I remain convinced that our post-COVID world will place a heavier emphasis on local ownership and local connections. I’m excited about these prospects, but also realistically concerned about how we’ll pay for this at the local level. Outside support, from revised and expanded state and federal programs, will likely be part of the puzzle, but the real solutions will need to begin at home. And, we’ll need money to support local business and other locally-focused initiatives.
These thoughts led me to dust off an early 2020 report that has been on my “to-read” list for a while: Community Investment Funds: A How-To Guide for Building Local Wealth, Equity, and Justice. This work, from the National Coalition for Community Capital, is an excellent introduction to the budding field of local investment funds. The report profiles a number of new-ish funds, such as the Vermont Community Loan Fund and the Boston Ujima Fund, that are testing new models that use the investments of local people to build community. The report also includes a useful how-to guide on the legal and regulatory steps required to establish these funds. A quick summary? This is not an easy task, and we’re still learning about what works. But, these interesting experiments deserve greater attention, and, hopefully, more communities will develop these funds and create an effective roadmap for future success.