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The Power of Place

I have just returned from the annual BALLE conference in Buffalo, NY, dubbed by Businessweek as “a Davos for Main Street.” It was a fantastic meeting. Several long-time members of these annual gatherings described this one as a watershed that felt different and opened up new spaces of connection and possibility. "What is it that made this one different?" I asked.

Here are some of the themes that I heard folks describe in answering this question and in reflecting on the meeting as a whole:

• Linking the new economy and the local economy with the deeper issues of personal transformation and spirituality
• Treating the whole set of acupuncture points that the new economy movement is focusing on (money, food, place, ownership, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, collaborative consumption, etc.) as a set of interrelated issues that need to be addressed as a whole
• Linking the discourse of economic transformation with the transformation and evolution of economy theory from “ego-system awareness” (neoclassical economic theory) to “eco-system awareness” (something that we try to articulate in our new book, which was also launched at this event)
• Reconstructing the evolution of the economy and the evolution of economic thought as the embodiment of an evolving consciousness from ego-system to eco-system awareness.

The speakers at the meeting were extremely inspiring. Janine Benyus, founder of Biomimicry 3.8, talked about ecological performance standards for cities and about safe, circular, local productions. Judy Wicks, co-founder of BALLE, talked about two patterns of growth: as an invasive species (examples: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola) or as a place-based eco-system that builds self-reliance and resilience for all (example: Zingerman). Nipun Mehta, founder of ServiceSpace, shared some amazing stories that exemplify the transformative power of generative generosity. Michelle Long, executive director of BALLE, talked about the “me to we” movement, about leading through love — changing the world by opening your heart. Eileen Fisher, founder of Eileen Fisher Inc., talked about the power of awakening the deeper sources creativity as a new starting point for change that puts individual transformation first.

And on and on… A wonderful web of connections. And yes, this meeting tells all of us that something very important is happening on planet earth right now. It’s a moment of slowing down and sometimes disruption that creates a new space of awareness among, around, and within us. This moment calls for our attention… now!

We will take all these sparks — and others from other countries — to the next level of manifestation at our upcoming Global Presencing Forum on Transforming Ego-system to Eco-system Economies here in Boston at MIT. We are in the final stage of figuring out the date and will announce it in about a week or two.

This blog was originally posted to the Otto Scharmer site, and appears here with permission.

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Dr. C. Otto Scharmer is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and founding chair of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program, and co-founded the Global Wellbeing and Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab. He also is a vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Leadership Models. He introduced the concept of “presencing” — learning from the emerging future — in his bestselling books Theory U and Presence (the latter co-authored with P. Senge, J. Jaworski, and B. S. Flowers), which have been translated into 15 languages. More information about Scharmer and his work can be found at: and

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