Mission & Strategy


Publication: 2013-09-18


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.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:Institute for Local Self-Reliance


For more than three decades ILSR has worked in the trenches, working with sanitation workers, engineers, bond counselors, small business owners, neighborhood organizations, city planning departments, city councilors, activists and others to develop strategies and projects that enable and manifest local self-reliance. In the process we have learned what works and what doesn't.


  • Sanitation Workers

  • Engineers

  • Bond Counselors

  • Small Business Owners

  • Neighborhood Organizations

  • City Planning Departments

  • City Councilors

  • Activists

  • CommunitiesOur technical assistance often is requested by communities fighting against something—a huge new big box store, a garbage incinerator, a high voltage transmission line, an unresponsive cable or telephone company. We work with them to overcome the negative but at the same time we stress the positive. We provide the assistance needed to defer garbage incinerators and then work in an ongoing fashion with communities to maximize recycling, reuse and zero waste strategies as a new foundation for economic development. We assist communities in fighting against Wal-Mart superstores while building an alliance of locally owned businesses and environmentalists and others that later focuses on ways to nurture the local economy. We work with communities fighting extra high voltage transmission lines while at the same time helping them to maximize a decentralized energy approach. We respond to communities dissatisfied by the glacial pace at which current telecommunication service providers are building a high- speed information network by providing them the justification, information, and expertise needed to move toward a publicly owned telecommunications network with universal access.

  • ISLR Staff

  • Nicola Chin(nee Wells) Director of Strategy and Development -- Nicola brings eight years of experience in community organizing and organizational growth to the Institute as the lead for fundraising and strategic planning. Before joining ILSR, Nicola served as the Director for the Maine League of Young Voters where she worked with diverse young Mainers to build power for local and state organizing campaigns and young voter engagement.

  • John FarrellSenior Researcher, Energy -- John Farrell is a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its work on democratic energy. John is best known for his vivid illustrations of the economic and environmental benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy.

  • Lisa GonzalezResearch Associate, Telecommunications -- Lisa Gonzalez researches and reports on telecommunications and how those networks impact life on the local level. Her background includes experience in state politics, law, writing, and freelance journalism.

  • Christopher MitchellDirector, Telecommunications as Commons Initiative -- Christopher's work focuses on telecommunications — helping communities ensure the networks upon which they depend, are accountable to the community. He has published several reports, articles, and interviews while also offering technical assistance to communities around the country.

  • Stacy MitchellSenior Researcher, Banking and Independent Business -- Stacy Mitchell directs ILSR's initiatives on independent business and community banking. An advisor to business groups, grassroots organizations, and policymakers, Stacy produces research and analysis, and develops policies and innovative strategies to curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and has written for Business Week, The Nation, Grist, and many other publications.

  • David MorrisVice President, Defending the Public Good -- Dr. David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He directs its initiative on The Public Good. He has served as an adviser or consultant to local, state and national governments and to private businesses large and small.

  • Brenda PlattProgram Director, Waste to Wealth and Sustainable Plastics -- Brenda Platt is a recycling expert and composting advocate, and co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). She directs ILSR's Sustainable Plastics and Composting Makes $en$e projects and co-chairs the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative.

  • Neil SeldmanPresident -- Neil Seldman, Ph.D., co-founded the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in 1974 and continues to serve as its President. An economic development planner and former manufacturer, Dr. Seldman specializes in approaches to municipal and commercial solid waste management that emphasize environmental quality and create economic development opportunities for small businesses, community organizations, and other targeted populations.

  • Leigh CrenshawDevelopment Associate -- Leigh Crenshaw assists with ILSR's fundraising efforts. She also works with the Washington, DC office on zero waste economic development and composting.

  • Sarah PickellFinance Director -- Sarah Pickell is responsible for the fiscal management of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Having spent the previous 16 years with The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Sarah brings over 25 years of financial and administrative expertise to ILSR.

  • Linda KnappDirector, MACREDO Project -- Linda Knapp is a Senior Program Manager for ILSR, overseeing the Mid-Atlantic Consortium of Recycling and Economic Development Officials, a recycling market development group funded by US EPA Region 3. Her current work focuses on increasing on-farm composting.

  • ISLR Board of Directors

  • Becca Vargo DaggettFinancial Consultant

  • Jolie JonesTake It Back Foundation

  • Kirk MarckwaldCalifornia Environmental Associates

  • David MorrisILSR

  • Roy PriestAlexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority

  • Andy ReicherUrban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB)

  • Neil SeldmanILSR