Changing Capital: Four Strategies for Shifting Capital to Communities

By Sarah Trent

This is the third in a three-part series featuring Local Economy Fellow Jessica Norwood. Below, read about four strategies ECN is implementing to change how capital works for under resourced communities in the Black Belt. In part one, learn about Jessica’s journey to Localism and her passion for changing how capital works to support communities. The second installment features a mini case study of her Emerging Changemakers Network, the leadership, capital, and policy organization she founded after Hurricane Katrina. April 16 at noon (PT), meet Jessica along with Senior Fellow Angie Hawk Maiden and BALLE Board Chair Sandy Wiggins in our webinar, Building an Ecosystem for Place-Based Investing.

Jessica Norwood’s work with Emerging ChangeMakers Network supports entrepreneurs – but it’s primarily about changing how capital works to build community and wealth, especially for historically under resourced African American people living in the fertile Black Belt. While ECN works in other economic development spaces, their major focus has been in the food sector.

Below, Jessica shares four of her organization’s strategies – which are all being used in concert to bring capital back to local areas – along with examples that illuminate their influence on food financing in Alabama. The following was written by Jessica.

Strategy: Working with local government for economic development

North Mobile County (NoMoCo) Food Park and Market is an Emerging ChangeMakers Network-led project that seeks to address issues of food access by linking communities that need fresh food with food based businesses and growers that struggle to get access to the marketplace. The program also features a business accelerator program for vendors and opportunities to connect to low cost supports and financial resources. This program is supported by the District 1 County Commissioner of Mobile and the Mayor of the City of Prichard, Alabama. The North Mobile County Food Park and Market is an exciting venue that will feature live music, and food trucks from a variety of local favorites, arts and crafts made my local residents and seasonal food from local farmers. The market will also feature health screenings and cooking demonstrations that showcase local foods. This market will be a signature destination for families and a traffic boost for North Mobile County beginning June 2015.

Strategy: Working directly with small farmers

Rose and Tamera Hill are participants in the SOUL’utions Business Accelerator program – a 40-hour intensive program designed to accelerate a social business and get it investment ready. After moving through a competitive application process and pitching their business idea, they were awarded a seed capacity grant to purchase their retail space. Rose and Tamera are experienced farmers who wanted to close the gaps in their value chain by not only growing food, but also packaging and selling their food in their new retail shop.

Strategy: Working on finance policy for retail statewide

ECN is bringing the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative to the state of Alabama. HHFI is a federal public-private grant and loan program that calls for more than $400 million in investments, including $250 million in new market tax credits designed to encourage private investment. ECN is partnering with American Heart Association, Voices for Alabama’s Kids and other stakeholders to capitalize a $5 million publically funded program for Alabama healthy food retail growth. ECN’s role has been to support the team and agencies with Alabama research on food access and on the ground partners and offer technical support around the design of the program. See the published report, Fresh Food For All.

Strategy: Working directly with individual investors

SOUL’utions Investment Club is a collective effort led by people with varied resources who together, put their money toward rehabbing their communities, supporting local food-based businesses and inspiring young entrepreneurs to create the next big thing. SOUL’utions builds on the strategies found in investment clubs, crowd funding, cooperatives and a legacy of savings clubs and burial funds with a goal of re-introducing African Americans in Alabama and the Deep South to an economic culture that encourages them to return to their community investment roots in order to transform economically ravaged communities from devastation to more self-reliant and resilient places.

Dig Deeper

  • Meet Jessica and learn more about her invesment club model in our upcoming webinar, Building an Ecosystem for Place-Based Investing, on April 16 at noon (PT).
  • Read more about Jessica’s journey to Localism and her passion for changing how capital works to support under-resourced communities.
  • Read more about the Emerging ChangeMakers Network model and how it has changed and grown in the nine years since it was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Watch this Emerging ChangeMakers Network video, which highlights historical investment club models along with a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech that Jessica found especially inspirational.
  • Discover tools and resources BALLE has compiled around building community capital.
  • Read more about Emerging ChangeMakers Network, SOUL’utions, and their other projects on their website.
  • Watch this video by Emerging ChangeMakers Network about the SOUL’utions model and how it’s working in Alabama.