Tuesday, August 18, 2009 / Labels: ,

The Epilogue

It's been 75 days since the Shift Across America project reached its conclusion, or at least the roadtrip portion of the project. Upon my return, there was much work to do. Somerville Local First, like many of the networks around the country, is growing faster every day. We're no longer a start-up, we're figuring out our role in the community...and we're succeeding.

Over the coming weeks, as time allows, I'll be posting more content from the amazing people who participated in this project. There are still a few interviews from Somerville and Boston I need to complete, including SLFs first Member, Carla DeLellis from Johnny D's, Rebekah Gerwitz (the first elected official in America to endorse the 10% Shift) and a few others. For now, you can view most of the interviews on our YouTube channel here, see the photographs here and read all the tweets here.

We hope to bring this message, and the words and lessons from the leaders with whom we spoke, to more and more people. In this weeks edition of The Weekly Dig, you can read a feature piece on the project. This is just the beginning.....Shift Happens.


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Sunday, June 14, 2009 / Labels:

Kimber Lanning Local First Arizona, Stinkweeds & Modified Arts

From Portraits of The Shift

Kimber Lanning
Executive Director - Local First Arizona

Age: 41
Political Orientation: Independent
Religious Affiliation: None

Job Title(s):
Executive Director of Local First Arizona and the Owner of a record store called Stinkweeds. And I own an art gallery/performance space called Modified Arts, which is sort of my pattern of buying old buildings and fixing them up and revitalizing neighborhoods.

Talk about your role in the community
I’m a connector and a collaborator. I like finding people who are interesting partners and bringing them together to advance the city. To me what’s most important is that we’re building a better city

Talk about your relationship with the Local Independent community
I think people come to me as a resource in issues they’re having with the city…I think that people rely on me to help them promote their business and I think together we’re creating an entire shift, it’s a cultural change. And that’s difficult in (this) city…we were built after the invention of the automobile so we are sprawled out…and a lot of stripmalls here and a lot of the previous development community that really only understands the old business model of bringing in national chains and…‘shop til you drop’. And that’s shifting and I think I’ve played a role int hat.

If the Local Independent community were an animal, what animal would it be and why?
I’m gonna say a large breed of puppy. Enormous feet, a little bit off balance but growing fast and super loveable and energetic.

Talk about a time that your community lost a business and it had a big impact.
We just lost an amazing restaurant in Scottsdale, a neighboring community, and they are the ones that hosted the locavore (all local food) dinners. And they couldn’t keep their doors open and it was a huge blow, and we’re still reeling from it, the farmers, everybody….

(On the chef working to open another restaurant)
Local First is helping to him navigate the process with the city…I think you’re gonna see the community really rally around him.

Talk about how the “Local Movement” cuts across political lines?
I think people come to the “Buy Local” table for different reasons. I’m speaking very generally, but the left comes to the table for quality of life issues, green issues and the right comes to the table for economic issues. You can not deny that its economically better for the country to keep dollars at home….My founding board had an extreme Republican and a complete “Left”…So I think its important that we put partisan issues aside to work on this collaboratively.

What lesson or piece of advice could you offer?
Its way too clichĂ© to just say follow your heart…people always ask me how I started a record store when I was so young, and I always tell them it wasn’t money, it was guts. It’s way more important to have guts and passion and throw yourself into something and just don’t give up….

What one message would you share with anyone who might see this?
Just get engaged. I think the main thing that drives me insane in this country is the overwhelming sense of entitlement, and the lack of commitment and accountability to certain issues. And I think its really really important that we all equally link arms and advance important issues. There’s never been a more crucial time to learn the fundamental message that contribution is more important than consumption and we’ve forgotten that…

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 / Labels:

David Coss, Mayor - Santa Fe, NM

From Portraits of The Shift

Mayor David Coss, Santa Fe, NM

Age: 54

Political Orientation: Democrat

Religious Affiliation: Catholic

Job Title(s):
Mayor, City of Santa Fe

Role in the Community:
Chief Executive of the City, but this is classically called a Weak Mayor form of system. The challenges are steep, you don’t have a lot of formal authority, but you do have a lot of leadership/bully pulpit type of authority, and I think that’s important.

I think it’s a very important role to find what’s going on right and encourage it and bring it out so the public can see the good things going on. I’m also trying to pursue an agenda, and that is Sustainability, Human Rights and Good Government.

Talk about your relationship with the Local Independent community.
We’ve been working with Santa Fe Alliance for quite a number of years, promoting buy local. Its one of those things that’s enjoyable, as Mayor. We’re in an economic downturn throughout the whole planet right now, but yet we see our locally owned businesses doing pretty well, at least hangin’ in. We’ve seen a lot of the big boxes go bankrupt, and yet the local independents have kept their doors open, and kept people employed….and, you know, they’re a lot of fun. There’s a lot of interesting businesses in Santa Fe….

If the Local Independent community were an animal, what animal would it be and why?
You know what keeps coming to mind, is that it would be a Human. This local business community has been so in the Van Gard of what’s going on in Santa Fe, that I think you see their humanity.

Talk about a time that your community gained or lost a business and it had a big impact.
The one that’s coming to mind is the Farmers Market, one of the best in the country….that’s really a group of farmers…they’ve been in Santa Fe for over 2 decades now. We just opened up a space for them in the railyard re-development.

One of the farmers, who had been the president of the organization and a long , said “Mayor, you’ve helped to guarantee sustainable agriculture in New Mexico for the next 100 years” and that’s a big effect when you talk about food security and you talk about open space and promoting healthy lifestyles….and those things are made that much more real when you have a strong agricultural community and the Santa Fe Farmers Market has helped folks establish that.

What one lesson learned or piece of advice could you offer anyone who might see this?
One that has come up for me is, and in just evaluating my history is:

Try to help good things happen and try to stop bad things from happening, and when you see them, act.

