Local Self-Reliance is Foundation for Change

They say that change begins at home, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is all about making change at the home front, locally or regionally.

The American organization believes in what they call the ARC of community: Authority, Responsibility, Capacity. Authority gives meaning to democracy, Responsibility prevents chaos, and a productive Capacity allows the management of affairs and the building of strong communities.

They don’t equate local self-reliance with self-sufficiency, but encourage addressing problems holistically and by using local resources.

"About the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
The Institute’s mission is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs; to maximize human, material, natural and financial resources; and to ensure that the benefits of these systems and resources accrue to all local citizens.

Since 1974, ILSR has championed local self-reliance, a strategy that underscores the need for humanly scaled institutions and economies and the widest possible distribution of ownership. (For more on ILSR’s history click here. For ILSR’s most recent Annual Report click here.)

The United States has always emphasized the individual and deemphasized the community. From the cradle onwards we are taught that whenever “we” becomes as important as “me,” whenever the social becomes as important as the individual, we are heading down a slippery slope toward tyranny and misery.

This harsh American emphasis on individualism has always been tempered by the historical presence of extended families, of ethnic neighborhoods, of family farms, of small towns—places where people know when you’re born and care when you die. But in the last two generations we have moved more often and farther and our neighborhood based gathering places have been severely diminished.

Decisions are made in an unintelligible and inaccessible process remote from the people and places that will feel their impact. Little by little, we have lost our sense of mutual aid and cooperation. Fewer than half of all adult Americans now regard the idea of sacrifice for others as a positive moral virtue.

Some view this decline in the importance of territorial communities as an inevitable consequence of modernity. But this theory of the inevitable decline of community implies that public policy has been neutral on the issue. It has not.

For half a century Democratic and Republican administrations have consistently pursued policies that disabled rather than enabled compact, strong, and productive communities.

Urban renewal programs literally bulldozed hundreds of inner-city neighborhoods. Federal housing programs encouraged suburban sprawl. Federal policies have encouraged centralized technologies like garbage incineration and high voltage transmission lines while more modestly support decentralized strategies like maximizing recycling and composting and reuse or the use of highly decentralized energy sources. Federal tax and regulatory policies encouraged leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers that shuffled hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate assets and forced tens of thousands of workers to abandon their communities in search of jobs."


A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization

Federal Identification Number (EIN): 46-3416157

P.O. Box 6654
San Rafael, CA 94903