In the face of our sputtering recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, several people understandably want our economy to generate more jobs; others want it to generate more profits; and still others want it to become more socially just and environmentally sustainable. A growing percentage of our citizens, however, want to make the transition to an economy that achieves all three of these worthy goals at the same time. How could this be done? That is a big, big question.
Certainly, creating an economy that serves the public interest better will require changes in international trade policy, global labor and environmental standards, and national and state government policies and regulations. Yet, our future will also depend very much on the creativity and initiative of engaged local entrepreneurs, employees, consumers, municipal governments, and civic organizations working together to rebuild and revitalize our local economies and inspire real hope, renewal, and change at the grassroots level.
Local organizations such as Monadnock Buy Local, Transition Keene Task Force, Badger Company, Colonial Theater, City of Keene Cities for Climate Protection Committee, Hannah Grimes Center, Keene Young Professionals Network, Monadnock Conservancy, Monadnock Food Co-op, Monadnock Sustainability Network, New England Grassroots Environment Fund, and Vision 2020 have already begun tackling different aspects of this complex challenge and even begun experimenting with some innovative ways to promote a more robust, resilient, and relocalized economy.
Happily, these local groups are also part of a larger movement of grassroots efforts around the country that seek to rebuild our local economies from the bottom up, pushing innovative Main Street-led alternatives instead of continuing to rely on the failed Wall Street-led policies and practices that got us into our current mess.
These same local Monadnock organizations are now working together to co-sponsor a special, one-night showing of the new documentary film “Fixing the Future: Building Jobs, Income, and Sustainability” on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at Keene’s Colonial Theater. This inspiring film is hosted by David Brancaccio of public radio’s “Marketplace” and PBS’s “NOW.” It highlights many of the people and projects across the country that are engaged in the reinvention of the American economy through an expansion of local entrepreneurship, community business alliances, credit unions and community banks, worker and consumer cooperatives, and less well-known but still promising alternatives such as time banks and local currencies.
As noted by event organizer, Jen Risley, the chair of Monadnock Buy Local, “Our primary goal is to bring together the many diverse groups working to strengthen our local economy and community for one event — whether their focus is health, agriculture, transportation or entrepreneurship. We want to learn from others around the country and then get even more creative in the Monadnock region.”
Many follow-up efforts are already being discussed. The Transition Keene Task Force, for example, hopes to bring many community leaders and organizations together to start exploring the feasibility of creating a vibrant time bank project for the Monadnock region. They are already working with Jen Risley to co-host a gathering of interested people on Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. at Antioch University New England in Keene to take part in a national webinar entitled “Time Banking as Community Capital: Creating Prosperity and Community Services Without Currency.” This interactive webinar will be led by the founder and director of the very successful Dane County Time Bank in Wisconsin and focus on how time banks have helped create community prosperity from Maine to Missouri to Montana by helping local people exchange their skills and services voluntarily in a very easy, groundbreaking, and systematic way.
The “Fixing the Future” event organizers hope that a big turnout at the film will also lead to other new collaborative local projects. Through these and other bottom-up initiatives everyone has an opportunity to be part of sustainable solutions to put our local economy back on track.
Steve Chase is a professor of environmental studies at Antioch University New England, a co-founder of the Transition Keene Task Force, and an advisory board member of Monadnock Buy Local.