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What Will You Do to Shift Capital?

I’ve had a busy month spread over Detroit, Jersey City, Chicago, and New York connecting with BALLE Network Leaders. Through our discussions, several themes have emerged, but one area of inquiry has stood out to me personally:

How can BALLE catalyze a greater shift in capital to address the most urgent needs in our communities?

At the AEO annual conference on microbusiness, in Detroit, BALLE Network Leader Deborah Frieze helped investors, foundations, and financial intermediaries better understand a key lever to increasing their deal flow: partnering deeply with community members to make investment decisions that directly impact them. At a time when more capital is being availed by designating Opportunity Zones, issues of gentrification and racial equity are becoming even more critical. The question of who invests, and who gets invested in, can potentially widen the wealth gap, or help narrow it. In Boston, where Deborah dedicates her work, median African American wealth is $8 while white wealth is $247,500. Initiatives like the Boston Impact Initiative show us how wealth holders giving up power to community members equips everyday people to take control of their collective future.

Today I write from Chicago, where I’m speaking at the Mission Investors Exchange, a conference that has grown nearly 40% since it was hosted in my hometown of Baltimore just two years ago. In the context of this sector’s rapid growth, BALLE organized a group of CDFIs, grantmakers, investors, and nonprofits who have been at the table since well before this work had caché, to come together at MIE. One of our co-organizers, Antony Bugg-Levine, can take credit for building the concept of “impact investing” nearly 11 years ago. Impact investing was intentionally conceived as a disruptive call-to-action. The fact that it is becoming mainstream and adopted by traditional Wall Street firms now begs critical questions about what we mean when we pledge to put impact first. As the field of impact investing evolves, our friends and colleagues expressed optimism, cynicism, and outrage at the ways capital can be driven in greater support of our communities.

At BALLE, we’re grappling with these issues and opportunities alongside our Network Leaders, who continue to push boundaries forward and create transformative models building more equitable, democratic, and inclusive economies. We know that BALLE Network Leaders have a glimpse at what the future holds, and we will continue to hold space for more conversations about why and how capital needs to shift.

However, conversations are inadequate. The racial wealth gaps in Boston, and throughout the country, are unjust and problematic for all of us. We must act now.

What will you do to shift capital?

Categories: Shift Capital