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SLF in 2010 - Part II - The Year of Collaboration

Dec 28 2:03 pm

This is the 2nd installment of a week-long blog retrospective at the year that was for SLF & the Local Movement in 2010, and a glimpse into what 2011 may hold.  Please add feel free to comment with your thoughts throughout the week.

What a year.

We’ve participated in (and added to?) an ever growing national movement to build local living economies and at the same time worked to build a SLF into a robust and sustainable organization.

It’s an interesting intersection, to be sure.

The ‘buzz’ around local is growing ever prominent, and I am glad for the role that SLF has played in that.  I am also grateful for the leadership of all those who came before us and are working hand in hand with us today across the country.  Together, we are articulating vision for a new economy that works for people.

And at the same time, 2010 was a maturation year for SLF and our fledgling organization.  We’ve accomplished so much but yet have taken but just first few steps in our path.

Throughout the year, we at SLF focused on the task at hand, attempted to generate and manage cash flow, and provided value to our members.  In our current environment, it’s the only way we can survive.  But with each program, campaign & event, we weave together a story that we hope will create our mission and vision for our community and the world:

To build a sustainable community and an economy that is local, green and fair.

So, as we recap the year that was and look toward the future, it feels to me like we’ve accomplished a lot, though I am acutely aware of the many miles ahead on our path.  I’m a fan of ‘go big or go home’, as a turn of phrase and as an organizational Modus Operandi.  If we do what we must do in 2011, that will be the title of this post next year.

So with no further ado, here’s the story of SLF in 2010, a year marked by collaboration.

A Local’s Guide to Somerville

Our annual magazine about our members and our community

A Local's Guide to Somerville - Our annual magazine about our members and our community

By the time this project was done, I had a whole new level of respect for the publishing people in my life (lookin’ at you Somerville Scout, Weekly Dig).  Putting together a magazine, from the proverbial soup to nuts, is quite a task.  When I say that I didn’t want to even look at the Guide until it was out for a month, I do not exaggerate.

Luckily, this project set the stage for what was an emerging theme for us this year:  collaboration.  I’m incredibly proud of the construction and design of the project, and that has everything to do with one of one of our MVPs  for 2010 ~ Wendy Friedman of GRAND.   Here’s what I wrote and included in the guide about her:

Wendy Friedman holds the title of Designer for this publication, but really, she is our partner.  We think her design and aesthetic added tremendously to the project. You wouldn’t be reading this, were it not for her talents and efforts.

And the support didn’t stop with Wendy.  We assembled, in my opinion, some of the most talented writers in Greater Boston.  David Day became the Editor of Alt Weekly, the Weekly Dig this year…he wrote about the Somerville Arts scene in our guide before that.  Jessie Rogers (and her partner Gabrielle Petraglia) founded Teaparty Boston and went on to launch Time Out Boston this year….she wrote for our locals guide first.  Christine Liu & Liana Peterson have local and national street cred…they wrote for us too.

One of the best parts of the year was the love, belief and support I felt and SLF received this year.  Whatever we did accomplish, none of it would have happened without the kindness and contributions of our partners, supporters and friends.

SLF Events ~ SomerFun & Harvest Fest

Harvest Fest 2010

When reflecting on our two major events this year, I think its safe to say they are responsible for my highest and lowest moments.

Let’s start with the good.  Harvest Fest 2010 was pretty much awesome in all directions.  Here’s our short video recap of the event if you didn’t make it (or even if you did, its pretty awesome):

We like to think that we learn a lot from first year endeavors at SLF.  In fact, the theme for this year internally was:  Replicate and improve what we did last year.  At Harvest Fest, we made it happen.

Harvest Fest established itself as one of Greater Boston’s best annual tasting (food/beverage/entertainment) events this year.  I think we’re right up there with WineRiot, eatBoston events and the rest.  But what struck me most, from Harvest Fest was the feeling in the room.  From my reflections blog post about the event:

But if there’s one thing I’ll take away from Harvest Fest 2010, it will be the ubiquitous vibe of happiness that permeated the Armory.  Everyone that I talked to at Harvest Fest was just really happy to be there.

For one day, for a few hours, we brought together hundreds of people to eat, drink and be merry together.  We showed our guests and participants that the community surrounding ‘local’ looks better, tastes better and is just more fun.

Its been said many times in the movement, by leaders with far more experience and wisdom than me, that in order to take our movement to a tipping point, we have to make our work “a better party”.  By the end of Harvest Fest 2010, at least for a day, it was apparent to me that ‘local’ can be one of the best parties out there and that community, far from a dirty word, is in fact what most of us are seeking.

