Human Perspective/System Perspective

In the past three months I have been included in the process of developing what I believe is a key piece to rebuilding resilience in local communities. I have always worked in the realm of small, decentralized food business; and through doing this work I have been able to broaden my perspective of what it really means to be a good entrepreneur in today’s world.

Working in independent local business can make us feel tiny, and our impact insignificant in the grand scheme; but having a greater knowledge of how a network really functions, how the flow capital affects us directly and how natural systems, vernacular communities and open markets all share the same architecture, has led me to approach my role as an entrepreneur more holistically, with greater consideration of where I stand in the system and why my position is important.

Also working with  Salish|Growth has highlighted that in order to create workable system solutions, we need to include as many people as possible by pulling opposing values closer together through points of mutual concern such as food and health. These are frightening times, and our mission to localize economies and retain the vernacular knowledge of communities is primarily a necessary adaptation to the toxic conditions of climate change, social inequality and corruption that we are experiencing. We have all seen the repercussions of a conglomerated society, the disintegration of place and the barriers that prevent us from creating our own solutions to local problems. We are going to help in decentralizing control over local communities, and protecting the integrity of the places outside of the urban cores of the US.

I grew up in a small place, where most people living there know each other. I experienced the same instance of clashing worldviews that is occurring everywhere, but in places like Lopez Island there is a common concern of independence, freedom, resiliency, or whatever else a certain group may call it. It seems to me that even in this information economy, our most valuable asset is agency over our circumstances and relationships in a place we can call home. Living in Italy for two years, I observed something deeper: old vernacular knowledge that held together communities and regions based on language, family and food. Like on Lopez, one’s local trust and reputation matters in Italy, only there the trust and reputation matters at every level of society: people, families, towns, provinces and regions; not just in isolation. And, they transcend many more generations.

This complexity of relationships between people and places that has been maintained in Italy, and many other parts of the world, has allowed communities to be more resilient in times of political, economic and environmental crises. It is something we have nearly lost in this country, and it is being protected by the last strongholds of real community. And we need it now more than ever.

The best thing about working with Chris in starting this company, is that he sees all of this from both the human and the system’s perspective, which as far as I can tell, is rare. Usually the system’s thinker maps their thinking topographically. They see all of the important linkages but the individuals within the system might as well be static numbers. The human thinker, like myself, views themselves as a unique player that is part of a greater system, but only sees the linkages that are immediately around them. I think being a great entrepreneur means being able think in both paradigms, and understanding how they compliment each other. So what are we doing with this company exactly? Yes we are decentralizing the food system; yes we are creating a way to cycle our money more locally; but I think our longest term impact is in helping build communities of great entrepreneurs in the places where local trust still matters.

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