What one message would you share with anyone who might see this?
I would say support your local entrepreneurs, your local businesses…you’ll take advantage of the diversity in your community, you’ll make your economy stronger and you’ll make your community a lot more human and a lot more interesting.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009 / Labels:

Louis Black (Austin Chronicle & SXSW)

From Portraits of The Shift

Louis Black, Editor - The Austin Chronicle, Co-Founder & Director - South by Southwest (SXSW)

Louis is a great character and was very accomodating in my visit to the Chronicle in Austin, which is one of the most respected Alternative Newsweeklies in the country. Add in the SXSW festival, which is world renowned and 23 years old now, and this was a real score for the project. Thanks Louis!

Watch the whole interview:

Age: 58

Political Orientation: Idependent, but prob dominantly democratic for a long time

Religion/Religious Affiliation: Jewish

Job Title(s): Editor of the Austin Chronicle, Co-Founder of SXSW (South by Southwest festival)

Role in the Community:
I’ve always thought of us as a community newspaper. We’re a way for that community to interact with each other, and crucial to that group is independent businesses.

Relationship with the Local Independent Community:
We’re symbiotic. We’re very dependent on the Mom & Pop businesses in the community, and I hope they’re dependent on us.

On Price Increases over the years:
A lot of papers do across the board increases, like 10%. We’d always do like a V thing, where the most smallest ads don’t go up at all and the larger ads go up a lot, so Mom & Pop businesses could keep advertising with us.

Our 1/16 of a page ad costs about what it did about 15 years ago, so we’re really conscious of that relationship.

If the Local Independent community were an animal, what animal would it be and why?
It wouldn’t be one animal, nothing in Austin is ever one anything. It’d be like a herd of cats. Austin is amazing in that it’s a town where everyone is involved, so on any civic decision, you’ve got 16 different groups that have interests. So sometimes it moves very slowly….I think the nature of independent businesses are that of very strong visionaries, but I think its

Talk about a time the community lost a business and it had an impact.
We’ve lost lots of clubs over the years….there’s still people that miss the Liberty Lunch. Its more music clubs, because it’s a music oriented town. (The music scene) it ebbs and flows, so sometimes a number of clubs will close and its been awkward for a while, but it always kind of repaired itself and things tend to shift….the scene comes back.

What one lesson or piece of advice could you share with anyone who might see this?
Learn how to brand. I hate the word, I hate the concept but I can brand like nobodys business. Don’t’ get cute and don’t get clever, and you wanna establish that (your brand, know what you are).

The other thing is never go against the other guy, promote yourself. Don’t talk about how the other guy sucks….talk about what you do right. Because you don’t want people to feel bad when they go there, because then they’re going to try not to listen to you.

What one message would you deliver to anyone who might see this?
Independent businesses are what create community. Now, I travel around the country starting 35 years ago and you used go around the country and visit places that were unique. And now you travel around the country and a lot of those places are gone, there are still some places that have it, but more and more you see the same chain stores, and the same restaurants and the same everything. And the reality is that Indepenent Businesses help define the culture of the community and I really believe everything comes out of community.

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Monday, June 8, 2009 / Labels: ,

Ben Saren, Citysquares.com

Portraits of The Shift

Ben Saren, Co-Founder & CEO, Citysquares.com 

Ben is super-busy these days and we couldn't arrange a live interview, but he has been a supporter of Somerville Local First from Day 1 and I wanted to make sure he was included in this project.

Age: 33
Political Orientation: undisclosed
Religion or Religious Affiliation: undisclosed

Job Title(s): 
Co-Founder and CEO at CitySquares.com

How do you view your role in the community? 
Community is a bi-directional relationship. One cannot be a part of a community, be it a geographic one, or a shared interest, or even a digital community, unless it's a give and take exchange. You cannot be only a receiver, and you cannot be only a giver. You must participate. My role in any community is to provide, share, contribute knowledge as well as associate with like-minded members of the community. In terms of my community here in Somerville, MA, I try to respect other members of the community in the simplest ways, such as keeping my property clean and tidy, being courteous and respectful to my neighbors, participating in neighborhood and city events and activities, making charitable donations to causes, even the little things like paying my taxes, obeying the law, keeping my dog properly licensed and vaccinated.

Talk about your relationship with the Local Independent community.
I know that spending my money at local merchants is good for my community. It provides resources for the small merchant to sustain itself, and to hopefully thrive, as well as resources that go right back into the community. This is hugely important to me. My relationship with the Local Independent community is a proud one, and one that I continue to develop. I enjoy knowing my local merchants who are also my neighbors. I enjoy knowing them on a first name basis, and I enjoy discovering more ways to connect with them and collaborate on common interests. I also try to spread the word both privately as well as through my business, about local businesses and encourage people to buy locally.

If the Local Independent community were an animal, what animal would it be and why?
I would have to say the tiger. A sole tiger might not be that successful at surviving, let alone thriving. Alone, the tiger is not terribly effective. But in numbers, the tiger is lethal and can take down something as large as an elephant. Like local businesses, the tiger works best in numbers, as a team, collaboratively, and they share in the bounty.

Talk about a time, if there ever has been one, when you needed support and the Local Independent community was there for you.
Certainly with my business, small businesses have come out in numbers to support a charitable campaign we've spearheaded, or to rally together and make their voices heard. I cannot say that there are specific events in my life where the local independent business community has personally been there for me, but indirectly they have most certainly affected my life in great ways. If it wasn't for them my wife and I would likely not be such proud citizens of Somerville, or we'd likely have to take our car to a big national chain for maintenance as opposed to locally where we know the mechanic and he takes excellent care of us. We'd likely be eating unhealthier foods, and hence not be as healthy. There would be countless consequences (known or unknown) if we didn't have our local independent business community to rely on.

If you could deliver one piece of advice or lesson learned from your life as an entrepreneur and organizer, what would it be?
"Lead, follow, or get out of the way." - Thomas Paine

If you could deliver one message to anyone who might see this, what would it be?
Be active in your community. I can absolutely, hand-down, guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised at what just being active in your community can result in. It yields wonderful results for you, for the community, and for many others in multiples. Get out there, get active.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009 / Labels: , ,

The final trip

Today, I visited two of the strongest New England networks of Independent Businesses...Seacoast Local & Portland Buy Local. These groups have hundreds of members each, are organizers and connecters in their community and, like many other places around the country, are gaining momentum. At the end, a trip filled with metaphors ended with a flurry of them. I finished my last interview in Portsmouth with the battery in the video camera running out.