Oh, and the event, intended to be a fundraiser…actually raised funds!  Second year FTW!

Onto the not-so-great….

SomerFun: A Romp for Indepenents - Our annual community street fair

SomerFun: A Romp for Indepenents - Our annual community street fair

SomerFun was a first year event, it rained (a lot) and put us in a bind financially (read the recap here).  But we did it.  And we got through the resulting challenges.  And we’re stronger for it.

But man, sometimes learning lessons can be painful.

Going weeks without pay, seeing disappointment from our vendors and feeling like we failed was one of the most significant professional challenges I’ve gone through…but go through it I did, and SLF emerged a stronger organization, and I a better professional,  in the end because of it.

We do, however, strive to accentuate the positive at SLF (note how much we talk about what we’re for and how little we talk about what we’re against).  And there were many positives to be found from this experience.  The most significant of which was the developing leadership on our Board.

Sidenote ~ This video by Paper Fortress was a donation of services…and is a great capture of the good side of not so great events.

Somerville Somerfun 2010 Event from Paper Fortress on Vimeo.

The SLF Board of Directors

Thank you dinner for outgoing Board President (and current Board Member) Jon O'Toole

Thank you dinner for outgoing Board President (and current Board Member) Jon O'Toole

Having spent ½ a decade in the nonprofit world now, I think its safe to say that having an engaged, active and productive board is more exception than rule.  At a recent informal gathering of Somerville nonprofit directors Groundwork Somerville and SLF hosted at our office space, I joked that if any of the EDs had boards that under-delivered, it was their fault.  Laughter rang out through the room.

We are blessed to have the board members we have had in our short existence and with the little time these busy entrepreneurs have, they have contributed dramatically to our development.   But as with most things, we’ve still got a ways to go to get to where we want to be.

As we go forward in 2011, I have more faith than ever that the SLF board will not only be engaged but will become a shining example for our sister organizations across the country.  That belief is based on three things:

  1. We have 3 Sloan MIT Grad Students (part of the NetImpact program) working on Board Development with SLF for 1 calendar year.  This group of emerging leaders will take the SLF board to new heights.
  2. Our other board officer is Jen Lawrence, executive director of Groundwork Somerville, is on a short list of professionals I most respect.  I talk about Groundwork as my shining example of the right way to do environmental organizing – in a positive, action oriented and enthusiastic light.  That’s Jen.  Having her experience and leadership on our board has been nothing short of transformational.
  3. And finally, our new Board President, Dan Parsons, is probably the most active and engaged board member we’ve ever had.  His commitment and willingness to build the SLF board has been touching and inspiring this year.

Diversity (or a lack thereof)

At the founding meeting of SLF, the then Steering Committee and I talked about being an organization for all businesses, not just some.  Two + years later, we’ve pretty much failed.

Today, we represent a mere fraction of businesses owned by immigrants, non-whites and non-english speakers.  We’re also lacking in ‘Old Somerville’ businesses.  While there are a number of reasons for this (most prominent is my cold-calling membership recruitment burnout), it is not the end of the story.

Earlier this year, we were awarded our first Tisch Scholar from Tufts University, Tomas Valdes.  Tomas will be working with SLF through May to conduct research and outreach to diverse communities.  Tomas will help identify ways for SLF to effectively engage and support these communities, and help us make good on the commitment we made upon our founding.

Again, support from the community (Tufts and Tomas in this case) is helping us accomplish our goals.  2010 was collaboration.

And you all have my word, if this doesn’t work, we’ll try something else and we’ll keep trying until I can look you in the eye and say we represent the whole of the Somerville business community.

SLF on the Interwebs

At the end of the day (or year, if you will), our work ultimately comes back to supporting our local economy and our members through educating our community.  This year, we continued to embrace the web and social media to tell our story and strengthen our community.

By launching our new website and blog (thanks to Truly Good Design) and committing to our social media outlets on Facebook and Twitter, we shared a lot of ideas and information and created a lot of constructive dialogue.

At the apex of this effort, our SHIFT YOUR SHOPPING holiday campaign, launched by Twitter Trending Plaid Friday, sparked a dialogue across Greater Boston and New England.

Plaid Friday trending on Twitter


And for the first time in our history, we had an opportunity to measure our work.

And the results left me more than encouraged.  Some of the highlights:

  • Over the course of one month, we generated 500,000 impressions with SLF facebook posts.
  • In 6 months, over 17,500 individuals visited the SLF website

And then we asked our followers to do a survey….

The SLF Follower survey was our best proof yet that local is sinking in around the ‘ville.

With over 50 responses, our followers reported an average increase in local purchasing of almost 20% to just shy of 50% of their total purchases, which rests above the national average.  These individuals have made the 10% Shift…twice.

