2018 Commitments to Prioritize Equity at BALLE

Common Future
5 min readApr 2, 2018


Note: BALLE became Common Future in 2019

Our culture at BALLE is one of experimentation, reflection, and adaptation. Over the past 17 years, we’ve identified a handful of strategies that we think are critical to building healthy and equitable local economies that work for all. We believe all of these are foundational and all of them are connected, and in this particular moment, the BALLE team is putting particular focus on two strategies: Shifting Capital and Prioritizing Equity. You can read our organizational statement on Equity here.

Below are some of the practical steps we plan to take as a staff this year in the name of deepening our commitment to equity at the personal (I), interpersonal / organizational (We), and systemic (It) levels.

Continued Collective Learning

We commit to deepen our understanding of systemic oppression in the work, uncovering individual and collective blank spots, and continuing to foster an internal staff culture that encourages dialogue. To this end, we will:

  • Hire a trainer to focus on operationalizing equity within our programs for a daylong immersion for our staff during our 2018 staff retreat;
  • Continue to convene an Infusing Equity staff subcommittee bi-weekly, where a small group identifies issues for discussion by the broader staff;
  • Infuse equity (through a specific discussion topic, learning activity, or reading) into one staff meeting per month.
  • Refresh these commitments annually as a full staff.

Internal / Institutional

BALLE has been committed to examining how power is held throughout our organization and how our hiring practices, ways of decision-making, and policies around supporting and promoting leaders within our organization promote equity in all dimensions. In 2017, we made it a priority to hire an Executive Director who has a deep commitment and track record of addressing racial equity. In 2018, we will:

  • Take the Tool for Organizational Self-Assessment created by the Coalition for Communities of Color in Portland, share results with all staff, and discuss additional action steps based on the tool.
  • Examine our practices around scaffolding and supporting Manager and Coordinator-level staff — especially those who identify as people of color or from another marginalized group — to grow into positions of greater responsibility and power, whether in BALLE or beyond.
  • Reflect intentionally and regularly on how racial, gender, and class dynamics play out in our internal dynamics and in relationships within our Network by incorporating a question about this into all project and program debriefs, and by including a question in our annual staff culture survey.


Over the past few years, we have learned so much, especially from each cohort of Local Economy Fellows, about how best to prioritize equity in our work to create healthy economies that work for all. Here are some specific commitments within each of our programs for 2018:

  • 2018 Local Economy Fellowship Recruitment: We have been actively recruiting for our next cohort of Fellows with the goal of a cohort made up of at least 50% leaders of color (with goals to include fellows from various backgrounds and ethnicities), at least 50% women, and representation from leaders who identify as working class and LGBTQI.
  • 2018 Local Economy Fellowship: We will host a dedicated session on equity in local economy work — with emphasis on race + class — in the first immersion, as well as a pre-immersion training for those who desire some additional preparation or support. The goal is to center conversations about equity early on, to start to build a shared vocabulary, and to build trust and comfort in asking difficult questions of ourselves and each other. Finally, we will reduce the size of the cohort back down from 36 to 20–24 to make it more possible to support a broad diversity of perspectives and fluency especially related to equity and systemic oppression.
  • 2018 Local Economy Foundation Circle Recruitment: We have been actively recruiting for our third cohort of the LEFC with the goal of hosting at least 30% leaders of color, an increase from no leaders of color in our first cohort.
  • 2018 Local Economy Foundation Circle: In addition, LEFC continues to evolve its curriculum and team to bring more focus and resources toward equity in the programmatic work and foundation organizational growth of our participants. This includes adding 3–4 faculty with this explicit expertise, and bringing in an additional facilitator to support the group to have skillful conversations about race, class and equity.
  • Leadership Network: When deciding how to distribute opportunities and limited resources to the network (e.g. Travel Funds), all else equal, we will prioritize leaders of color and leaders who serve communities of color or otherwise marginalized communities.
  • Leadership Network: We will host at least one Co-Learning Call where leaders in our Network can share learnings and questions around infusing equity into their organizations or other topics of interest such as white allyship, equity training for staff, and distributing power within our organizations.
  • Metrics: To date, our prioritizing equity metric has centered on how much of a Network Leaders’ work serves underserved, low-income, or underrepresented communities and how effective BALLE’s programs have been at increasing a Network Leaders capacity to address equity, race and class issues. In 2018, we will get more granular and specific in identifying the communities that our Leaders’ are reaching and how BALLE’s programs increase their capacity to address equity, race and class issues. We will also begin measuring how BALLE as an organization is doing at prioritizing equity at our events and in our communications.
  • 2018 Summit: We will maintain our ongoing commitment to diversity across race, gender, geography, age, and other demographic attributes in every stage of the Summit organizing, execution, and illumination: from shaping and providing input on the content and agenda, to ensuring that no one group has more than 50% representation, by programming a diversity of leaders in speaking and facilitation roles.
  • 2018 Summit: In 2018 we will build on our 2017 experiment reframing “Mentor” opportunities as a request for everyone to participate in 1:1 Connections. This shift is meant to neutralize a power dynamic and assumptions that can be inferred from a Mentor / Mentee dyad, and encourage everyone to share unique expertise across age, industry, and background.
  • 2018 Summit: We will maintain a thread of equity throughout our program, specifically considering sessions topics and how participant voices will be lifted up during session.
  • 2018 Communications: In 2018 we will establish a baseline measurement for voices covered and featured as bylines, and channels / audiences reached, to allow us to track improvement in representation from the Network, in the media.

Documentation + Sharing

As we continue to experiment, learn, and grow, we expect to make mistakes, and to continue to try again, in service of liberation and healthy economies for all people. In order to reflect, hold ourselves accountable, and share what we learn, in 2018, we will:

  • Write one blog post per quarter from a different staff member sharing how we are doing on these small experiments outlined above.
  • Create an annotated resource library based on the tools and articles we find most useful in guiding our own process and share this with the Leadership Network and broader BALLE community.