Providing tools and support to community members to create local initiatives that build local capacity and leadership, increase environmental sustainability, and foster greater livability and vitality.
Invest in Local and Sustainable Businesses
Local businesses need strong community support to compete against big-box or chain stores that often have deeper pockets and greater political clout. At the same time, local employees need good incentives to invest more actively in their workplaces and in the betterment of their communities.
You can help your community embrace local entrepreneurs and innovators through microfinance (small-scale lending) initiatives like Kickstarter. Or, encourage local investors to pool their dollars to create a community investment fund where the money stays—and grows—locally while also supporting local initiatives. Maybe you can help finance an innovative start-up, like a solar farm, organic dairy, or other sustainability-minded enterprise.
The city of Cleveland, Ohio, has benefited from the creation of innovative worker-owned cooperatives, in a partnership between city residents and some of Cleveland's most important "anchor institutions." The Evergreen Cooperatives are employee-owned, for-profit companies—including a laundry, a solar installation service, and a greenhouse—that are based locally and hire locally. The coops create green jobs and keep precious financial resources within the community; meanwhile, the workers earn a living wage and build equity in their firms as owners of the business. Watch this video describing the coops and how they work.
In the area of food production, the emerging Slow Money movement is organizing investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems. Entrepreneur magazine calls slow money "one of the top five trends in finance." More broadly, communities can help encourage wider engagement in impact investing or socially responsible investing, especially at the local and regional levels.
Across the country, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are also helping to provide credit and financial services to underserved markets and populations.