And this is just the beginning.

Tomorrow, I’ll go through some of the happenings around our region and our nation, and give a glimpse into how far ‘Local’ has come this year….and how much further it still must go. (and will try to reign in this massive word count…what can i say, it’s been a busy year!)

Finally, did I miss anything?  Feel free to add your favorite (or not so favorite) SLF moments from the year that was.

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Letter from The Weekly Dig: The Aftermath Black Friday vs. Plaid Friday

Dec 08 12:11 pm

The following letter comes from David Day, Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Weekly Dig:

The Weekly Dig Local Holiday Shopping Guide

Dear Reader,

By most accounts, Black Friday was a stunning success. According to the National Retail Federation, 212 million people shopped, up from 195 million last year. The Buy Local movement of “Plaid Friday” was equally successful, with #plaidfriday becoming a top trend on Twitter. And, at a Target in Buffalo, N.Y. a few people were almost trampled to death.

But what does the rush to buy cheap sh*t say about the economy at large?

It could well be that the frenzy caused by incredible discounts are in fact a result of people having less money. We are incredibly broke, so the need to maximize our shopping dollar is more important than ever.

Of course, your friendly Dig staff is encouraging you to maximize your shopping dollar in a different way: by spending it with your neighbor. We have been pounding the “buy local” bush since our inception, in a way, but this year, and every year for the time being, buying local is really, honestly, super important. Are you following through?

If you need help, turn to our annual shopping guide, where the hard-working tandem of Courtney Cox and Taylor Seidler bounced around town getting the scoop from some of our favorite local shops. We have 25 days until the … special … day … or week (or month), so time is of the essence. There’s also a showcase of three stores for those ski bunsters among you.

Here’s a thought: Use our guide to buy something. There’s a lot to choose from, all of it local and relatively inexpensive. Your aunt doesn’t need a new flat-screen to watch Dr. Phil—she needs an airplant.

Tell them the Dig sent you.

A Look Into the Sounds of Harvest Fest 2010

Sep 16 12:21 pm

by Clay Adamczyk

It’s safe, but bittersweet, to say that this glorious summer is all but behind us. And though our days of enjoying our meals, music, and fine ballgame lagers & wheat ales outside are numbered, it only really opens our pallets to the flavors of fall: New England’s most beautiful season. So while the leaves are turning Oktoberfest orange, let’s bid a fond adieu to summer, welcome autumn with open arms, and see what this year’s harvest has to offer. Harvest Fest that is, with a sampling for all senses: the tastes and smells of great local wines, beers and food; a look into the season’s local fashion; and of corse, the best in a variety of sounds this great town has to offer.

With the nature of the festival, experiencing what may be new to us is what’s fun, and with the musical entertainment, we’ll get a full dose.

Buy your Harvest Fest 2010 Tickets, its a show not to be missed

Buy your Harvest Fest 2010 Tickets, its a show not to be missed

Session One presents two of the finest bands to rise out of our diverse music scene. One Fine Morning opens the night with their own blend of acoustic based rock. Though this quintet began as an all acoustic quartet, they’ve spent the last couple years discovering themselves, incorporating a touch of funk, the perfect backing warm electric guitar tones, and classic rock organ.

SEA MONSTERS: "More of a 'collective' than a Band"

Headlining the first session is Boston’s own super group of sorts, and a band most known for their weekly residency at the Precinct. SEA MONSTERS: a band whose sound is as diverse as their lineup. As the groups informal leader, Christian McNeill puts it, “[SEA MONSTERS] is more of a “collective” than a band.”  It’s a musical endeavor in which friends come in and out of bringing in their own styles and ideas so much so that he could not as of yet confirm who the group would be comprised of for this performance, and is seen as a side-project “that is (supposed to be) a vehicle where we can all get together and have fun doing what we love” McNeill said. “As Scott Aruda, our trumpet player, says “SEA MONSTERS - never the same band once.” With a rotating cast of about twenty musicians, ‘a healthy spirit of improvisation in everything that [they] do,’ and a range of musical style from jazz to blues to rock, each performance is unique so this one is not to be missed.

Session Two musically shifts corse in a way that will loosen up those ties and work those dance muscles. Fellow SLF blogger and Weekly Dig editor, David Day, opens the electronic portion of the evening spinning top tracks in big-room techno heavily fused with soul and a lot of vocals. Day is one of the city’s leading members in an electronic revolution as both a co-founder and resident DJ of Boston’s best Thursday night, Make it New at the Middlesex Lounge; a founding member of show promoting organization, Basstown Presents; and is a co-founder of the Together Music Festival which celebrates its second run this coming April.

