Building a Resilient and Equitable Bay Area

by Aaron Lehmer-Chang, Co-Founder, Bay Localize

Now that we had a new home for Bay Area Relocalize and a strong, enthusiastic team willing to push forward, we were more determined than ever to spread our vision of a socially just, more regionally self-reliant economy. It didn’t hurt that a growing circle of respected organizations was also excited by our localization framework. By spring 2006, we had established an informal collaborative, the Campaign for Bay Area Localization, that included some major partners like the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), Redefining Progress, and Post Carbon Insitute (PCI). Together, we began to devise a comprehensive localization strategy for the 9-county Bay Area, with major focus areas in energy, food, manufacturing, and finance.

On May 10, we jointly hosted a localization strategy summit at the Oakland Mayor’s Office attended by over 60 nonprofit and green business leaders, food security analysts, renewable energy specialists, elected officials and public agency staffers. At the gathering, our working collaborative unveiled a report we co-authored entitled Building a Resilient Bay Area Economy, which assessed the potential for coordinated action around the region to localize key sectors of the economy, and offered the beginnings of a bold plan of action for getting us there. To download a copy of this ground-breaking report, please click here.

In January 2007, the SF Bay Guardian endorsed Bay Localize’s campaign, calling on the city to adopt policies for a sustainable local economy.

As we continued to build our networks and communities of support, media attention soon followed. In early January 2007, the San Francisco Bay Guardian wrote a feature-length piece entitled “Localize It” devoted entirely to our campaign, and called on the S.F. Supervisors to “create a formal policy that sets sustainable local economics as a standard for all city business.” The Guardian continued: “What sets the new Bay Area campaign apart from other localization initiatives is that it seeks to effect change across several sectors of the region’s economy simultaneously. It hopes to do so, in part, by achieving the cooperation and coordination of businesses, government officials, and community leaders at the federal, state, and local levels. The report defines economic localization as the process by which a region … frees itself from an overdependence on the global economy and invests in its own resources to produce a significant portion of the goods, services, food, and energy it consumes.”

Breakout session at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) 5th Annual Conference at U.C. Berkeley.

Our localization efforts moved into high gear over the months that followed, with a growing focus on events and initiatives to advance local clean energy and local food systems. In recognition of our work to build locally resilient communities, Bay Localize was invited to present at a growing number of conferences and gatherings. Some highlights included:

  • Participating at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies 5th Annual Conference, where Network Coordinator Aaron Lehmer presented on our Campaign for Bay Area Localization and moderated a panel of leaders from innovative businesses and nonprofits.
  • Organizing a Farm Bill Forum at Alemany Farm in San Francisco, where our new communications and outreach coordinator Allyse Heartwell had become a local leader in urban permaculture solutions.
  • Joining Oakland’s Oil Independence Task Force, where our founder Dave Room took on the role of lead advocate for an assessment of the town’s vulnerability to peak oil and solutions that could advance fossil-free transportation, energy solutions, and local food systems.
  • Building the East Bay Community Choice Alliance, a dynamic new coalition organized by our programs coordinator Kirsten Schwind to bring clean, local power to Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville.

During this period, our team also went through a significant transition from being a group of mostly volunteers to a fiscally sponsored project of Earth Island Institute where Aaron had worked previously and had a strong set of relationships. Being under the nonprofit umbrella of Earth Island also gave us the ability to accept tax-deductible donations and grants from philanthropic agencies. Thanks to one of Dave’s connections, Bay Localize received its first substantial grant from an angel donor in 2007, enabling us to hire Kirsten and Ingrid as full-fledged staff members, along with just enough funds to sign a lease for an office in downtown Oakland. We were finally movin’ on up in the world of local advocacy nonprofits, and were beginning to have a track record to show for it.