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Community Investment 2.0 through Place-Based Strategies at SRI in the Rockies

SAN ANTONIO, TX:  Today I attended an energizing discussion regarding opportunities for investors to invest directly in their communities.  At a conference dominated with discussions of shareholder activism, stakeholder engagement with big oil and the business case for integrated ESG reporting, I was worried that the break out session for place-based strategies for social finance would not draw many attendees.  To my great surprise and delight, not only was the room full, but advisors, investors and community loan banks and funds alike were present, engaged and exchanging ideas with such vigor that it seemed to me Community Investment 2.0 was right around the corner.

The panel consisted of:

  • Leslie Christian, CFA, CEO, Portfolio 21
  • Ari Derfel, Executive Diretor, Slow Money
  • Rebecca Dunn, Executive Director, Cooperative Fund of New England
  • Don Shaffer, President and CEO, RSF Social Finance

In a collaborative and informal discussion, each panelist addressed what type of community investing and lending they were engaged in, what products they offer to investors interested in community investment and challenges facing the community investment industry.  Some take-home ideas were:

  • Increasing community investment as part of asset allocation.
  • Redefining risk and return in modern portfolio theory.
  • Urging Foundations to increase their investments in community investment beyond the traditional 1 – 5 %.
  • Creating more community investment products for increased investor demand.
  • Collaborating more, regionally, nationally and globally, to increase impact of community investing.

Most importantly, placed-based strategies do not just entail “investing in your own backyard” it is looking at community investment as if the planet were our backyard.  If you’re interested in community investing, in addition to visiting the panelists’ websites, also take a look at ImpactBase (a project of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN).  ImpactBase is a searchable, online database of impact investment funds which connects a global set of investors looking for opportunities with funds looking to raise capital.

Image Credit:  horizontal.integration via Flickr under CC license.

Written by Emily DeMasi

Emily McKinin DeMasi is a 2011 MBA/ MA Public Policy candidate and Peace Corps Fellow at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her thesis work concerns Corporate Social Responsibility in the United States. She also works as a Research Fellow at Bridgeway Capital, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in downtown Pittsburgh. Emily has worked as an Associate in a Private Equity Placement Firm in NY and as a Water and Sanitation Volunteer in Ivory Coast, West Africa. She hopes to combine her business background with her passion for development and inspire others in the fields of Sustainability and CSR.

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