Community-First Investing

Alyssa OplandUncategorized


Community-First Investing

If I started this post with, “There is an economic divide in America,” you would stop reading.  Right?  Why?  Because we know this.  But even more than because we know it, so many of us feel zero efficacy to have a tangible impact on the economic state of our country.  Now, there is undoubtedly incredible work going on in our communities to mitigate the effects of the economic divide.  I have had the deep privilege of working alongside many of these inspirational community leaders – people like Lisa Chin at Year Up, and Jeffery Wallace at LeadersUp.  They would, given unlimited resources, fundamentally shift outcomes for the most disconnected in our country.

CANOPY_ingredients graphic

But, all of the brain power and social will hasn’t, to this point, substantially bridged the gap between those with the least, and those with the most economic power in our country.  The map above was a part of an article in CityLab last week, detailing from a global lens what we – in America – are up against in terms of “well-being disparity.”  As a Pacific Northwest native and resident, I found the picture of this region to be particularly disturbing.  Across all four measures, Eastern Washington (where I was born) represents the polar opposite of my now home base in Seattle, and you see this divide extend through Oregon and down to the Bay Area.

As election season ramps up, many will look to politicians to solve these seemingly insurmountable challenges, and I will not argue against the power of strong policy to move the dial here – in fact, it may be the only thing historically that has.  But, as contemporary politics continue to trend towards divisiveness and stagnation rather than innovation and solutions-building, our country needs to see other sources of power come to the table with actualizable, systemic answers.

Specifically, we need to see sources of institutional capital connect with communities to bolster regions through a new generation of collaborative economics.  There are many historical and deeply embedded barriers to this work, but what is encouraging is that there is a growing field of entrepreneurs, investors, philanthropists, and public officials willing to take this challenge head-on.

Last Monday, at the Council on Foundation’s annual meeting and in partnership with Philanthropy Northwest and the Mission Investor’s ExchangeCanopy took its first steps as an unprecedented joining together of cross-sector stakeholders pooling resources to conduct the institutional quality research and training necessary to embark on systems-level change in how our regional economies access and put capital to work.  Already underway are Canopy’s two launch deliverables

  • A Pacific Northwest Capital Scan that will surface early stage community development investment opportunities that are often overlooked by mainstream investors through a robust study conducted in partnership with the University of Oregon, and
  • A fund manager training program built on the Global Impact Investing Network’s innovative work in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, and customized to build the bench of strong Pacific Northwest fund managers through proven coursework and one-to-one mentorship.

Stay tuned to founding members The Russell Family Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust, as they break this new ground with Canopy, and join the conversation @InvestCanopy as we build #ThisGreatPlace together.

Originally posted in the Philanthropy Northwest blog, May 4th, 2015

by Lauren Sato, COO, Canopy