Ten Tips for Positive Local Impact and Engagement
By Flip Brown
Supporting your local businesses, organizations, and community needs to be more than a philosophical ideal. If we want to live in vibrant, sustainable local economies we must “vote with our dollars” and “lead with our feet.”
While going local may not always be the most convenient in this one-click checkout world, the benefits and rewards are great. Here are some ways to go deeper in your commitment and engagement:
- Connect with a chapter of Businesses Aligned for Local Living Economies (BALLE). BALLE is the main organization for the “Localist” movement, with lots of ways to support your hometown. It can steer you to a chapter in your region or help you start one.
- Create a list/calendar/map of local options for friends and family. From craft fairs to farmer’s markets, from localvore restaurants to microbreweries, having the information readily available about the rich opportunities in your area can be a gift to people you know and some you don’t.
- Bank locally. The old “money talks and b.s. walks” saying has never been more true, especially with so many of the large mega-banks having their b.s. practices exposed. Check out a values-led bank or a member-owned credit union, and move your money back home.
- Use apps to find unexplored local options. Think you know your town? See what Yelp says about places that others have discovered and/or raved about. Try something new!
- Lobby for local conventions and gatherings. Bringing others to your community not only supports local businesses but also can expand your network. When I joined a group of my fellow Certified B Corp companies to host the annual “Champions Retreat” here in Vermont, we got to show off our interconnected relationships to each other and the local environment.
- Seek out local energy. Making your own power is a super-cool way to keep dollars circulating in your area. If you rent or own a home that’s not suited to a new solar or wind installation, for example, see if there are any CSA-model energy farms that you can contribute to and benefit from.
- Buy gifts from local craftspeople: Every community has its stellar artists who excel at their trade but may not be as profitable as they wish. Check out open studio days, craft fairs, and artisans’ galleries to find unique presents. You’ll support a local and give something that is not a cookie-cutter item.
- Donate to local nonprofits in lieu of business promotional items. Each year, I ask my business clients to provide me with the name of their preferred local nonprofit, and then I make a donation in their name. It’s much more rewarding to them than another nice pen.
- Champion your local book, music, and clothing stores. Your independent retailer is a valuable source of knowledge and recommendations. Yes, it’s super easy to shop at Amazon.com, but that means that money is flowing out of your town instead of into it. Pick up the book, read the CD cover, try on the clothes — and then plunk down the dough even if the price is a little higher. You’re supporting local jobs and culture.
- Take a local vacation. Most likely, you live where you live because it’s a cool place, right? How often have you booked a cabin, a camp, or a lodge somewhere nearby to turn off your digital devices and tune-in to the natural world? Even cityscapes can provide a different experience if we’re mindful in our approach.
Local is where you’re at, so why not align your energy and resources accordingly, as much as possible? It may take changing some of our patterns, and some new commitments. You never know — someone may find ways to support you in what you do or what you need. It does indeed take a village.
Flip Brown is the founder and owner of Business Culture Consultants, a Burlington, Vermont-based Certified B Corp that assists individuals and organizations experience more meaning, fulfillment, and results. He has a background as a furniture maker, ski industry executive, psychology, nonprofit program director, and musician. He is the author of "Balanced Effectiveness at Work: How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor Without Driving Yourself Nuts". He loves his job.