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The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has worked to promote an equitable, sustainable, democratic and prosperous future from the bottom up. We call this vision local self-reliance.

For ILSR, local self-reliance does not mean self-sufficiency. Even nations are not self- sufficient. But they are self-conscious and self-governing and capable of tracking and influencing the flow of resources through their borders.

Local self-reliance is achieved by addressing problems holistically and maximizing the value from local resources – human, natural and financial.

Throughout history, innovation has bubbled up from below: democracy itself; cooperatives; minimum wage and maximum hour laws; universal health insurance; building safety standards; automobile efficiency standards; renewable energy mandates. All were initiated not from the federal level but from the state or local level.

ILSR largely, although not exclusively, targets urban areas. That is where 80 percent of Americans (and half the world’s population) live and work, and where significant political and financial authority resides.

Local governments are on the front lines in dealing with social problems and in nurturing innovation.

The federal government can appropriate highway funds, but local governments must deal with potholes, a problem whose collective cost to Americans in car repairs may be greater than the savings from new highways in reduced travel times. The federal government can provide incentives for renewable energy, but states and cities will write the rules that enable or disable the introduction of renewable energy on a wide scale. In a period of severe economic contraction, cities and neighborhoods are on the front lines in dealing with increased domestic violence and overloaded public hospital emergency rooms and the unrest that comes from increased unemployment.