Building Sustainable Local Economies

Elizabeth Keen and Al Thorp presenting at the 2005 training seminar.

The Schumacher Center cordially invites you to a seminar entitled Building Sustainable Local Economies:

With Erbin Crowell, Eric Harris-Braun, Elizabeth Keen, Chris Lindstrom, Stephanie Mills, Alex Thorp, Chuck Turner, Greg Watson, Susan Witt, and other guest speakers

May 24th to 28th of 2006, at the Schumacher Center Library and Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

How can regional communities regain the power to revitalize the means of production for basic necessities (food, energy, shelter, clothing) in the face of a deepening economic, social, and ecological crisis? Join us this May to learn about successful, citizen-driven models for community revitalization and how to take action in applying them to your own community.

How do we work together as individuals and a community to:

  1. Create non-profit community development financing systems such as local
  2. Become social entrepreneurs devising community and worker-owned
  3. Provide affordable access to land for farming and housing;
  4. Build strong regionally based and democratic economies?

Who should attend?

Anyone interested in new and alternative models for economic revitalization of their local economy should attend. Register soon, as space is limited to 25 participants!

Seminar cost of $500 includes tuition, materials, and seven meals. Housing is available at Simon’s Rock College for $300 (single room w/ shared bath, includes breakfast). To register please return the registration form, available online.


Erbin Crowell is a Quaker active in the co-operative, Fair Trade and sustainable agriculture movements. Since 1995, he has worked with Equal Exchange, a worker co-operative and Fair Trade Organization that trades with small farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa and Asia, marketing their products to food co-ops and other businesses in the U.S. He also serves as president of the Cooperative Fund of New England.

Eric Harris-Braun is chairman of the board at the Schumacher Center. He lives in rural New York, where he is part of an intentional community. Eric is a software developer by profession and is working on a global platform for local currency deployment, as well as launching a local currency in Columbia County, NY (CCASLE).

Elizabeth Keen and Alex Thorp are the owners and operators of Indian Line Farm on land leased from the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires. Indian Line Farm, located in South Egremont, MA, is the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in this country. In addition to farming, Al serves as president of the board of the Community Land Trust. Elizabeth is a founding board member of Berkshire Grown and a committed pacifist.

Chris Lindstrom organized the Society’s June 2004 conference, “Local Currencies in the Twenty-First Century: Understanding Money, Building Local Economies, Renewing Community,” which brought together currency theorists and activists from 17 countries. Chris is a founding board member of BerkShares, a local currency initiative for Berkshire County, MA. He is currently coordinating the BALLE pre-conference on complementary currencies and is active in creating a national fund for community currencies.

Stephanie Mills is an author and speaker who has been working on the leading edge of ecological concern since 1969. She is the author of Epicurean Simplicity, In Service of the Wild, and Whatever Happened to Ecology? and her current works in progress include a biography of Robert Swann. Mills is active in her local community outside of Maple City, Michigan, and serves as President of the Traverse Area Community Currency Corporation.

Chuck Turner has been a Boston City Councilor since 1999, well known for challenging education inequality, discrimination, neighborhood gentrification, and the war in Iraq. He has championed and been actively involved with cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises, a leader for many years at the Industrial Cooperative Association (now the ICA Group). Chuck brings the perspective of working with diverse urban neighborhoods to redistribute wealth and bring economic power back to communities.

Greg Watson is former Director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture. Greg currently serves on the board of directors of Ocean Arks International, Clean Air-Cool Planet, and the Buckminster Fuller Institute. An advocate for environmental justice and building sustainable communities, he is now leading the Outreach Team of Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Cape and Islands Offshore Wind Initiative.

Susan Witt has served as executive director of the Schumacher Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts since 1980, leading its national educational programs while at the same time remaining deeply committed to implementing Schumacher’s economic ideas in her home region of the Berkshires. She is administrator of the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires and founder of the newly formed BerkShares local
currency program and its predecessor SHARE micro-credit program.