Then, I couldn't find my ATM card, and scraped together 5 tattered singles from the absolute mess which is my car to buy some gas to make it home. After the last toll, I had one extremely ragged dollar left in the car...I think it'll stay there along with my signed $2 bill from Danny Cottrell.

As I coasted on fumes (gas, energy...pretty much everything) into a parking spot outside my home, I spoke to Stacy Mitchell, noted researcher and author, from Portland. We spoke of how we might work to build even more communication and collaboration between this amazing grassroots network of community builders.

At Armsby Abbey the other day, talking to Alec & Sherry over slow food and local beer, I came up with an analogy to describe what I thought the climate was like around the country. In part because I think its a good analogy, and in part because its an easy way to finish this post, I'm going to share it with you now.

I'm starting to think of our movement as a pine forest and the economic climate as the apex of a long drought...one that began long ago. We, the organizers, are the pine needles who have abandoned the trees, and we're collecting in a massive inter-connected web, sheltering the moisture on the forest floor. All the time, our programs and initiatives are trying to throw sparks on the mesh of networks and organizers and one day, a spark will catch. That program might be the 10% Shift, it might be $2 bills, it might be the transformative work happening in Hardwick around food and agriculture, it might be this project, or it might be something someone hasn't even thought of yet.

But every day, that web grows more interwoven.  And every time there's a story about the existing economic system failing the people yet again, we pine needles become all the more ready to ignite.  And one day soon, one of those sparks is going to catch, and we're going to go up like wildfire.

Now, a wildfire like this has a destructive tone for some, which is why I'm not sure this is the right analogy. But, in telling this story, I've been told that fire can actually be a healthy thing for a forest. In nature, there are periodic brush fires that actually serve to keep an ecosystem in balance and a forest healthy and strong for the long term. This is one such blaze....and its coming. I'm not Polyanna and though I am an optimist, I'm not a blind optimist.  This is truly what I see coming....and not a moment too soon.


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Friday, June 5, 2009 / Labels: ,

The People's Stimulus

The amazing thing about this movement is that we are truly an interconnected web of organizations, communities and leaders who are innovating at the grassroots. And once in a while, an idea or a program will catch on....and then we start adopting it in new places. The 10% Shift spreading around the country is a good example, so is the transformative work happening in Hardwick, Vermont...and so is this amazing story that shows that good ideas, even from the most unlikely of places, are still good ideas and can make the world a better place.

Brewton, Alabama isn't really close to anything. It's a town of about 3,000 people, about 55 miles north of Pensecola, FL and an hour away from Mobile, AL. Brewton has strong ties to the timber industry and a few months ago, like many industries, they were being hit hard. Lots of folks in Brewton were losing their job, and at the Brewton Medical Center Pharmacy, the Local Independent pharmacy in town, employees were starting to talk. They were starting to ask who would be the first to go, would any of them have a job in a month????

Danny Cottrell, the owner of BMCP, saw this as a huge concern. He wanted his employees to know that, while things weren't great, they weren't "anything to be worried about" and that they weren't going anywhere. So he started thinking about what he could do to set their mind at ease.

Danny had been following, with concern, the Stimulus Package being put into action by the Federal Government. He decided to devise a "People's Stimulus". He would give a bonus to all of his employees: $300 to the part-timers and $700 to those who were full time. And he decided to give it to them all in cash....and all in $2 bills :D

He had two conditions for this money:
1. 15% had to go to someone who needed it more than they did
2. The rest of it had to be spent at businesses in Brewton, preferably the Local Independents in town.

Danny speaks in his interview about the mood in the room when he announced it. Danny, first of all, doesn't call meetings. So, when he called every employee together, they (naturally) thought they were going to be fired or layoffs would be announced...."some of 'em had made themselves sick" ahead of this discussion. When he announced his plan, the group was stunned. "They just sort of started looking at each other, and when the first one of 'em started cryin', they just pretty much all started cryin'...they had a nice little squall"

The story has started to spread, and what's so great about this is that it actually solves a huge problem (in my mind) around the idea of Local Currency. Printing, backing, distributing and administering local currency programs (like Berkshire Bucks) is a challenging task. But $2 bills are already printed and backed by the US Government....and they're available at any bank.

Today, I spoke to the Field Office of the Secret Service in Boston. I found out that it's legal to stamp currency. So, sometime in the near future our membership in Somerville will start to distribute $2 bills in Somerville, stamped with the words "BUY LOCAL". And it's all because a man in small town Alabama wanted to make sure his employees felt safe.

Welcome to the Local Movement...a group of people ready to experiment, to innovate and to learn from each others work.

Here's the amazing story told by the man him self, the $2 bill pharmacist, the creator of the People's Stimulus....lifelong Brewton Resident Danny Cottrell:

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A story of survival and revival

From Nola

This grocery store JUST opened in Gentilly, finally giving the residents access to a local food market, nearly 4 years after the flood. Residents there called it a HUGE step forward

***The following story is from an individual I spent a lot of time with in New Orleans. He is a humble dude, and I'm sensitive not to be exploitative in telling stories about Hurricane Katrina, so we worked together to create an annonymous version so that you can be inspired and he can maintain his privacy.

In my 36 hours or so in New Orleans, I got to see a LOT of the city, and not once did my feet touch Bourbon Street. My main tour guide (We'll call him Clark), took me to the authentic and local areas instead, and I was glad that he did.

Clark & I spent a good amount of time together and (I think anyway) started a friendship (he's stayin' at my place if he visits Boston this summer). Clark's story of survival in the face of adversity will give me strength for the rest of my life, and while there's no way I can capture the experience here, I've asked for his permission to share it so that it might give you strength as well.

