Initiating Action in Your Community

Can your community build a regionally based and democratic economy? And what is required to provide affordable access to land for farming and housing, capital for new business development, and meaningful work for local residents? Important capacities in the face of a changing world economy.

For twenty-eight years the Schumacher Center has envisioned and implemented strategies for building sustainable local economies. These citizen driven models include community land trusts, micro-credit programs, local currencies, and worker owned businesses.

Both the theoretical and practical material developed in this decades long work are available at the Center’s website. These essays, program histories, and legal documents are foundation material that may be used and adapted by other communities in pursuit of greater economic self-determination.

For those who wish to explore this material in more depth, the Schumacher Center is conducting its annual seminar “Building Sustainable Local Economies.” The dates are May 21st to 25th. The location is Great Barrington, Massachusetts, site of the Schumacher Center and Archives. Subject matter includes overview of land, labor, and capital in a sustainable economy; examination of organizational documents of community economic programs modeled in the Berkshires; site visits and discussions with principals involved in these programs; and participant led discussion of potential program application in their own communities. See below for a list of seminar workshops and faculty.

How might the seminar “Building Sustainable Local Economies” help initiate  action in your community?

  1. Attend the seminar yourself, becoming a resource for the development of a strong local economy at home.
  2. Recommend and sponsor a community leader or promising young activist who will return to your community with the energy and ideas for catalyzing discussions and new initiatives.
  3. Support the educational programs of the Schumacher Center, assuring that we can continue providing training to new generations of people seeking an economy embedding ecological and social values.

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

Seminar Costs: The tuition fee is $600.00, which includes tuition, materials, and seven meals (4 lunches, 3 dinners). The lunches feature food from local farms.

The housing fee is $400.00, which includes breakfast and 4 nights housing in a single dorm room with shared bath at Simon’s Rock College. Simon’s Rock is conveniently located in Great Barrington, and is the site of our evening sessions.

This year, even if you cannot attend, you are invited to become a part of the learning experience with the participants by joining us for Joseph Stanislaw’s pubic lecture, “Energy: Global is Local.” An expert on international energy issues, he will lead us through an examination of a new locally-scaled energy economy. The event will take place on Thursday, May 22nd at 7:30 pm at the First Congregational Church of Great Barrington, MA. Tickets are five BerkShares/Dollars at the door.

More information on the Schumacher Center, the 2008 “Building Sustainable Local Economies” seminar, the public lecture event, and an online registration and donation form are available online.


Seminar Workshops

E. F. Schumacher’s Philosophy of Small is Beautiful: The philosophy underlying the work of building strong regionally-based economies, shaped by the democratic participation of citizens with discussion of the evolution of this concept through the programs of the Schumacher Center.

Community Land Trust Model: Using the community land trust model as a means to creating affordable access to land for housing and other purposes while ensuring equity in the buildings for the owners; including legal structure and visits to community land trust sites.

Community Development Financing Systems & Local Currencies: Creating wealth on a regional level through self-financing, micro-credit and local currency, using Deli-Dollars, Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes, SHARE Micro-credit, and BerkShares as examples.

Community Self-Management & Diversification of Wealth: How a community can become a “social entrepreneur” and the role that producer/consumer associations can play in establishing new business initiatives and community accountability, with an examination of the Mondragon worker-ownership model from the Basque region of Spain.

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.


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.

Elizabeth Keen & Alexander 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 one of the first Community Supported Agriculture farms in the US. In addition to farming and raising two children, Elizabeth is a founding board member of Berkshire Grown, serves on the Great Barrington Farmers Market Steering Committee, and has lived and worked in Central America with Witness For Peace; and Al serves as president of the board of the Community Land Trust and is also a registered professional engineer.

Chris Lindstrom organized the Center’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 local currency program.

Kirkpatrick Sale has the Irish gift for words, but he combines it with the disciplined research needed to effectively make his case. His classic work Human Scale examines the impact of size throughout human history and institutions. It is the natural companion to Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful.

Joseph Stanislaw is founder of the advisory firm JA Stanislaw Group, LLC, specializing in strategic thinking, sustainability, and environmentally sound investment in energy and technology. He is an independent Senior Advisor to Deloitte & Touche USA LLP’s Energy & Resources Group. Dr. Stanislaw was one of three founders of Cambridge Energy Research Associates in 1983 and served as managing director for non-U.S. activity until 1997 when he was named president and later CEO. He is an adjunct professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, where he is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. He co-authored with Daniel Yergin the book The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy.

Charles (‘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 recently sponsored a resolution asking the Mass Congressional Delegation to seek policies that lead to a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as policies that put a larger share of our federal dollars into domestic priorities that benefit the people of Boston and the United States. The resolution passed 8 to 3.

Susan Witt has served as executive director of the Schumacher Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts since its founding in 1980. She created the SHARE micro-credit program, founded the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires , administers the BerkShares local currency program , and actively serves her local community.