The idea of local versus centralised operations (and to some extent the often related small versus larger business model) is one that has been coming up for us lately. Mostly in the form of ‘how to communicate the benefits of local’, which we inherently feel to be a better way forward. It seems, so far we haven’t done a great job of articulating our take on this issue, so I wanted to give it some thought and light here.
Indeed I had a lot whirring around in my head so I turned to, my now beloved, mind maps, mud maps or whatever you choose to call them (at the risk of being crass, my inner child would like to suggest we coin it ‘brain vomit’ – snigger…). For the uninitiated, it basically involves dropping all your ideas onto a page in no particular order or fashion – you just let it all spill out. Then you can go back and make connections, rearrange, add or remove stuff etc. They are especially helpful for perfectionists or detail people who tend to get stuck on the first slightly inaccurate or misplaced point they encounter (this is certainly true of me) so I thought it a good way to purge my ideas into a constructive form. After a couple of goes and some tidying up, below is my take on the advantages of staying local in business and personal spending – centering around benefits for local business, employment, society and the environment (hint: follow the arrows):
Now take note – I’m not suggesting that the community be 100% self-reliant. While this is a noble goal, I think at this point in time, there are other things to be aiming for first . What I hope for by advocating ‘local’ is two fold:
1. Lets encourage people to start thinking about this issue and its benefits – putting it on the radar and building that ‘thinking habit’ is the first step;
2. Lets foster resilience in the community through local connections and mutually beneficial business. It not only builds strength, character and diversity in that community – if repeated elsewhere, the resilience and health spreads to an entire state/nation/world. And as an aside, don’t forget that when a community becomes stronger it becomes more stable – security is a diminishing asset these days.
I think the sentiment is expressed well by L.N. Smith (in his book Sunrise Over Disney):
“Every dollar you spend . . . or don’t spend . . . is a vote you cast for the world you want”
So what I would love to see is businesses, and individuals alike, including this as a regular consideration in their decision making. Price is undoubtedly a real and tangible constraint – it must be looked at. I just don’t like to see it weigh in disproportionately or used as the sole factor for choice.
And of course, getting too weighed down or consumed by it all isn’t productive either – just giving more thought to where the money is going is a great place to start. Or you could make a simple hierarchy of what is important, as a guide for those with spending power (teamed up with a realistic budget). For instance it might include a few of the following as equal or more important than price: good service, availability, delivery time, environmental credentials, flexibility, locally made, locally owned, adequate specifications or socially responsible. Sometimes it can involve a little more time and effort to find or work with a trickier option, but it’s worth it.
What gets supported, gets growing. So if more demand it, more will supply it. You know what that means – better options and prices usually follow. Win Win.
And woop woop!
Go on…… get your local on! xx