When Katrina came, Clark stayed. Unlike many of the residents of New Orleans, who did not have the resources to evacuate the terrible storm, Clark could have left, but chose to stay.  He harbored a distrust of the news media and felt they were yet again fabricating, or blowing out of porportion, the story of the coming storm.  Each time there was a storm, the media would call it "the big one", creating a "boy who cried wolf" scenario with Katrina....at least for Clark.

So while his family left, Clark stayed.  After the realization that the water was coming, he got prepared.  He put 20 cans of tuna, a bag of pecans, and an opener in a backpack, grabbed his wallet and went to his roof....in the middle of the storm.  Over the time of about 4 hours, he slowly made his way from roof to roof: sometimes jumping, sometimes walking through water along fences, sometimes hunkering down, using his tuna-filled backpack as a covering for his head, a makeshift helmet.  All through Hurricane force winds and rain.

He finally made it to the only 3 decker house on the block and hunkered down, waiting for the eye to pass, assuming that it was the worst part of the ordeal.  When the storm past hours later there was over ten feet of water as far as his eyes could see. Only the roof tops of many of the houses were still visible.

Eventually, a neighbor with a boat found him and took him to the 2nd floor of a neighborhood school down the road in Gentilly. He spent his next 3 days there, waiting for the next move. On the third day volunteer workers from Houma, a nearby city, using their personal boats assisted in his evacuation. He was dropped off on the I-10 highway with a family he had befriended over these difficult days.

After the chaos that took place on the I-10 and a nice nights rest on the bridge, the officials responsible for taking care of their citizens finally established some sort of plan.   On Thursday, hundreds of buses began pouring into the city.  Considered one of the lucky ones, he was able to get on one of the first buses out of the city and Clark ultimately made it to Houston.  Where, coincedentialy, the rest of his family had relocated because of the storm.

But the REAL strength of this story isn't that he survived. The true strength is that he never forgot where he was from, and was quick to return to New Orleans.  (People 'coming back' to the city of New Orleans was a recurring theme I heard and experienced while in town

He's currently seeking a double degree (law & urban planning) and is an intern for a local non-profit that supports the Local Independent community in New Orleans. And how did he get that job? He found THEM and asked how he could get involved....because he cares about his community.  And Clark knew that working to support the Local Independent community would help it heal and rebulid faster.  And, if done right, could create an even stronger New Orleans in the future.

Clark - I thank you for your strength, your dedication to your community and your hospitality. I will keep your experiences in my heart for as long as it beats...and when I wonder if I have the strength to do something, I'll think of you.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009 / Labels:

Hardwick, Vermont.

I'm back home now, and have been advised by a number of people to sleep and start fresh tomorrow, but I am feeling motivated, if not exhausted, through showing my friends and housemates some of this content so I want to share at least some of it with you now.

I briefly touched on Hardwick, Vermont in a post from the BALLE conference....but their story needs to be told here in a significant way, so here goes.


Hardwick, Vermont is a special place. The people there are welcoming, helpful (esp to an outsider)....and some of the most dynamic business people I've ever met. Sustainable agriculture, slow food...these are the buzzwords. Now I'd like you to meet the people who are turning those concepts into action, and succeeding.

From Hardwick, Vermont

Andrew Meyer
Co-owner Vermont Soy
Owner - Vermont Natural Coatings
 ...and relief milker

I spoke about "full circle" earlier in this blog, and Andrew is yet another example. I was first introduced to the story of Hardwick at the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston's 20th annual conference.

He told a story about a small town in Vermont that was innovating and 'rebuilding their economy to be based around Sustainable Agriculture'. And this community is doing just that. A town of about 3,000 people, along with 8 communities surrounding (a whopping 10,000 now), Hardwick has become a center for entrepreneurism, sustainable living and international inspiration and attention. Hardwick is a town nearly abandoned 70 years ago by the flight of the Granite industry, and passed over by gentrification and sprawl, has become an incubator and a thriving community of innovation.

Here's Andrew's interview (sorry, the lighting is off, hopefully I can fix it soon)

From Hardwick, Vermont

Tom Stearns
President - High Mowing Seeds
President - Center for an Agricultural Economy.

Tom was one of the Keynote Speakers @ the BALLE conference and after meeting Andrew and hearing Tom, I knew that I had to make it to Hardwick once I got back to New England. Tom is eloquent and down to earth and really takes his role, as someone people can learn from, seriously but with a light spirit. He knows that people all around the world are looking at Hardwick and how a circle of about 25 entrepreneurs, all under 40 and none with MBAs, have changed the face of their community. Though things like:

--Lending each other almost $600,000 to support smaller investments and strengthen weak or seasonal cash flows.

--Creating the Center for an Agricultural Economy and facilitating the implementation of numerous food and agriculture related programs in town.

--Supporting the formation of a Community Supported Restaurant. Claire's was opened after Linda (also the owner of Galaxy Bookstore, the indie bookstore downtown) and some partners raised $500,000 by issuing $1000 "gift certificates" to investors. These certificates are redeemable over a 4 year period, with a small stipend each week. People here almost always outspend their stipend. Sadly, Claire's is closed on Wednesday, the day I was there :(

And of course, they're hyper local in their food sourcing. The chef proudly told me that they averaged 70% of spending on ingredients from within 15 miles in year 1, and that the 1st three months of this year (Jan-Mar), they were at 79%....and those are supposed to be the tough months. And you guessed it, Steven is now helping the farmers plan future crop cycles so that they can get even more locally (they're trying Garbanzo beans right now)....this reciprocal relationship allows for the growth of both businesses. 

--They know people are watching and they've embraced that role admirably. In his interview, Tom talks about how they know they are ahead of a lot of places in building something sustainable and equitable, and so when they are approached they're welcoming, accomodating and seem genuinely happy to see you interested in their work. 

What a magical place....we've got a lot to learn from them, and they seem happy to teach.

Here's both of Tom's clips again:


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Tuesday, June 2, 2009 / Labels:

When Gentilly needed her...

....she was there.

