Building the B Corp Community Through Local Collaboration

December 13, 2023

How B Local Events Help B Corp Communities Foster Inclusive Economies and Innovation

B Locals are tapping into the power of connection and collaboration among Certified B Corporations. These place-based communities offer local activities and development opportunities to help build an economy that works for all. 

These include B Corp Leadership Development (BLD) events that have a common goal of shared learning and networking. Typically organized by volunteers, BLDs aim to build the B Corp community by including people from partner organizations, local businesses, and B Corps. 

“Attending a BLD conference and plugging into your B Local is one of the best ways to engage with B Corps in the region where you live or work,” said Rose Lavelle, Senior B Local Program Manager at B Lab U.S. & Canada. “The B Corp community will vary depending on where you are because they’re made up of a unique group of companies, and the BLD events reflect the culture and community where they’re hosted.”

With sessions tailored to meet local needs such as protecting the Great Lakes, tapping into a diverse workforce, or advancing reconciliation with Indigenous communities, BLDs spread the word about inclusive, sustainable practices and policies. BLD leaders seek continual improvement as they incorporate feedback and lessons from previous events. 

“B Corps are eager to learn from one another and share the good work they’re doing. Attending a BLD event will leave you with a sense of community, with new or more robust relationships, and will inspire you,” Lavelle said. “Plan to attend the next BLD in your region and send your team to these amazing events.”

B The Change reached out to B Local leaders for highlights from 2023 BLDs and a look behind the planning process. Here’s a look at what they learned and some suggestions.

Find a B Local Near You

B Locals are place-based communities of people using business as a force for good. At the core of every B Local are B Corps — for-profit companies using the power of business to transform the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet.


BLD Southeast: An Initial In-Person Regional Gathering

More than 200 people gathered Sept. 21-22, 2023, in Raleigh, North Carolina, for BLD Southeast, B Local Southeast’s first in-person gathering. On behalf of the event’s planning committee, Nathan Stuck of B Corp Profitable Purpose Consulting shares some highlights, lessons, and suggestions for others planning a BLD event. 

The first tip: Put together a planning committee of people who represent the region and bring different skill sets. “Our region is one of the most diverse in the country. Having a BLD in a city like Raleigh allowed us to organically show off the incredible diversity of work happening down here,” Stuck said. “This first in-person BLD also gave us the opportunity to be collectively heard — to share our story of what’s different, what’s working, and what isn’t working.”

BLD Southeast included an asks and offer board where B Corps could connect and share expertise on projects, set up networking meetings, and more.

That includes innovating and partnering with B Corp leaders who face challenges to their work for inclusion and equity. “The struggles of B Corps in more conservative parts of the country need collaborative and strategic solutions to grow the movement, and we wanted to share how we are making progress even in the deep South to share the why behind certification.”

Other lessons from BLD Southeast: 

  • Leverage existing partnerships. Organizers used a local B Corp’s office space for event preparation and hosted the main event at North Carolina State University, the birthplace of the B Corp Clinic. They also enjoyed evening celebrations at two B Corp co-working spaces and showcased local impact-driven businesses and organizations.
  • Keep it simple. This lesson stemmed from the group’s 2020 virtual event when organizers tried to do too much. 
  • Be open to feedback. “It’s hard to hear the negative stuff when your all-volunteer team worked so incredibly hard on an event, but it’s necessary to improve,” Stuck said. Ideas suggested for future BLDs include more programming for B Corps in the business-to-business, business-to-consumer, manufacturing, and service sectors. 

See highlights from BLD Southeast in this video!

In Oregon, local flavor is unavoidable. Every beverage served at the conference was donated by a local B Corp! Coffee from Nossa Familia and Exilior Coffee. Tea from East West Tea Company (Yogi Teas, Choice Organics). Beer from Hopworks Urban Brewery. Wine from local wineries: A to Z Wineworks, Brooks Wine, Sokol Blosser, David Hill, and Winderlea. Kombucha from Brew Dr. Even cocktails from Dregs Vodka, which donates 100% of its profits to local charities supporting low-income youth.

BLD PNW: BLD (Y)our Impact — Going Beyond Good Vibes

With a theme selected to drive collective impact, BLD PNW brought B Corp leaders in the Pacific Northwest to Portland, Oregon, on June 1, 2023. As Administrative Director of B Local PDX, Wes Griffin leads the planning for the BLD event and other activities for B Corps in Oregon and southwest Washington state. 

Griffin said this year’s BLD PNW emphasized how individual choices and actions become broader collective impact. “We asked folks to show up not only as their job title but also as a participant in the inclusive and regenerative stakeholder economy we are working to build,” he said. “We also wanted to go beyond good vibes — general pride, brand reputation — to center the ways that we measure, track, and tell stories about our impact as B Corps and as a regional values-aligned business community.”

