Living Economies: Place, People and Power Matter

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I recently attended the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) conference where I met some amazing entrepreneurs, including friend and colleague Adrian Pyle of the Uniting Church in Australia; all passionately engaged with building and rebuilding sustainable local communities through place-based economic and social development. The passion, commitment and local successes among these amazing people are contagious. Hope abounds along with a sense of urgency: a tipping point is at hand.

A presenter at the BALLE Conference, Marjorie Kelly, states in her new book, Owning Our Future: the Emerging Ownership Revolution, the time has come to shift away from dominate, corporate-led, top-down-controlled economy that “extracts” from communities and toward locally led, shared ownership, small business enterprise, generative economies that are restorative and sustainable. Quoting Margaret (Meg) Wheatley, Kelly re-tells a story all-too-common in nearly every corner of extractive capitalism:

“…she’d noticed increasing levels of anxiety in formerly progressive workplaces, with everyone working harder yet seeing years of good efforts swept away. People are required to produce more with fewer resources…and new leadership is highly restrictive and controlling, using fear as a primary motivator”

Kelly goes on to state that “the reason is the forces in control are outside the life of the firm, in capital markets, which are already swollen with excess yet demand still more, every quarter”. Where is the voice of the local community in the extractive, power-over economy? Mostly missing!

David Korten writes on similar concepts and approaches in his book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (neighborhoods).


So do theologian Walter Brueggemann and Asset Based Community Development catalysts and practitioners Peter Block and John McKnight.

So, what are communities to do? What are some starting points toward building a new, generative economy? Different names are used by various practitioners and authors to describe it, but they essentially point to local, Asset Based Community Development practices by which locals take the lead to recognize their community assets, organize them into sustainable community-enhancing plans, projects and businesses and retain local control of the economic and social outcomes. Finally, Yes Magazine’s Sarah van Gelder suggests there are at least thirty one ways to re-build local economies.

When it comes to local living economies; place, its people, its resources, and its power matter.

Shalom-makers linking for mutual encouragement, education and improvement

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It began over two years ago with a small group of people who had the vision of linking practitioners of holistic justice (shalom-makers) to address three expressed needs: mutual encouragement, education, and improvement. These three common needs were those most often identified by a significant number of urban-dwelling shalom-makers, spanning across several denominations, faith traditions, and community-based organizations.

A thread that runs through these shalom-makers is their steadfast desire and work in transitioning away from — not to abandon — acts of charity (doing for others) and toward acts of justice (working with others to help community residents do for themselves with resources found mostly in their local communities). Shalom-makers apply community organizing and Asset Based Community Development principles, techniques, and strategies in relationships with community residents to insure that there is equity in the physical, social, economic, political, and spiritual systems within their communities.  

And now, in mid-2010, the vision that began formation in 2008 among a small group of shalom-makers in Southern California is emerging — enlarging the circle of community — as the Shalom-Makers Network offers mutual encouragement, education, and improvement for the shalom (well-being) of the places where we live, work, learn, play and worship.  

Are you a shalom-maker?

Drew University Communities of Shalom training @ Ocean Grove

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The training @ Communities of Shalom in Ocean Grove, NJ was rich and wonderful.

The session that I led on the analysis of power (physical, social, economic, individual, political, and symbolic) sparked great conversation. We applied power analysis in community organizing (5 types from another of my sessions) and power systems mapping in terms of Asset Based Community Development.

I drew from my own research and a variety of resources that include Robert C. Linthicum’s Building a People of Power,  Kristina Smock’s Democracy in Action, F. Ellen Netting and Mary K. O’Connor’s 4 paradigms in Organization Practice, and the Asset Based Community Development Institute.



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Welcome to the Shalom-Makers website.

Take a look around and comment as you are so inclined.

Next week, I will be serving in my role as Program Associate and National Trainer for the Drew University Shalom Initiative at a train the trainer event in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the initiative:

Also, you may learn more about Asset Based Community Development and the theology of shalom by visiting the Resources section of this website or contacting me.

Shalom to you! 

David Cooper