At some point we have all heard someone say “change is hard” when faced with an obstacle. You’ve probably said it yourself – I certainly have. Some changes are difficult and others come more naturally, but regardless, change is inevitable. What is really challenging is accelerating the pace of change, particularly within fragmented or highly regulated systems. Institutional inertia and bureaucracy push against people and groups that challenge the status quo, slowing the pace of innovation. As we look forward to this upcoming year, Canopy sees an opportunity to catalyze community driven change and accelerate the deployment of capital within the region. We want be a driver for collaborative investing and view 2016 as our year to establish our unique model as a platform for positive change.
I will share how we aim to accomplish this goal in 2016, but first, a bit about my background:
A career spent working with global investment complexes, advising institutional investors and consulting with private foundations on impact investing has led me to this latest transition. After incubating Canopy over the past two years of my tenure at Threshold Group, we officially launched the company last April. With extreme gratitude for the the opportunity, on January 1st I left Threshold Group and I now have the privilege to focus all of my time and efforts on building Canopy into a leader in the field of placed based investing. There is a lot of work to be done, but our team believes that with an innovative spirit and community driven approach the pieces are in place for the radical changes necessary to unlock capital here in the Pacific Northwest.
Here are a few things we’re focusing on as the year unfolds:
- Establishing a baseline. Through our inaugural Pacific Northwest Capital Scan we will develop a clear picture of the current ecosystem for regional capital flows and investment opportunities across various themes, sectors and investment types. We will surface capital gaps and prioritize areas for deeper analysis and consideration through our programs.
- Technology as the great equalizer. Leveraging the Capital Scan’s underlying data and other disparate sources, we will use technology as a tool to generate insights into the opaque and highly regulated investing community. An interactive web-based map will visualize the ecosystem and raise awareness of local investment opportunities.
- Provide leadership and expertise to nascent community driven investment efforts. Our initial community of action focusing on rural economic development will come to a close. We expect capital to flow to investment strategies identified through our rural focus and are exploring opportunities to integrate our group into national efforts. Going forward our focus will be strategically evaluating capital formation opportunities focusing on both sector driven and urban community development approaches. We will identify and address barriers to expedite capital flow.
- Demystifying the world of investing and wealth management. Four additional early stage investment funds will be approved for our CAPITAL program in 2016. These investment managers, all with varying investment themes and fund structures, will receive customized training and education focused on impact metrics, fund raising and operations. They will undergo rigorous institutional due diligence and receive direct feedback to highlight areas for improvement. Our members will have access to the manager research to inform and drive capital allocations to fund managers selected for the CAPITAL program.
We are thrilled to begin 2016 with the announcement of Seattle Foundation as our newest Founding Member. As the first community foundation to invest in Canopy and a leader in impact investing among their peers, the Seattle Foundation’s commitment represents an important step in our evolution and growth.
We will continue to expand our community foundation membership in 2016 and actively seek to to include government agencies, corporations and new strategic partners in the mix.
Our hybrid operating model is funded by a unique mix of direct equity investments, equity program related investments, and grants. This blended funding provides us with flexibility to explore an innovative mix of programs and structures to deliver on our promise of leadership in place based investing.
Initial plans for Canopy’s expansion outside of the Pacific Northwest are underway and will pick up speed this year as we grow into a financially sustainable business with a national presence.
“Conversations among impact investors are starting to explore ‘restorative finance’—investments characterized by elements of repair, relationship and responsible returns, not simply extracting value from communities. Many investors want to be collaborative, but the opportunities and platforms to do so are sparse. Where there’s a will there’s a way. In my view, Canopy provides one ‘way’ to facilitate the growing ‘will’ among investors.”- Richard Woo, CEO at The Russell Family Foundation & Chairman of the Board at Canopy
It’s going to be a busy year. Change is inevitable, and right now a shift in our domestic is taking place. Either we can choose to be driven by it and watch the disparity gap widen, or we can raise our hands to take the wheel. Canopy is firmly in the latter camp and will create innovative approaches to leverage capital markets with a goal of building stronger and more resilient communities.
We look forward to continuing this conversation as the year progresses. As always, we welcome your thoughts every step along the way.
President & Founder