From Nola
Miss T of The JuJu Bag Cafe & Salon - Gentilly, LA
The fences are 9 feet high in the patio area, so people can't see any devastation around them and can feel at peace

This is Miss T (aka Tommye Myrick,Center for African and African-American Studies @ Southern University & noted Actor & Director). Miss T, in many ways, epitomizes the strength and spirit of the Local Independent community in America. Her story is truly amazing and inspiring, and it comes from a city for which many, including me, have a special place in their heart.

Dana, my colleague and fellow organizer in New Orleans said that Nola has the unfortunate distinction of having experienced Ecological AND Economic disaster on a scale few of us can imagine, let alone understand. But to hear Miss T speak about The JuJu Bag Cafe & Salon and what it has meant (and does mean) to the Gentilly community is utterly astounding. If the second part of her interview doesn't at least give you goosebumps, you're either not human or you have no heart.

Quoting: "This place became a sanctuary and a place for you to find comfort. And we have never asked anyone to leave...we close at 3:00 O'Clock but if customers are here, they stay and we stay.  At 5 O'clock they're still here...we're still here.  At 7 O'clock, they're still here...I tell my workers, you can go...I'm here.  We never ask anyone to leave."

....and I don't know if she'll EVER know how much her message to you, meant to me.  If you've read or followed the story to this point, you may have seen that before I got to Nola, I was doubting myself, worrying that I'd made a mistake by embarking on this journey, thinking that maybe it wasn't worth it after all.  And then, as if speaking to the core of my fears and doubts, reassured me.  "Follow your first instinct.  Your first instinct is always right.  It's God's way of telling you that's what you're supposed to do."

Thank you Miss T, for all that you are, all that you do....and for helping me follow my instincts.

the phone rings loudly during part of the first segment....when i get back home I'll be working with a friend to improve the audio quality and chop the responses into smaller pieces.

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Talk about full circle...and I'm not even done yet!

I'm starting to get the sense that this 'ride through New England' is going to bring many things full circle.

I'm currently on the way from Providence to Manchester Center, VT and needed a place to stop along the way that was local and served good local food and beer....my route takes me through Worcester and......wait a second, I know a place!!! So here I am @ Armsby Abbey @ again....drinking local beer, ordering a second choice cuz the Jerk Sandwich was too popular and the farm season is changing (I went with the Roast Beef sandwich and it rocks).

I'm so happy to be back in New England (and away from the 700+ mile trips). And I'm also so happy to be able to report back to the entrepreneurs and organizers here....that we're winning. I just told an analogy off the cuff to the owners of the Abbey (Alex & Sherry...remember Sherry?) that our movement is like a pine forest....the needles keep collecting and growing and connecting...and then one day a program or project or initiative will be a spark., whether it be the 10% Shift, or Shift Across America or something that has yet to be conceived....and it will ignite, and there will be no going back to the way things were.

And right about now, that sounds like a pretty awesome thing to me.

More content comin' when I get to Vermont

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The Shift is Coming, The Shift is Coming

I've got 10 minutes to write this while waiting for a couple of my interview subjects in Mystic, so pardon the rushed nature of the writing. Also, we're way behind on posting updates, but I hope to have New Orleans and a surprise guest up tonight.

Ok, so maybe it's self-aggrandizing to compare what we're doing to Paul Revere's ride, but I think the parallels are there. He rode long distances proclaiming a message to his fellow brothers and sisters. His was a message of readiness: prepare yourselves, the enemy is here.

Ours is also a message of preparedness, but this time we speak not of Redcoats and War...this time you should be ready for positive and transformative change. That's the message I'm taking back to my brothers and sisters in New England. That what I have seen is the most remarkable and hopeful story, beyond even my expectations.

I don't know what will create that long sought after tipping point for this movement. Maybe its the Local Works study, maybe the 10% Shift, maybe Shift Across America or something someone hasn't even thought of yet. But I believe, in my heart of hearts, that it WILL come and WILL happen.

This week, GM filed for Bankruptcy and we took another collective mental hit. But the way I see it...every time we hear about what failed or what did not work, we (collectively) strengthen our resolve to find something better, something that will work.

Local economies, sustainable and equitable communities....they work. The Shift is coming, it's just a matter of time.


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Monday, June 1, 2009 / Labels:

Literally from Coast to Coast

As I drove over the bridge entering Charleston, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean (I think anyway)....two oceans in less than a week...pretty good :)

I'm spent from a long drive, but today I met with Danny Cottrell (aka The $2 Dollar Pharmacist or Creator of the People's Stimulus). His story will amaze you and touch your heart, but I'm too tired to tell it right now....we'll see him in a day or two.

For now, I'm going to post the interview with Vicki Pozzebon, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Alliance, who have over 600 Local Independent and Non-Profit Members. She's done great work there and I love her attitude :)  

I'm also including this album of photo's from New Orleans:



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Saturday, May 30, 2009 / Labels:

The spirit and energy of New Orleans

Consider the wall broken through. New Orleans was my savior, has got me back on track and has re-instilled my faith that this was all happening for a reason....just like yesterday was a test of my faith and determination :)

I'll post the interviews later, but let me say that I am incredibly lucky to be here and even luckier to have had access to the actual community members who have lived through the changes over the past couple years:

--My host Dana from The Urban Conservancy not only gave me a place to stay, but she also brought me to Oak Street (a neighborhood very different from the French Quarter and the other touristy places). There I saw a thriving strip of local independent businesses. What's really amazing is how they tend to grow together....when the used bookstore ( xxx ) grew too big for its crows nest, it moved into ( xxx ), who's former tenant had grown too big and moved into another building on the block.

--I got to meet Norma from The Queen of the Ball....I've learned about how famous Snoballs are here in Nola (it's all about the ice...who wants to open a stand in Somerville???). What was even more amazing was her story about how she lost her vintage clothing business to Ike & Katrina, including a whole plethora of sentimental pieces. After a couple of months of mourning, she decided to open up a completely different business. She said: "I wanted to open a place where people could come and feel happy. I knew I would be here for 8-12 hours per day, so I wanted to be happy as well....but really, I just wanted somewhere for the community to go and forget about their troubles for a minute."

