A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

What is Building Local Community?

by Ajax Greene   

Progressives spend a lot of time talking about creating community, and I certainly include myself. As a group it seems to be something we yearn for, something to replace the vanishing structures of small-town America with its multi-generational family units, churches, and mom-and-pop shops. Yet I sometimes get frustrated, because community takes commitment. It takes hard work and a willingness to endure the struggles.

Recent conversations with my colleagues have centered around people’s need to understand “what’s in it for them” as a way to motivate action. Now, I understand the need to care for ourselves as individuals—sometimes I need to do it more—but can we really create community if we are all in it just for ourselves?
The post-conference comments from our recent Social Venture Institute / Hudson Valley held at Omega Institute were overwhelmingly positive. It was a fantastic, intimate group of folks with diverse business interests and needs (subscription food delivery service, communications, investment banking, farmland preservation, health practitioners, educators, nonprofit leaders, and many more all deeply committed to positive social and environmental impacts and financial prosperity).
They understood that by convening with a beginner’s mind, leaving their ego at the door, their venture would benefit the most. By giving and sharing openly and honestly the group would take care of them. And that’s what happened. Already, multiple important business opportunities are being explored by both participants and speakers. This was a community that trusted, came with a willingness to give, and therefore got what they most needed. (We are already planning next year’s retreat.)
The research overwhelmingly shows that founders of locally owned, independent businesses—with all the risk and struggle—would make the same investment again given the opportunity. If that is true, can we decide to make the same investment in community building? Take the risk, deal with the fear, work through the occasional failure? The upside can be world-changing!
Your business combined with hundreds of other businesses from around the state can be a very powerful community, a voice politicians respond to. Re>Think Local is a supporter of the NYSSBC. By joining the Re>Think community, by that one act alone, you are making an important and useful statement. (We don’t ask often, but you could consider writing an occasional op-ed or joining us in Albany for lobbying day.)
The feeling I get from just about everyone is that we wish the economy of the Hudson Valley was better. One reason the city is doing better economically is the number of connections that are made there. A friend and panelist at the Social Venture Institute (SVI) up from the city said she is out networking a minimum of three nights a week. Contrast that to this region. Many of us enjoy the slower pace in the Hudson Valley—time with the kids, gardening, hiking or biking after work. That said, connections still are a necessary part of innovation, growth, and economic development.
Research shows that “community” has bottom-line benefits. Re>Think Local works hard to create a variety of opportunities to connect with like-minded people: Re>Mix networking events, topical conferences, smaller potluck dinners for deeper conversations.

One of my big personal takeaways from the SVI is that we need to be recognizable as a tribe. If we are going to transform the way the world does business, we need a shared language, shared best practices, and a method to measure our successes (and failures). Re>Think Local is a tribe, part of a global movement working hard to improve the locally owned, independent, triple bottom line businesses of the Hudson Valley. Isn’t it time you got more involved?