How you can help your neighborhood, community and city prosper in a post-pandemic economy.
Today, in every part of the world, thousands of local, bottom-up initiatives are underway that will foster the most immediate and enduring repair of economic and societal damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. These small-scale steps are best designed and implemented by local people themselves. The range of possibilities for local grassroots efforts is as diverse as the locales in which they take place. The following survey provides examples, many taken from the local food movement, of steps you can take to help build a stronger neighborhood, community, city and local economy for you and your family.
Move your money to a community bank or credit union. The money that we deposit in – or borrow from – private banks adds to the power of a global financial system that undermines local economies and furthers environmental destruction. Creating local alternatives to that system can help reverse the damage – and it’s not as difficult as you might think. The easiest step is to move your money to a community bank or credit union. These institutions allow you to invest in your neighbors and your community rather than in distant corporations. Small businesses, ignored by large banks, will be able obtain inexpensive loans that large banks typically offer only to large corporations. . Learn more about the top 5 reasons to choose a community bank or credit union, and Find a community bank. or credit union.
Support community media outlets. Community media outlets, like the outlet you’re reading this in, give ordinary citizens a voice and keep people informed about what is happening locally. In an era of corporate-controlled media, these outlets can be a means of ensuring that dissenting views can still be heard. They are also powerful tools for strengthening community bonds, maintaining local culture and shining a light on local problems. Local community radio, weekly print newspapers and daily digital neighborhood news sites are just a few examples of locally supported media. Find your community radio station, or start one!
Choose community-owned internet. Community-owned broadband has recently emerged to increase communities’ control over their internet services instead of relying on corporate-owned internet service providers like Comcast, Charter Communications and AT&T. Find or start a community broadband network where you live.
Invest locally. Many people rely on employer provided 401(K) investment plans to invest funds for retirement. The financial services corporations our employers use provide little flexibility in selecting where to invest your hard earned money. But you can set aside some of your weekly or monthly budget to invest in local businesses through nonprofit groups helping create initiatives to localize financial investments including local stock exchanges, micro-and cooperative investment funds and locally-invested pension funds. The Slow Money Institute, with chapters in the U.S., Canada, Australia and France, has enabled local people to provide $73 million in funds to small farms and food businesses. Find a Slow Money chapter near you., and explore other ways to invest locally.
Buy local. Small, local shops have suffered during the pandemic while online retailers and large, national and international chains have profited. You can help local businesses survive, even when pitted against heavily subsidized corporate competitors. Many have introduced loyalty card networks offering you savings like big box stores. Don’t confuse these with “Made in USA” or “Buy British” campaigns which have quite a different effect. Instead, review which local businesses you value most and make a plan to buy from them regularly. Find or start a buy local campaign.
Create your own local business alliance. Local business alliances enable small and medium businesses to network, support each other and build vitality in local economies. Common Future has helped more than 80 communities create networks representing around 30,000 independent businesses in cities like Chattanooga and Little Rock. Get in touch with Common Future, find a local business alliance, or join the American Independent Business Alliance.
Shop at farmer’s markets. Local farmer’s markets are the best example of enduring “buy local” campaigns and are a critical part of rebuilding local economies and communities and protecting precious open space and farmland. Local producers receive a dignified income and consumers get access to high quality, healthy food at a reasonable price while, the wider local economy benefits. The number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. grew from 1,755 in 1994 to over 8,600 in 2018. Find a farmers’ market near you.
Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm share. If you like fresh, local produce, consider a farm share. CSAs link consumers directly with nearby farmers. Consumers select from flexible payment plans then receive a customizable portion of the harvest throughout the year. CSAs have helped small-scale diversified farms to thrive in growing numbers and provided healthy, locally grown food to families across the country. In the U.S., the number of CSAs has grown from just two in 1986 to more than 7,300 in 2015. There are many different CSAs around the country. Find a CSA near you.
Join the community power movement. Community Choice Aggregation, municipal ownership, participatory planning, public green power purchasing, green public service banks, and renewable portfolio standards can all shift energy production and ownership from corporations to communities. Learn more about these approaches from this deck of strategies from The Next System Project, and plug into the community power movement where you live.
These are just some of the ways you can immediately help your neighborhood, community and city come out of the pandemic stronger and healthier. Longer term changes – like place-based education, healthcare and intentional residential communities – are included in my book, Local is Our Future, and on the Local Futures website.
Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the localisation movement and founder of Local Futures, fostering stronger communities and economies worldwide. This section was excerpted with permission from the book Local is Our Future