--We checked out Merlin's, a NEW business opened post-Katrina. After interviewing Merlin, I met Miss T....wow.

Miss T opened Juju Bag Cafe and Salon about 1 year ago. She's an academic scholar, a renowned actress and director in the local theater scene, she's been a community organizer and activist for many years....and now an entrepreneur. She talked about how she and her partner wanted to open a salon and bookstore, but how what they really are doing is creating a place for people in the community to come together and get what they asked for: "we want a place to sit! what about food?!? what about wi-fi?!? ....so that's what we gave them."

Her message, by the way, was for me as much as anyway...."Follow your instincts! They are almost always right."

Thank you New Orleans, the rest of the trip should be a breeze :)


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Day 13 (Phoenix)

I was excited to get to Arizona.  As you know, they had some guy from their state just run for some office...he lost.  They're an independent type of state, but certainly with a conservative bent.  They also boast close to 2,000 members in Local First Arizona.  

A lot of times, people think this Movement is in place only on the left.  What I thought going in, and what I'm showing with the subjects that I've interviewed so far, is that it doesn't matter if you call yourself a liberal, a conservative, a moderate, an independent or an anarchist....when it comes to associating value to the Local Independent community, we can find common ground.

There are so many issues used to divide us against ourselves.  These set of issues, however, serve as a way to unite us.  And right about now, that's a really good thing. (as I wrote this I laughed at myself....when is uniting for a better world a bad thing exactly??? :)


The City

Phoenix had some interesting things going on that I knew little to nothing about:

--It's the 5th largest US City
--It's SPRAWLED out covering a ton of acreage
--It's a VERY "new" city....their oldest buildings are 50-60 years old, so it's lacking some of the history and ingrained culture one sees in east coast cities
--In fact, one common theme among the subjects was that Phoenix, for a long time, had no identity or culture as a city.  But things seem to be changing and residents are starting to identify themselves as being 'from' Phoenix, instead of their prior home/place they grew up.
--It's as hot as you know what...oh wait, I knew that

Here is an interview with Kimber Lanning, Director of Loacl First Arizona and owner of an indie music store (YAY!) called Stinkweeds.  If I had to describe Kimber, I'd first think of a Firecracker, and then realize that's not even close.....so let's call her Kimber Dynamite.

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Friday, May 29, 2009 / Labels:

This has been my last 4 days

View My Last 4 Days in a larger map

From Tuesday @ 11 AM PST to right now (Saturday @ 2:30 CST)
  • Over 2,600 miles and approx 40 hours of driving
  • 17 Interviews including the Mayor of Santa Fe and one of the founders of SXSW in Austin
  • An untold number of caffeinated beverages
  • ...the list goes on and on

Needless to say, it has not been easy....I've sort of hit a wall like a marathon runner (so I hear anyway) both, from a pure exhaustion standpoint, and emotionally. This has been an amazingly inspiring experience so far, but its also a bit draining....not to mention many of my personal and Somerville Local First affairs are just not getting the time they need....as I said in my status update to my friends tonight....I hope this is all worth it.

Anyhow, now that I've vented, let's get to what you're really here for....the story of The Shift Across America.


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Thursday, May 28, 2009 /

Jody Colley (Publisher - East Bay Express - Oakland/Berkeley)

I am not one to be effusive with praise....I value appreciation and offer it often, but rarely to I heap praise upon one individual to the point where I sound like I'm gushing. For many reasons, Jody is one of the few people it happens with. Why you ask??? Well, let's see:

--She bought a newspaper (A NEWSPAPER!) two years ago and turned an alternative news source back into an INDIE alternative news source (She talks in her interview about how the first thing they did was re-establish business relationships with local contractors and suppliers). And the business is performing well, by the way, especially in that industry.

--As you can hear in her interview, she thought of an idea about spending $100 of your budget @ Local Independents for the holiday one sunday night and within 3 weeks she had 80 markets running the piece.

--She was TOTALLY the spark that ignited the relationships I am now so happy to be fostering with Indie Media all around the country, specifically with my peeps @ the Weekly Dig.

--She has been the connector (I KEEP hearing that word throughout this project) that sparked new collaborations and dialogue between many community organizaitons all over the Bay Area.

--She kinda captures it all...she's a business owner, she's in media, she's an organizer, I even saw photographs of hers that make me think she's an artist....and now she's totally and completely embarrassed :D

So with no further ado...

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009 /

Day 11 & 12 (Oakland/San Francisco/Berkeley)

I have about 30 minutes to get this posted while sitting at Lux coffeehouse in Phoenix. I'm going to try to do a quick recap and some photos now, and then post the interviews later tonight in Santa Fe.

If you've been there, you know there's no way to accurately paint a picture of the Bay area, or California for that matter, in 36 hours. But that said, I was left with a few very specific impressions:

--Much like Buffalo, Oakland has the potential and infrastructure for growth! The city was planned to death, with neighborhoods being torn apart by freeways. But they are coming back. I met Tina "Tamale" Ramos, an entrepreneur from Oakland who's family business is in year 64. Her restaurant and market has been a hub and meeting place for the neighborhood and, from the looks of it, she's not going anywhere.

--San Fran was all it was cracked up to be. Hipsters, ethnic, cafes playing music at night with revolution in the air (we literally went to a place called Cafe Revolution which you can see in the slide show). We ate at a Restauarant called Chow that had the words 'sustainable', 'local' and 'organic' all over their menu. All their beers on tap were local (ps - Great White is DELICIOUS!)

--California as a whole, however, was really troubling. After I got out of the mountains past Nevada, the sprawl/car/smog reality set it. It was really depressing. California has such beautiful landscapes....but I couldn't or could just barely see them on the horizon. It's the first place in America that I experienced that (first time in my life for that matter) and it really drove home the point about our need for sustainable and green changes (btw - I realize that by driving this whole way I'm contributing to the problem, but we have some plans to mitigate that which I'll discuss later in the project.

