Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

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Oberlin College Adopts Impact Investing Platform

Likely largest higher education commitment to social investing in nation to date
A few weeks ago, Oberlin College, with an endowment of nearly $700 million, adopted what is likely the largest impact-investing platform to date by a college or university in the United States. Although Oberlin is just one institution, the decision provides a hopeful sign of an accelerating institutional shift toward greater socially responsible investment practices. A tremendous opportunity exists. Higher education as a sector controls more than $400 billion in endowment assets.

The Rise of Community Wealth Building Institutions

More people are turning to economic alternatives in which new wealth is built collectively and from the bottom up

Crossposted from Policy Network, and later published on the London School of Economics website, this blog is part of a debate event hosted by Policy Network in London, UK, that was reviewed in OurKingdom by grassroots activist James Doran:    

Five years after the financial crisis economic inequality in the United States is spiraling to levels not seen since the Gilded Age. While most Americans are experiencing a recovery-less recovery, the top one per cent of earners last year claimed 19.3 per cent of household income, their largest share since 1928. Moreover, income distribution looks positively egalitarian when compared to wealth ownership.

Public Money for the Public Good

How public finances can be unlocked for local economic development
Public banks and credit unions weathered the last crisis much better than private banks, benefiting the communities they served as well. And many experts believe that it’s only a matter of time before the next financial crisis hits. To weather the next one well, we need to ensure that our individual and collective resources strengthen the types of financial institutions that are democratically accountable, economically stable, mission oriented, and that are actively helping build and keep wealth locally in our communities.

Assessing Impact at Anchor Institutions

New anchor dashboard identifies 12 priority areas and indicators
Crossposted from Rooflines: The Shelterforce Blog

This week, The Democracy Collaborative is releasing a new paper to create a framework for measuring the effectiveness of university and hospital efforts to partner with and improve conditions in surrounding communities. Our goal is to help institutions reflect and assess broadly the long-term impact of their anchor-mission activities, and particularly the extent to which they may benefit low-income children, families and communities.

Democracy Collaborative Offers Paid Internship

Work with us on newsletters and

We are pleased to announce a new intern position at The Democracy Collaborative that will focus on the newsletter and adding web content. For further details, please see the position description below. Remember to submit your applications by August 30!

Harnessing the Power of University Endowments for Community Investment

Our new report outlines how students can help
Gar Alperovitz @ Roosevelt Institute

As highlighted in a recent post for The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Democracy Collaborative's new report Raising Student Voicesco-published with the Responsible Endowments Coalition, insists that "everyone benefits when colleges invest in local businesses and sustainable economic development, and that students and community organizations should work together to push for more such alliances."  

Encouragingly, student audiences have quickly proved very receptive to the idea, excited by the way university-community partnerships around investment offer a very practical approach with the potential to scale up to the size of the problems faced by economically marginalized communities.

Choice Community Credit Union

Established in 1979, Choice Community Credit Union now has over 9,000 members and about 30 employees.  In 2010, it became a division of Self-Help Credit Union, a state-chartered credit union in North Carolina that serves nearly 39,000 members, both online and through 14 branches across the state. In 2012 alone, Self-Help financed the construction or rehabilitation of 300 housing units, lent $74 million to businesses, nonprofits and community facilities, and lent $22 million to public charter schools and childcare centers, benefiting more than 10,000 mostly low-income children across the country.  Moreover, to further its impact, Self-Help works to affect public policy changes that increase economic opportunity and stability for low-income families.

Resilience in a downturn: The power of financial cooperatives

Johnston, Birchall

Released by the International Labor Organization, this report focuses on how financial cooperatives survived the global economic crisis and succeeded while many investor-owned banks struggled. Tracing their history from Germany in the 1850s to the present, the author, Johnston Birchall shows how these financial cooperatives continue to provide banking services to people with low incomes, to stabilize the banking system, to regenerate local economies and to create employment. The report recommends that government promote and partner with financial cooperatives as a means of fostering stability, development and poverty alleviation. 


ACCION is a nonprofit organization based in Albuquerque that makes business loans and provides training to emerging entrepreneurs in rural and urban communities of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Founded in 1994, ACCION has financed the start-up and growth of over 2,300 businesses in New Mexico with loans totaling more than $23 million. These small businesses have supported the creation of an estimated 3,700 new jobs. Between 60 and 65 percent of ACCION’s loans are made to low-income borrowers, 57 percent of who are minority entrepreneurs and 50 percent of who are women.  


WESST (originally the Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team) is a small business development and training organization committed to creating jobs and achieving economic independence by cultivating entrepreneurship in New Mexico. A microlender, WESST provides small business loans to women and others who often experience difficulty obtaining financing. With assets in excess of $10 million, WESST has assisted with creating more than 1,100  jobs, generating $93 million in personal income and assisting with $60 million in wage and salary growth. The vast majority (75 percent) of WESST clients are women, low-income (70 percent), and of an ethnic minority (60 percent). In addition to providing technical assistance and small business resources, WESST also operatives an Individual Development Account program.  

New Mexico Community Capital

New Mexico Community Capital (NMCC) is a CDFI that specifically targets financial services to tribal communities. Its goal is to provide capital and training for emerging businesses in traditionally underserved markets in New Mexico. The nonprofit organization owns and operates a $14.6 million venture capital fund intended to help New Mexican businesses expand.  Using a “Double Bottom Line” strategy, NMCC invests in companies that they believe can deliver a return on investment but also create social and economic improvements in the communities where they operate. Through their IMPACT-NM program, NMCC provides capacity building support and expertise in finance, marketing and product development.  In the past 7 years, NMCC has invested over $8 million in New Mexico companies and provided more than 600 well-paying jobs for residents of lower income areas.

New Mexico Community Loan Fund

Founded in 1989 by the New Mexico Conference of Churches, the New Mexico Community Loan Fund, better known as simply The Loan Fund, provides loans and assistance to help lift New Mexicans out of poverty. In addition to microloans, small business loans, and nonprofit loans, the loan fund provides training and business consulting to entrepreneurs and organizations throughout the state, focusing on women and minority-owned businesses, entrepreneurs with disabilities, and Native American enterprises. Since its founding in the summer of 2011, the loan fund has made more than 1,100 loans, totaling more than $43 million and has created an estimated 6,100 jobs. 

Done Right, Eliminating Food Deserts Result in Community Oases

Building community wealth every step of the way
Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op. © Indy Food Co-op
Building healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities requires more than “bottom up” solutions. The importance of community ownership to ensure that projects that start at the bottom result in lasting community wealth for the people involved is often missing from the discussion. The local foods movement provides examples that illustrate the importance of this ownership principle in practice.

Credit Unions on the Rise

Cooperative financial model pushes “people first” approach to grow opportunity and economy

In 2012, credit unions passed an important milestone: collectively, these cooperatively owned, one-member-one-vote financial institutions hold more than $1 trillion in assets. Taken together, they would equal the fifth largest U.S. bank, knocking Goldman Sachs out of the top five (keep in mind, this does not include other sectors of cooperative finance, which, if taken all together, would comprise one of the largest banks in the country).