CDFI v2.0 - Vision for a New Generation
Kevin Lynn is an Intern at Social Enterprise Associates and recently graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Politics. He lives in Santa Fe, NM. He can be reached via email@example.com.
In October of 2010, Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) brought together young, emerging leaders of community development finance institutions (CDFIs) to discuss the future of the industry in the coming decades. Working to keep the CDF industry on the cutting edge, they focused their efforts on how best to transform their industry into a more cohesive, powerful force for community development and poverty reduction. Their collaboration produced a paper called "CDFIs v2.0: A Vision for a New Generation" (PDF), detailing their proposed strategy to help professionalize the industry.They emphasized five core recommendations that they believe are necessary for the upcoming generation of CDFI leaders to build upon: strategically recruit new talent, increase opportunities for training and advancement, improve social impact measurement and collection, collaborate and innovate to use resources more efficiently, and diversify capital sources and increase transparency. Hopefully, the transmission of these ideas will stimulate even more innovative solutions on the ground as individual CDFIs continue to creatively take on the challenges of their mission-driven work.
1. Strategically recruit new talent
To succeed in the CDF industry, a leader must have a commitment to the mission of the CDF and technical experience in lending and financial management. Since the industry is still relatively small, it is difficult to find entry points into CDFIs. The combination of a small (but growing) industry and the specific need for financial talent mixed with devotion to the social mission means the industry must raise its profile to recruit new talent. Therefore, they propose: collaboration with colleges and universities to complement the degree programs already in place; partner with existing member organizations, like NetImpact or ProInspire; and to build partnerships with traditional job seekers, like establishing apprenticeships with traditional financial institutions and increasing profile on job search sites (like Idealist or CareerBuilder).
2. Increase opportunities for training and advancement
CDFIs already employ many highly qualified professionals and for the CDF industry to grow, it must provide continued training to retain these individuals. The authors propose a framework that allows for education to be roughly 10% of training, exposure (to coaches, mentors, existing leaders, etc.) 20% and experience 70%. More specifically, they recommend creating an online education hub, which would store educational resources, list training opportunities across the country and act as a portal to other industry websites. To increase exposure and experience, they emphasize the importance of exposure to other CDFIs so that young leaders can gain crucial understanding of how other CDFIs function, the needs of funding partners and what different communities need. The best way to gain this experience is through immersion experiences, whether they be within the same CDFI or a different one.
3. Improve social impact measurement and collection
The two crucial issues of measurement within the industry are data tracking and collection, and a lack of common industry metrics. To address this problem, the CDF industry must develop an industry and organizational discipline supporting social impact measurement, share best practices and tools among CDFIs, and establish common (but flexible) metrics. With these metrics, CDFIs will be better able to communicate their success in communication materials, which will help to improve access to capital, increase public support, strengthen the CDFI "brand" and improve recruitment.
4. Collaborate and innovate to use resources more efficiently
The industry can gain efficiency in operations (e.g. through consolidation of back office services), fundraising (e.g. collaborative funding requests) and in programming (e.g. joint technical assistance programming). To do this, policy makers and funders must incentivize collaboration, and the CDF industry must fund, share and grow platforms for increased efficiencies, and actively foster innovation by growing the demand for CDFI funding.
5. Diversify capital sources and improve transparency
A major growing asset class is impact investing, understood to be investing "intended to create positive social or environmental impact beyond financial return", and has a potential of $400 billion to $1 trillion in the next decade. To tap into this major source of funding, CDFIs must develop awareness of the CDF industry among impact investors, and must make third party ratings the industry standard to ensure transparency and accountability.
The CDF industry is an integral, and growing, force for good that combines financial knowledge with a devotion to a social mission. Many talented professionals are being drawn towards this work, and have already spent countless hours helping those whom the system generally looks past. To forestall any potential stagnation, Opportunity Finance Network brought together emerging leaders to think towards the future of CDFIs, with an eye on how to "professionalize" their industry. Their work has given us a blueprint for understanding where growth is necessary and what is needed to build innovative, vibrant CDFIs across the country. Thousands of people will directly benefit from these ideas as the CDF industry expands its reach and continues to reduce poverty.
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