Erin Petersen
Words to live by

Be Good, Go Local

By - Aug 17th, 2010 04:00 am
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Julie Courtright, founder of BeGoodGoLocal

What exactly does it mean to be “good?” Is it lending that cup of sugar to your neighbors, recycling or buying your veggies from the local farmer’s market instead of the big-box grocery chain?

If you ask Julie Courtright, being good encompasses all of those things — but it also means taking those concepts and applying them on a larger scale.

Whether you’re a baker or website developer, Julie Courtright wants you to think about how you can translate those talents into something that will make a difference in the community. She launched, last spring as a vehicle to highlight good things happening locally, and to have a little fun with it along the way.

In this case, GOOD means things like environmental stewardship, social responsibility and buying local. But this is not just about applying these things to your daily life — this movement, and Julie’s vision with BGGL– is about making these concepts accessible to our communities and creating meaningful experiences in the process.

“GOOD is about things like urban agriculture, wind farms, sustainability,” she says, “Not just “good” in terms of say, helping an old lady cross the road, but exploring how you can use your own unique skills to improve the world.”

Courtright has spent the better part of a decade working as a fundraiser and grant writer for various non-profits in Milwaukee, which has helped her to realize the importance of philanthropy– and she doesn’t mean writing a check. She’s talking about pure people power.

BGGL is still very much in its infancy — at this point, it’s more a landing pad for ideas and an online gathering place for like-minded folks.

“It’s a social network, built on ideas,'” she says, “I think going local is important…I wanna get to know who my neighbors are, and I want to have fun in the process.”

In April, Julie  launched PogoLocal within the site, using pogoing as a way to engage people in GOOD initiatives. She jokes that over the past few months, she’s become an excellent pogo-er, but says that it’s a great conversation starter. She’s hosted pogo parades with The Milwaukee Art Reform Syndicate through the Third Ward and also with Stone Creek Coffee to raise awareness for “A Day Without Shoes.”

The inspiration for the site was born in part from examples of corporate social responsibility — like Architecture for Humanity, in which designers and architects create sustainable, low-income housing in struggling communities. Or industry giants like IBM, who developed free, open-source software to assist in disaster clean-up efforts after the Sri Lanka tsunami, and which has since been implemented in Indonesia, Pakistan and Haiti.

She also cites the innovative (and yet refreshingly simple) approach to civic engagement taken by PieLab, which essentially turns the act of sharing a meal (in this case, dessert) into a forum for community activism. Instead of communicating via lengthy online diatribes, the people at PieLab meet face-to-face to have real conversations over slices of homemade pie, whereupon they are able to address needs and concerns. The person-to-person aspect not only helps remove barriers to access, it has also empowered people to do something in their own neighborhoods.

In Milwaukee, there is definitely evidence of the GOOD movement. It can be found at places like Growing Power or Sweetwater Organics, at artist’s collectives and local boutiques or cafés and restaurants committed to the slow food/locavore crusade.

But the enthusiastic dreamer in Courtright wants to see more.  She wonders what could be achieved if some of these organizations not only worked with each other, but teamed with with individual designers, architects, teachers, etc.? Over the next year, her focus is to get some of these ideas and  projects off the ground — like her own incarnation of PieLab– but first, she has to build the network and make more connections.

“I don’t think a lot of us feel empowered that we can make a difference,” she says, “I started BGGL to start the conversation, and to find ways to plug in and help bring the people who are doing good together. ”

She’ll put her do-good matchmaking skills to work tonight at Pecha Kucha #8, which BeGoodGoLocal is co-sponsoring. The evening’s speakers are all Milwaukeeans working toward the greater good in green initiatives, non-profits, social justice, and even programs that help high school students get to college.

Courtright hopes that the event will spur collabortations among the presenters and those in attendance. In a nutshell, the event is really what BGGL is all about — meeting people, sharing ideas and turning those conversations into action…and having a good time while you’re at it.

“You have to make the connection between the skills that are out there, and the skills that are needed,” she says, “ that’s how to make a difference.”

BeGoodGoLocal will co-sponsor Pecha Kucha #8, happening tonight from 8-11 p.m. at Sugar Maple. For more info on presenters, click here.

0 thoughts on “Words to live by: Be Good, Go Local”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Julie is one smart young lady !
    Wishing great things for her BGGL initiative,

    An Admirer from her home state of Florida, Aubrey Lunsford

  2. Anonymous says:

    Now if we can figure a way for the state government to copy this plan at a broader level. I’ll work on it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What a great idea–civic good and community dialog without excessive infrastructure. Grass roots good.

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