Is “local” limiting or limitless?

A few years ago, the slogan “think global, act local” was popular.  In four words, it urged the consumer to keep in mind both the global network and local businesses.  Yet, in this world of rapid globalization, is “local” a limited concept?

Not at all.  In fact, the local economy is the very heart of global economic growth.  “In the long run, sustainable development and supplies of food, clean water, healthcare and education are created by LOCAL wealth-creating economies, not from more aid or the next celebrity campaign." This quote from a recent interview with PovertyCure’s Michael Matheson Miller highlights a core tenet of the PovertyCure message: the principle of subsidiarity, which stipulates that matters should be handled by those who are closest to them.  In other words, the power and responsibility to create jobs and empower people is local.

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The local economic market is the one where we ALL live.  Think about it:  you shop at the local farmers’ market, you get your prescription from a locally-owned drugstore, you enjoy a pint of beer from the local micro-brewery (and in Michigan, you have a lot of great choices!) and you attend the local church, which runs a food pantry for local citizens in need.  We appreciate all these things, and by participating in them, we uphold the principle of subsidiarity, stimulate the economy, and create a stronger network of individuals, families, organizations and businesses.

This simple concept of keeping the focus local, which is at the core of sound economic development, is keenly understood by successful entrepreneurs like Eva Muraya.  In her Voices video for PovertyCure, she says, “You will find that you are generating citizens that are able to provide for their families, give leadership to their families, and then family goes on to be the network of community that then becomes the society that we are so in need of today.” By keeping the focus local, we are actually creating a stronger global network. 

When seeking to stimulate economies in the developing world, thinking “local” is key.  Daniel Jean-Louis, who serves as Partners Worldwide partnership manager in Haiti, says this:  “The best way to help Haiti is to purchase goods and services locally. It’s essential for the long-term growth of the Haitian economy."  As an entrepreneur himself, Jean-Louis knows that establishing local networks of business, education, and health care – not aid – are the key to building successful economies. 

One of my children’s favorite teachers was fond of saying, “All history is local”, and that is true.  It is just as true that all economy is local, and that by creating strong local structures that create jobs, offer necessary and desired goods and services, and provide for people’s needs, we participate in both the local and global dynamic.  While “local” may seem close to home, it has far-reaching effects: an ever-widening connection between “here” and “there” – a pivotal element in sustainable development.

Nov 162011
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