From the STN Archives

Changing Systems for the Greater Good

Rethinking Systems in Phoenix

As an Arizona native Thomas Barr, Vice President of Business Development at Local First Arizona, found pride in being from the Grand Canyon state. 

But, this wasn’t a collective feeling when he was growing-up. 

Barr recognized how the economic and social systems in Arizona were holding the state back. Inadvertently beginning Barr’s life-long commitment to “making things better” in Arizona.

Barr is interested in creating less oppressive and more inclusive communities and economies. He believes that changing the systems, not only the symptoms, is key to progress.

“I wanted to be part of transforming systems . I knew I wanted to be part of the bigger picture."

Understanding the Big Picture

After freshman year at Arizona State University, Barr took a sabbatical and traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to work with a nonprofit building homes.

“At that time I really did feel that I was finding the passion that I wanted to be part of,” says Barr.

This experience led Barr to seeing how a flawed system can inhibit good intentioned actions. He could build dozens of homes, but he wasn’t helping solve the bigger issue of poverty. 


When Barr arrived home during the Great Recession, his frustration with systems only grew. He left school to work full time so that his family could keep their home. 

“I started to question the systems that are upheld in our world, (and) in our nation, in our society that contribute to inequity,” explains Barr. 

These experiences made it crystal clear to Barr that his passion was in solving “bigger picture” issues. 

Barr felt he found work where he could be part of changing systems with Local First Arizona. He explains that Local First Arizona isn’t only about buying local, but changing how people view the economy and their communities. 

“I think we need to be inviting more people in. We need to be helping other people understand how they can activate the right way with the knowledge that they have to move things forward in a productive way,” says Barr.

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