BLD PNW has traditionally been a Portland-centered event, with most of the region’s B Corps in and around Portland. This year, Griffin said they broadened the focus by collaborating across the region, including the Washington B Corp Collective. B Corp leaders from Seattle, Spokane, Olympia, Boise, and Bend either joined a BLD planning committee or facilitated a breakout session.

Feedback from the 2022 BLD event suggested going beyond the typical speaker-audience dynamic. So Griffin and other organizers created five impact invitations to encourage action throughout the event. The most engaging invitation was the asks and offers board, a physical message board that later was transformed into a virtual version. Other impact invitations focused on policy activation, nonprofit partners, artist engagement, and an “I will” commitment selected by each person.

Other event updates at BLD PNW included shorter plenary sessions and small, workshop-style breakouts to encourage interaction and creativity. “One was a brainstorm on what could be done with the huge number of closed, abandoned neighborhood dry cleaners,” Griffin said. “Another was a chance to rethink and discuss the impact of carbon offsets with the frame of cancel culture as encouragement to approach topics with openness.”

Ready takeaways from BLD PNW by The Impact Collective and boly:welch.  

To help B Corps and other businesses advance racial equity in their everyday operations, B Lab U.S. & Canada created this downloadable guide. It includes explanations of systemic inequities that contribute to the racial wealth gap, links to resources, and policies and practices from the B Corp community.


BLD Canada: Reinforcing Connections Across Geography and Language

During two online BLD Canada events, Canadian B Corp leaders gathered virtually in May and October 2023 to share ideas and best practices under an overarching theme focusing on the power of connection. Michelle Reid of B Local Vancouver helped lead the May event, which focused on reconciliation with Indigenous communities within businesses. The second BLD Canada in October, which was led by Aurelia Talvela of B Local Québec and Atlantic Canadian B Corps, offered examples and ideas for reconciliation and climate justice

Talvela said organizers wanted the events to reinforce the Canadian B Corp message in the lead-up to Champions Retreat in Vancouver in March 2024. “This is a challenge because there is so much diversity and difference within such a wide geographic area that we were trying to bring together,” she said. “It’s also a challenge to try to balance having the event be accessible to people all over the country online while ensuring people are engaged and feel connected to the community.”

To help address those challenges, each event included English and French options for attendees. “We offered simultaneous translation into French in May,” Talvela said. “In October, some panels were bilingual, thanks to talented moderators, and some completely in French, in which case simultaneous translation was offered for English-speakers. It was particularly important for the French-speaking community to bring forward and participate in their own language, which doesn’t often happen in the North American B Corp landscape.”

To enhance collaboration and connection, the events also featured Braindates. This service from B Corp e180 is designed to help attendees deepen their engagement on a topic, according to Michelle Reid of B Local Vancouver. “It allowed more speakers to participate in the overall programming and for people to meet each other across the country,” she said. 

Reid said the BLD Canada events demonstrated the importance of having a strong theme and a commitment to purpose. “Sometimes simple is best,” she said. “B Corps just really want to speak and learn from one another.”

BLD Michigan sessions focused on topics including civic engagement, craft beer on a mission, and B Academics.

BLD Michigan: An Economic Summit to Benefit People and Planet

Form followed function at BLD Michigan, the first in-person gathering for B Local leaders from the Midwest and other regions plus key stakeholders in Michigan’s economic ecosystem. People First Economy, an economic nonprofit and B Local, organized the October 2023 event as part of its work to incorporate the B Corp movement and practices aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals into Michigan’s economy. 

Halla Maas and Alice Jasper of People First Economy said the event emphasized how the B Corp movement intersects with economic development through racial equity, environmental justice, and stakeholder governance — the three pillars in B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Theory of Change. Sessions also incorporated regional issues and challenges, Jasper and Maas said, such as the fact that the Great Lakes make up more than 20% of the world’s fresh water. 

“In partnership with other Midwest B Local leaders and water protectors such as the Great Lakes Business Alliance, we decided to focus our environmental pillar content on water justice and stewardship,” Maas said. “Providing spaces where meaningful connections can take place while curating it around sustainability efforts led to impactful conversations in our breakouts.”

As the community of B Corps and other sustainable-minded businesses grows in Michigan, People First Economy has seen increased demand for connection and shared learning. “Our biggest accomplishment from our BLD event was getting more individuals involved in looking into becoming either a B Corp or getting involved with our Good for Michigan or Impact Project Programs,” Jasper said. “Seeing more community involvement has inspired our team to hopefully bring back this event next year.”

As People First Economy looks to build on this event, Jasper and Maas said they have realized the value of working with local vendors, highlighting local businesses, and supporting Indigenous communities. “As Michigan Locals, we understand that when you support or buy local, that builds new connections and creates opportunities for positive economic growth.”

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