--Last point for now. Before a couple years ago, I couldn't claim one living hero. All my heroes were dead. I have to say that my involvement in this movement has given me access to some of the most incredible people in the world. Jody Colley of the East Bay Express is one of those individuals. She'll hate me for saying it (not really), but Jody is absolutely a living hero of mine. She's a connector, and entrepreneur, an organizer and a voice for those who have none. We'll meet her and learn about her incredible work in the Indie media soon.

So here are some images from Day 1....mostly taken in San Fran:

Alright, I headed off to do more interviews....i'm meeting the organizer of "No Pants Day" in Phoenix @ 2:00...that should be fun :)


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Monday, May 25, 2009 /

Michael Shuman

From Denver & The BALLE Conference

BALLE, Director of Public Polciy & Research

An economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur, Michael has authored, coauthored, or edited seven books, including The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition (Berrett-Koehler, 2006) and Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in the Global Age (Free Press, 1998). The Small-Mart Revolution was awarded a bronze medal for best business book by the Independent Publishers' Association. In recent years, Michael has led community-based economic-development efforts in St. Lawrence County (NY), Hudson Valley (NY), Katahdin Region (ME), Martha's Vineyard (MA), and Carbondale (CO), and served as a senior editor for the recently published Encyclopedia of Community. He has given an average of more than one invited talk per week for 25 years throughout the United States and the world. (Source:  BALLE)

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Some Interviews from the BALLE Conference

Here are some video interviews with folks from the BALLE Conference.

From Denver & The BALLE Conference

Tom Stearns - High Mowing Seeds & The Center for an Agricultural Economy

Tom began gardening at an early age at his family home in CT.  Prior to completing a degree in Sustainable Agriculture at Prescott College in AZ, he began saving seeds.  In 1996 in Vermont, Tom began sharing these seeds with others through a small seed flyer.  High Mowing Organic Seeds has since expanded into one of the leading organic seed companies in the U.S., supplying both home gardeners and commercial growers.  Tom has served on the board of several agricultural organizations, most notably as the current President of The Center for an Agricultural Economy.  

(From BALLE Conference Bio....also, from hanging out with Tom, he's an awesome guy and a lot of fun....not uncommon among these world changers.)

Video Interview Part 1:  Coming soon

Video Interview Part 2, includig his message to you:

From Denver & The BALLE Conference

Woody Tasch - Slow Money
Slow Money is a 501 c 3 formed in 2008 to catalyze the flow if investment capital to small food enterprises and to promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility to support sustainable agriculture and th emergence of a restorative economy.  Tasch is Chairman Emeritus of Investors' Circle, a netwoork of angel investors, family offices, and social purpose funds and foundations that has ivested $133 Million in 200 early stage sustainability-promoting ventures and venture funds, since 1992.  During much of the 1990's, Woody was Treasurer of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation.  He is the author of the recently published: Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered.
(From BALLE Conference Bio)

Here is his video interview: Coming Soon

Here is his message to you: 

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Day 8-11 (Leaving Denver and Getting to the Bay)

The last day of the BALLE conference was awash with energy. People really feel like this is our time, that the world is ready, open and already listening to our message of sustainability and equity. There are also growing pains. As organizations grow, more and more personalities become involved, more egos, more feelings.

If anything were to prevent us from success, it will be these growing pains and interpersonal challenges. However, I am hopeful of, and committed to, these being challenges and not failure modes.

What was great about the last day was that I got to speak to some nationally known thought leaders. Below you will find clips from Michael Shuman, Woody Tasch and David Korten. These brilliant minds have helped us frame our issues, think about our potential solutions and offer hope through their words and wisdom.


Let me also say that these rides are a little tougher than I thought they'd be. Not having a co-pilot and doing all the driving leaves my eyes kinda bugged out by the last hour almost every time.

To Salt Lake:
I left Denver after we delivered our final presentation on the 10% Shift. People were energized, excited and looking for ways to participate. I have faith that this program will soon spread nationwide! I hit a bunch of thunderstorms on the way from Denver to Salt Lake...symbolic of all the energy that surrounded this conference. As I said in my presentation: We are winning...and we will win!

In Salt Lake, there was a whole row of chain hotels, and being slightly unorganized (as I have been on this trip unfortunately) I didn't have reservations ahead of time. So I drove around looking for a local option. Let's just say that I'm glad I didn't get bed bugs from my choice!

To Oakland/San Francisco:
This was probably my favorite ride so far. In one day, I saw the Salt Flats, a Dust Devil and the tree and snow lined Nevada/California mountains...awesome. What was NOT awesome is what I saw after I got in to Cali and got out of the mountains. As I told the friends I met here in the Bay, after the mountains all I saw were "Cars, Highways, Sprawl and Smog". Sorry California, but until I got to the Bay it looks like you need the most change of any state I have seen.

I'm off to do laundry (its piled up at this point), continue to post content throughout th eday and then check out San Fran with some friends.

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Friday, May 22, 2009 / Labels:

Day 7 (Denver)

So I'm a week in, I still can't figure out how to condense and edit videos effectively, I was supposed to get the debit card for my trip at the hotel by today (didn't happen) and the next two weeks are a really daunting task (this looked so much better on paper!). Not to mention I still haven't fully funded the project.


We, my friends, are onto something here. These stories of hope and inspiration that are being told and the heart-centered messages from the leaders around the country are powerful....and what people have been telling me is true: nobody is telling them. When we're done, I think that the body of work will speak for itself.

The movement is NOT coming, its HERE. We're winning on the ground level in communities rich and poor. And we will never go back to the way things were...at least we hope not.

I'll try to post a more detailed update about today's events later, but here are the highlights so far:

---David Korten, Michael Shuman and Woody Tasch have all said they'd be willing to do an interview if we have the time. WOOOOOT!
---I also may be able to interview every founder of BALLE, which would be an amazing coup.
---I got to hear David Korten present today for the first time....awesome
---I heard about a Cooperative Business model, following Mondragon from the Basque Region of Spain, that is developing in Santa Fe.
---I interviewed Arthur, an entrepreneur and founding member of the Mile High Business Alliance (our host for the conference) and got to interact with their director....she's AWESOME!
---We had our network break out session with BALLE where they presented their strategic vision and we, as network leaders, offered feedback and direction.

