on leaders doing important work in rural communities,” said Jess Daniel, BALLE’s Director of Fellowship, who led the recruitment.

In past years, 20% of Fellows have worked in rural communities—about the same ratio of rural people in the U.S. and Canada, said Daniel. This year, 100% of Fellows are connected to rural places.

“We’re especially excited that nearly 25% of this cohort represent tribes, pueblos and First Nations from across North America,” added Daniel.

The leaders working in indigenous communities include:

  • Stephanie Gutierrez, cofounder of Hope Nation LLC, a St. Louis, MO.-based group that provides capacity building consultation to indigenous and rural communities across the country and former manager of a social enterprise program at Thunder Valley Community Development Corp.
  • Pamela Standing, founder of the Minnesota Indian Business Alliance, an all-volunteer, statewide collaborative representing a cross sector of tribal leaders,  small business development experts, tribal artisans, American Indian business owners, financial institutions, community development organizations, non-profits, government agencies and other partners.
  • Maria Cullooyah, Tribal Planning & Economic Development Planning Manager, of the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Wellpinit, WA.
  • Bert Mercer, Economic Development Manager for British Columbia’s Nisga’a Lisims Government, representing the indigenous people of northwestern BC.
  • Kate Taylor, Co-Founder and Director of Development for Aki Energy, a social enterprise that works with First Nations to start green businesses and community-owned renewable energy in their communities, creating local jobs and growing strong local economies.
  • Veronica Hix, Executive Director, ONABEN (Our Native American Business Network), a nonprofit that works with entrepreneurs, Native CDFIs, economic development organizations and tribes throughout the U.S. and Indian Country to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in their communities and to help grow a private business sector on their land.

The new crop of Fellows will gather for the first time in April (see the entire list here.) “We have already been having conversations about the specific gifts that indigenous people have to share about what it takes to build resilient, culturally-appropriate, post-capitalist, life-giving economies,” said Daniel. “We can’t wait to dig in further.”

Related: BALLE’s Rodney Foxworth Wants to Deepen Support For ‘Boundary Pushers’

The new cohort comes on the heels of a leadership change at BALLE, which was founded in 2001 to champion local businesses and galvanize the “buy local” movement. Since then, in pursuit of its mission to build local economies that work for all, the organization has focused more deeply on understanding and addressing how systemic injustice affects people along race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, geography, and other dimensions of difference. Rodney Foxworth, a 2016 Local Economy fellow from Baltimore and the new executive director, has said he wants to deepen the organization’s work around racial equity and collaboration. He lauded the incoming cohort as “25 leaders working in some of the most overlooked, under-resourced, and talent-rich rural communities in North America.”

Photo of BALLE gathering at top: TechBoogie Media


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