Closing the night is an unstoppable duo, the Zebbler Encanti Experience, with a performance unlike anything else we’ve seen–something truly legendary in which Zebbler, the visual mastermind behind the two, describes will be “a hybrid of bass-heavy electronic dance music and completely locked in three screen wide visuals, with a handful of artfulness thrown in to spice up the mix.” For the first time, Encanti’s original produced music and Zebbler’s multi-headed hydra of synched visuals will be joined with a choreographed performance by Somerville’s own AirCraft Aerial Arts team.

The Zebbler Encanti Experience - Breaking new ground @ Harvest Fest 2010

The Zebbler Encanti Experience - Breaking new ground @ Harvest Fest 2010

“SLF introduced us to the idea of collaborating with the Aircraft Aerial team for our performance and we loved it right away!” said Zebbler when asked about their collaboration with the aerial acrobats. “Co-incidentally, Encanti and I have been developing ideas for making our performances more interactive and large-scale, including ideas about involving a marching band (anyone?) and aerialists.”

AirCraft Aerial Arts will contribute to a visually stunning performance @ Harvest Fest 2010

AirCraft Aerial Arts will contribute to a visually stunning performance @ Harvest Fest 2010

Harvest Fest is about people enjoying new experiences, and is why Zebbler is excited to perform for folks from all walks of life. “After all, pretty much everyone loves good local beer and good local food!” he added. “But as the night takes hold - we think people will be ready to get a little wild and experience something that is at once an aerial dance, a circus show and a 21st century dance party.”

Alt-Weeklies and Localization

Aug 02 12:15 pm

by David Day

As an editor at an Alternative Weekly (Boston’s Weekly Dig in Boston, MA), I spend a lot of time thinking about how print can remain relevant. And I’m not talking about how it can compete with the internet or how we can get people to read more of it, but how to bring readers and businesses together.


Due to localization efforts, print is alive and well at the Weekly Dig...

The word magazine originally means “storehouse,” a store house of ideas and business leads, where the community can meet each other out on the street.

Then Localization began to take hold, and the proverbial light-bulb went off.

And it went off in the heads of editors across the nation.

While not all alternative weeklies can stand as true independents, Dig Boston most assuredly can. And, as I’ve learned recently, it’s only newspapers which are truly independent who can truly support localization.

I don’t need to tell you how obvious Localization is the way forward-you’re reading this website, after all-but I can tell you that the future of print, in fact, the only future of print, lands squarely in line with the mission of localization.

At the recent AAN convention, where the alt-weekly community gathers to discuss ideas, Jody Colley of the East Bay Express in Oakland gave an inspiring presentation about Localization.

She began with this:

Then Jody moved through the shocking number of things her newspaper is doing to support localization (as she called it). She asked for help passing around a Local First guide, then a Eco Metro Guide, then a Buy Fresh Buy Local guide, then a Local Film Festival guide, and so forth (even a Local Coloring Book page). It was astounding.

But perhaps more astounding was the reaction of the crowd of publishers who had gathered in the massive ballroom. Silence. Despite a few eager participants, myself included of course, Colley was met with a stone wall of silence. It was shocking to me and it’s taken me a little bit to process the info, but now I have realized the main concern was that

Most of the other alt-weeklies in attendance, the ones who were silent, were not independents.

East Bay Express

To a corporate-owned alt-weekly, Localization is frightening as hell. They will have to give up the multi-million dollar ad deals with their corporate buddies. They will need to get to know the local business owners. They will need to go out into the streets again and, you know, sell ads.

It strikes me as the difference between something like a Local First group and a Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, like the mammoth, listings-stuffed, whore-ad driven alt-weekly, is looking for the big fish. They want to bring the Ikea to town, they will meet eagerly with Home Depot or Target. But maybe not us, and certainly not Local First. To focus on rebuilding the economy and, ultimately, all of our own bank accounts, shopping local is crucial. It is beyond neccesary, it is the only way forward.

So alt-weeklies like Jody’s, and like the Dig, have to give up the full-page ads for the giant new box shop, and fill them with smaller ads for local businesses. It means working harder, but it also means fulfilling the true mission of a magazine-being the storehouse.

That is not to say the corporate weeklies won’t come around to Colley. Indeed, I would expect her talk at AAN 2011 to be packed to the rafters with cheering publishers.

David Day

Jul 19 5:27 pm

David Day

David Day began his Boston journey in Ball Square and loves Somerville. He edits the Arts section of the local independent paper Boston’s Weekly Dig, promotes shows as Basstown Presents, co-founded Together: The New England Electronic Music Festival and has a movie out called Speaking in Code.

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