Seminar Costs:

The tuition fee is $500.00, which includes tuition, materials, and seven meals (4 lunches, 3 dinners), featuring food from local farms. Participation is limited to 25 people, so please reserve as soon as possible by completing our online form and making your payment under “Lectures/Seminars/Conferences.” Those wishing to gather sponsorship from their local community in order to attend the seminar, please see our
promissory note also on-line.

The housing fee is $300.00, which includes housing for 4 nights in a single dorm room with shared bath and breakfast at Simon’s Rock College. Simon’s Rock is conveniently located in Great Barrington, and is the site of our evening sessions. Alternatively, you may arrange a stay on your own at one of the many Bed & Breakfasts or Inns in the Berkshires. The Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce has a contact list available online.

Seminar Program:

For the full schedule, visit the event page.

Wednesday, May 24

Schumacher’s Philosophy of Small Is Beautiful – Seminar participants introduce themselves with description of the regional communities they represent. Presentation of the philosophy underlying the work of building strong regionally-based economies, shaped by the democratic participation of citizens with a goal of achieving greater economic self-sufficiency. Review of literature in the field. Discussion of the evolution of this concept here in the Berkshires into the complex of regionally-based, democratically-structured organizations working together to foster a climate of citizen support for local producers.

Thursday, May 25

The Community Land Trust Model – Tour of the 12,000 volume Schumacher Center Library, and explanation of cataloguing system, so that it is easily accessible for seminar attendees. A presentation of the community land trust model describing how a community can create affordable access to land for housing and other purposes; an explanation of the use of long-term leases to ensure equity in buildings to the home owner, while excluding land value at resale (thereby keeping homes affordable to future residents); discussion with local home owners/leaseholders of the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires. Discussion of the application of the community land trust concept to farmland and farm residences. Example: Indian Line Farm, a 22-acre organic Community Supported Agriculture farm. How a partnership between the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, The Nature Conservancy, and two farmers enabled the community to acquire the land of this historic farm to ensure that it remained in active production. Site visits to Indian Line Farm.

Land, Food, and Energy in a New Local Economy – Drawing on his experience as Commissioner of Agriculture for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as Director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, and in his current role as Director of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, Greg Watson will weave together the role of affordable access to land, local food, and local energy production and their importance in building sustainable local economies. He will share stories of innovation and success in these fields.

Friday, May 26

Community Development Financing & Local Currencies – An introduction to Community Financing Systems. Examples of successful micro-credit programs. Principles of creating community (or regional) development financing systems utilizing local banks as administrators. Introduction to the SHARE Micro-credit Program with examples of businesses started. Discussion of self-financing techniques – how a business can finance its product or technology without the need for outside bank loans or credit. Examples: Deli-Dollars and Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes. Local Currencies as a vehicle for communities to regain control of issuing credit. Discussion of successful local currency models including LETS, Time Dollars, Hour Programs, WIR and other business-to-business programs, backed currencies (such as Salt Spring Dollars, Toronto Dollars, and BerkShares), and new innovations in electronic exchange technologies as a way to further local
currency issue.

Local Economies: Resprouted and Deeply-Rooted – From first peoples through Polanyi, from the Regional Planning movement to bioregionalism; from Gandhi and Gesell to Berry and Bob Swann, creative intelligence has come from every quadrant of the moral compass to articulate economies appropriate to people and place. Stephanie Mills will essay a brief survey of the extensive complex of the traditions, history, and ideas that underlie and can inform today’s local economic initiatives.

Saturday, May 27

Towards Community Self-Management and Diversification of Wealth – Diversifying Wealth: defining how a community can become a “social entrepreneur,” the role that producer/consumer associations can play in establishing new business initiatives and community accountability. An examination of the Mondragon worker-ownership model from the Basque region of Spain. Case study of Equal Exchange, a worker cooperative importing and distributing “fair trade” products. In addition to maintaining its own cooperative structure, Equal Exchange encourages and supports the formation of new cooperatives in its supplier community.

Sunday, May 28

Developing Action Plans – Presentations by participants of how they plan to apply the tools for community economic development they have studied in the training session to the problems faced by their own communities. Clarification of programs discussed in earlier days; discussion of perceived difficulties involved with application; discussion of ways organizations in a region can work together to support each other.