***I'm now officially late for happy hour with some of the best and brightest....gotta run. Tonight we'll interview Cacheflowe and check out the electronic music scene in Denver.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 / Labels:

Images of Denver

A collection of images from my time in Denver so far

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Day 6 - The BALLE Conference

From Denver & The BALLE Conference

What a perfect sign to be outside our hotel :D

Today was the Pre-Conference day in Denver.   I coordinated with the director in Santa Fe, she's psyched for my visit and says she can line up the Mayor for an interview...sweet.  Phoenix and San Fran/Oakland are also set, which makes life a bit easier for me. 

One of the best parts of the day was getting to meet Jody Colley, publisher of the East Bay Express, in person for the first time.  Jody has been instrumental in helping me build the strong relationships I now have in the Alternative Media and is a true superstar.  She was the driving force behind a national story run in something like 80 markets asking people to spend $100 at Local Independent businesses.   I'm so lucky to be connectd to her.  We'll be meeting her soon in the Bay area.

Laury & I presented the 10% Shift in the afternoon.  People were loving it, seeing what tremendous potential this program has to offer.  I spoke to a colleague from Wisconsin later in the night who said it got her 'fired up'.  Laury & I have a tendency to do that when we present together :)

After heading back to the hotel and getting some content together (still can't find a video editor that works and is not incredibly slow....this is making it really difficult to post videos longer than 10 minutes and ones that are taken at a 90 degree angle), I headed to the opening reception.  We heard the Mayor of Denver who seemed to get it, and he was an entrepreneur of a local business before his time in politics - plus.  After some 'speed networking' with other network leaders and dinner, we heard from two keynote speakers.  Both of them come from a place I'm not dealing with much on this trip - small town America....and their stories were incredible.

June Holley helped support the growth and development of HUNDREDS of business in the Appalachian Ohio region through her incredible understanding of Networks and their power.  She was living and creating the Tipping Point 25 years ago.  She introduced a great concept of a community being "Rhizomatic", like a Ginger root, where every node is a spot for new roots to grow.

Tom Sterns is the second person from Hardwick Vermont that I've heard speak in the last 2 weeks.  Yes, the trip is telling me I have to go there and with good reason.  Tom and a group of entrepreneurs are becoming an internationally recognized model for reforming a local economy into one based around sustainability and agriculture.  We'll see them towards the end of our trip, but I'll leave you with this:  Like Buffalo, both Hardiwck and the neighborhoods of Appalachian Ohio have the buildings to thrive in the downtown areas, but they have/had fallen into disprepair.  In Hardwick, there were four such properities, beautiful pieces of architecture that nobody wanted.  You could buy a mansion for $100k.  That was two years ago, before this economic crisis we keep hearing about.  Tom told us tonight that all four of those properties are now sold, to local people, who are rennovating and reinvesting to build their home there.

....I can't wait to see for myself.

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Susan Taylor (Capital District Local First)

Note:  I forgot to take a still image of Susan, and don't have time to figure out how to do one from a video, so here's an embedded video of her interview instead :)

Political affiliation
Democrat - Leftie

Agnostic tending towards Atheism


Job Title

Book Seller / Events & Marketing Director for the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza and the Market Block Books in Troy, NY
Role in Community
well, I guess my role is to recommend good books for people to read and to see that authors both local and non-local get to present their books in our independent book stores. Book store actually, someone else does that for Market Block. I get authors in and get them publicized. And also to support the local businesses that give me what I need, whether it's Spill'n The Beans Coffee Shop next door to the Market Block or the Beneful Bed (sp?) next to the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza or going out to hear live music or reading Metroland the alternative news weekly in the Capital District. Whatever it is I try to go for the local option rather than homogenized national option.

What is your relationship with the Local Indie Community
I am the president of the board of Capital District Local First. I got back into taking knitting classes at the Beauknits yarn store in Cohoes, NY, which is not a member of our local network, but I still went there to learn how to knit. So I went there and was introduced to all these women who knit and crochet and spin and they are the most welcoming community one could ever hope to find.
So I hooked up with these women and through them I decided that I was going to start a knitting group at the bookhouse every second Friday of the month so that we get more people from the knitting community into the bookstore. I started a book group at the book house so once a month we read a book and customers come in and discuss the books with us.  We go to board meetings at Flavor CafĂ©.  They are a member of our network so it’s nice to support a member. 

If your local indie community was an Animal, what would it be and why?
I have to say a platypus and the reason would be because it’s 4 different counties and they all seem to be different things. So we don’t know if we are a mammal or a duck or something else. But we do exist together.

Can you talk about a time when a local business went away and how it affected your life?
Well, I am really sorry that there aren’t any local independent music stores anymore. There is a last vestige in Albany and Saratoga. They do used and new stuff but not as much new stuff as I would like. ...

What one piece of advice from your organizing can you share with the other people and organizations who will see this?
Be persistent. Don’t give up. Things will eventually happen. You just have to keep going. It not like going through the “valley of darkness” but seriously you just need to think that eventually things will come together. You just keep on going keep on going. I can’t remember who the quote is from, I am going to say Winston Churchill but I’m probably wrong “when you find yourself going through hell, keep on going”.

If you had a message to deliver to all the other organizations and people who are part of this movement, what would it be?
Practice what you preach. Everybody has a little bit of local in them. They really don’t have a choice. Everybody was raised somewhere, everybody lives somewhere and everybody works somewhere. And you never hear anybody say: “You know, really, when I retire what I wanna do is I wanna go live in a place that only has big box stores. I wanna live in a place whose streets are lined with parking lots and huge ugly architecture. Huge anonymous ugly architecture. So that I can drive from place to place and buy the cheapest plastic crap possible.”
**A BIG thank you to Polina for her transcription help on this.  For those in the Boston area, check out SubRoots @ Common Ground in Allston every Wednesday night.

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