Three-day event highlights Oakland as a hub of innovation and diversity, and explores how locally rooted economic systems solve environmental, financial and social problems

Oakland, Calif.— Social entrepreneurs and local business leaders from around the globe gathered in Oakland Wednesday night to begin the 12th annual BALLE Conference (June 11-13). BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) and Oakland’s Sustainable Business Alliance co-host this year’s conference, themed Prosperity for All, that features six visionary keynote addresses, interactive case studies solving real-time challenges, and special tours, parties and entertainment that highlight Oakland’s thriving local economy and culture.

“Oakland, with its rich history, is the ideal setting to have these important conversations about how local business and investing in local economies is the best way for us to bring equity and opportunity to the most number of people and build real prosperity for all,” said BALLE Executive Director Michelle Long. More than 700 local business leaders and social entrepreneurs from across North America and beyond are expected to attend the conference taking place at the historic Scottish Rite Center overlooking Lake Merritt, with auxiliary events, parties and tours across Oakland and the Bay Area.


Oakland Mayor Jean Quan helped kick off the conference Wednesday night. In the following days, featured speakers will address the six key focus areas of financing, entrepreneurship, policy, ownership, leadership, and food, all through the lens of social justice and equity.

“Every year, I bring the inspiration I get from the BALLE Conference back home to my people, but now they get to experience that inspiration on their home turf,” said Small Business Administration Executive Director Erin Kilmer-Neel, who is also a BALLE Local Economy Fellow. “It’s an amazing opportunity for Oaklanders to show all of our colleagues in related fields how our work is connected and how Localism is so much more than what many people think it is. It really is about prosperity for all.”

Kilmer-Neel is one of 16 local economy leaders chosen from across North America every other year for the 18-month fellowship designed to advance the new economy movement. Where other programs focus on individual social entrepreneurs trying to scale single enterprises, BALLE seeks the most innovative local economy connectors – people who each represent, convene, and influence whole communities of local businesses – to be part of a program deeply rooted in shared learning, collaboration and local impact.

BALLE’s current cohort of Local Economy Fellows were highlighted at the conference during the “Marketplace of Ideas” session on Thursday, June 12, at 11:35a.m. PDT. The 2014 BALLE Conference agenda and sessions are available at, the list of speakers and leaders in attendance can be found at, and auxiliary events taking place across Oakland and the Bay Area can be found at,

“It is proven that communities with a higher density and diversity of local, independently owned businesses have more wealth, jobs, and resiliency, which is why it’s critical for Localist leaders to gather at events like this for deep learning, conversation and to map the way forward together,” said Long.

BALLE is a non-profit organization focused on creating real prosperity by connecting leaders, spreading solutions that work, and driving investment toward local economies. BALLE equips entrepreneurs with tools and strategies for local success, and provides a national forum for the most visionary local economy leaders and funders to connect, build their capacity and innovate. BALLE is based out of the Impact Hub Oakland. Oakland’s Sustainable Business Alliance (SBA), is a business association committed to building a vibrant community of locally owned, sustainably minded businesses in the East San Francisco Bay Area. SBA’s vision is for an East Bay network of business, community residents, and government engaged in actions that benefit the local economy, social equity, the environment, and quality of life for current and future generations.