At Solidago, we believe laying the groundwork for an inclusive economy requires bold experimentation and critical investment in local communities to build countervailing political and economic power to advance a vision of an economy where the benefits of growth, access to, and control over resources are broadly distributed among all people and within the economy.
As grant dollars from all sources become more difficult to access, many are looking to blended investment strategies to more sustainably resource an inclusive economy. Grounded in mission and pitted by hurdles that can be surmounted, we have worked with others to persist, persevere and endure the practical challenges of linking impact investment dollars to community driven initiatives whose end users define the terms of that very investment.
This non-negotiable mission-first persistence allows us to team up with others who are experimenting and iterating models that look at the role impact investment can play in catalyzing “right-capital” starved entrepreneurs, community-based organizations and economic actors in efforts to create adaptive infrastructure to meet the challenges of people in critically under-invested communities.
Solidago’s Inclusive Economies Project is comprised of four integrated categories of work:
- Democratizing Capital – Aligning and leveraging (impact) capital and assets to shape the local economy to reflect and benefit the needs and interests of impacted residents.
- Grassroots Organizing /Ecosystem Development – Building relationships and strategic partnerships between the community and institutions serving the community to build their collective power to articulate and push for changes that benefit all residents.
- Systems Change and Lever Identification – Building an understanding of the rules and policies that support access to capital and asset building among entrepreneurs, individuals and families, along with a shared narrative of how to promote policies that create community wealth.
- Building the Capacity of Financial Intermediaries: The work is equal parts aspirational and functional. One of the functional outcomes will be the aggregation of a more flexible pool of capital, designed to meet the end user needs of those least served by capital markets.
Over the past decade, the foundation has invested over $2 million to support organizations at the cutting edge of efforts to create of creating a more inclusive economy and vibrant democracy.
Our current portfolio of states and communities engaged includes:
- California – Oakland / East Bay Areas through Democratizing Capital East Bay (DCEB)
- Massachusetts – Western MA/Pioneer Valley Grows and Boston through the Center for Economic Democracy, Solidarity Economy Initiative and Ujima Project
- New Mexico – NM Zone Grant Collaborative, Worker Organizing Project and Color Theory
- Mississippi – Research and Development with Higher Purpose Co.
To fund the work and establish Communities of Practice, we’re seeking to establish a national pooled fund with regranting to place-based initiatives.
DEMOCRATIZING CAPITAL EAST BAY, A PROJECT OF SOLIDAGO FOUNDATION
Democratizing Capital East Bay is a community-based patient capital fund, which will be housed at Northern California Community Loan Fund. Community-governed yet professionally managed, the fund aggregates capital to support alternative models of business and finance that are centered in localism and historically disadvantaged communities, promotes just workplace and environmental practices, and facilitates local economic and political empowerment.
There are three key ingredients to launch a Community Capital Fund of the East Bay: patient capital, blended financial intermediary support, and grant dollars to community led social justice organizations.
First, an initial target for the fund is to raise at least $10M in capital, with the end user driven understanding that Inclusive Economy entrepreneurs will require some portion of the investment they seek to be longer term (like equity) at rates that do not put too much cash pressure on their enterprises in the early growth stages.
Second, the Solidago Foundation, Common Counsel Foundation, and The California Endowment completed a community led design process, resulting in the creation of a core group that developed mission criteria, shared outcomes and the framework for governance and oversight of a fund, linked to their movement building work.
And finally, grant dollars are needed on a range of activities including support for the financial intermediary, convenings, technical assistance and financial literacy for Inclusive Economy entrepreneurs, and community-led groups, and community-led research and dissemination on scaling Inclusive Economy policies, practices, and enterprises.
A core goal of Democratizing Capital East Bay is to finance social enterprises that support movement building. We have engaged many of the same base building organizations. There is clear programmatic and mission alignment.