If every family in the South Bend-Mishawaka metro area shifted just $10 of its monthly spending to locally-owned, independent businesses, over $9,958,301 would be directly returned to the community. That’s the calculation from Independent We Stand, an organization of independent business owners who are trying to inform their communities of the benefits and importance of local commerce [ht:cr]. Enter your location on the website to see the calculation for your area.
It’s a very intuitive and straightforward idea, that local purchases keep resources in the community, bolstering the local economy and promoting local economic development. It seems to be something very desirable for community members. Which I why I find it so intriguing that I have never heard any mainstream economist advocate for “buying local” or talk about aspects of local economics (such as farmers’ markets, community development, local currencies). It simply does not seem to fit in to their framework for thinking about “the economy.” All activity is considered either market activity, or government intervention. Economists have managed to vastly underestimate the power of small groups of determined people by leaving the “community” out of the economic analysis.
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From the NYTimes:
“What is co-housing?”The Cohousing Association of the United States has been answering that question quite frequently as more people sign up for its tours: The communities consist of individual houses whose residents share some common space, a few communal dinners a week and a commitment to green living.
The movement has been gaining momentum here since it first arrived from Denmark two decades ago. But passengers on the bus tours describe the general climate of uncertainty as setting off more urgent waves of reappraisal: Is this how I want to raise my family? Spend my remaining years? Is there a better option — a more stable community?
In some cases, the closeness of these communities offers bulwarks against a lousy economy. Residents speak of lending money to one another when necessary or, say, pitching in to build a wheelchair ramp when insurance might not cover it. Then there is the savings associated with a more efficiently designed home, and shared upkeep costs. But strictly speaking, a home in a co-housing community doesn’t necessarily cost less than a traditional home. As advocates describe it, the benefits are of the added-value variety.
“You just get more bang for your buck,” said Laura Fitch, a 15-year co-houser who led a recent tour in Massachusetts. “You can have entertainment next door rather than going to the movies, and if you’re a parent, you don’t have to drive to all those play dates, or even buy as many toys because your kids are more entertained.”
She added that the price of co-housing often included a common house with guest rooms, a party space, a children’s play area and the security of people watching out for one another.
“My grandparents’ community got through the Depression by being very close-knit,” Mr. Reichert said, “with one family knowing how to farm, for example, and another knowing how to raise poultry. We’ve lost that. But co-housing is accomplishing something similar.”
Craig Ragland, the executive director of the Cohousing Association, said: “Some people are looking at these communities as a lifeboat. The thinking is, if I’m surrounded by people who care about me, I’m less likely to crash and burn.”
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From Faces of the Recession:
John Dolza was laid off from his job at a nursing home last summer. After spending a few months volunteering for the Obama campaign, Dolza decided to focus his efforts on establishing the first community garden in his town of Fenton, Michigan. In a few short months he has rallied the town around the project, securing support from the city government, several local businesses, a grant from the Mott Foundation, and numerous friends and neighbors.
Dolza believes this is a project of necessity. “People around here are hungry,” says Dolza. “We’ve got folks who are going to Wal-Mart and stealing food and toilet paper because they’re so broke”. With this in mind, 2600 square feet of garden, about a quarter of the entire space, is dedicated for food for the hungry. Dolza was also pleased to discover the project appealed to a wide range of Fenton residents. “We’ve got retired hippies, U.A.W. guys, former GM managers, family moms that wanna grow food for the family…a huge diversity of people and all of them really energized”.
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