Best Self Magazine

What if? | Localism & Social Enterprise — Michelle Long On The Keys to a Strong Economy

Michelle Long, Balle director

Photograph by Bill Miles

Michelle Long champions localism, local economies and values-driven enterprise as keys to a strong economy


It’s the second time in a month that I have the pleasure of being in the audience as Michelle Long, Executive Director of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), delivers the Keynote Speech. It is the second time that she closes her address with raw, unrehearsed emotion and real, honest tears as she implores us to keep love and humanity in our business practices. Before her, is a sea of entrepreneurs, small-business owners, innovators, artists, farmers, alternative healers, artisans, community activists and notable movers and shakers in the worlds of localism, slow money and slow food. It is clear she is moved by her ability to engage and influence a group of people who have the potential to enact positive change. Her gratitude and slight surprise, as if she’s caught off guard by her own power, is charming. Every pair of eyeballs is riveted at the podium, where a petite, brown-haired, bright-faced woman with a wide smile has just brought her audience to their feet.

How does she do it? Michelle possesses a rare combination of passion and humility that is endearing to everyone she meets. She comes from a place of authenticity that projects a deep and profound understanding of the inner workings of humanity — a place at which the rest of us can only strive to arrive. She does this magical thing where she asks “What if…” questions to get your imagination going, and instantly you are with her as you envision a better world together.

Asking such questions is a tried and true practice for Michelle Long. By asking “What if…” and then imagining the

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