Initiative brings partners and investors together for Innovation Forum

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June 27, 2013 – The N.C. Community Development Initiative hosted a social enterprise innovation forum June 27 to give recipients of its Innovation Fund grants an opportunity to present their outcomes and receive feedback from potential investors and industry leaders.

The forum included a keynote address regarding the need for a new model of investment in social enterprises, presentations given by each Initiative partner on their outcomes and lessons learned, and an open dialogue between social entrepreneurs and investors.

“Social enterprise also needs social investors,” said keynote speaker Edward Chaney, an associate at Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP, a law firm in Washington D.C. that helps nonprofit organizations innovate. “There’s a growing movement to get people interested in funding social enterprise, recognizing that there’s some sort of trade-off in economic return for a social return. Nonprofits and private philanthropy have to take the lead.”

The Innovation Forum provided an opportunity for the Initiative to showcase a new funding model for supporting highly effective community economic development strategies—even in a time of diminishing public sector resources for this work.

The Innovation Fund, launched in spring 2012, provided grants that served as seed capital for developing and testing promising and innovative community economic development projects. The fund promotes the testing and implementation of creative, effective approaches to generating significant economic impact in persistently poor communities.

“Our Innovation Fund partners have taken a variety of new, entrepreneurial approaches to strengthening their communities, and we have been so impressed with their results,” said LaVett Saddler, the Initiative’s program officer for innovation. “Our goal for the Innovation Forum was to identify and share information about new approaches to solving critical community needs while better positioning our partner organizations to raise the type of growth capital needed to sustain and scale their work.”

The Innovation Fund recipients include:

  • ADLA Inc., Mt. Olive and Goldsboro – to develop a skills training program in culinary arts that promotes leadership development and job creation. ADLA has received commitments from local restaurants to participate and expects to create 30 new jobs.
  • Center for Participatory Change, Morganton and Asheville – to promote a model for worker-owned businesses that promotes sustainable asset and wealth development for low-income communities. CPC will assist the existing businesses it supports and help a new worker-owned business develop.
  • Green Opportunities, Asheville – to expand its Energy Efficiency Services project to weatherize 50-85 homes and 215-415 public housing units; educate 250-450 homeowners about energy savings measures; create 15-30 energy audit jobs; train at least 60 people in weatherization; and work with three community development corporations to replicate the program in other areas of the state.
  • Housing Greensboro, Greensboro – to integrate its home repair program into focused neighborhood initiatives, including a one-day “Paint the Town” event focused on preserving assets in a specific low-income neighborhood and a new green job apprenticeship program focused on improving energy efficiency, eliminating health risks and allowing seniors to remain safely in their homes.
  • N.C. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Raleigh – to launch the Emprendedores project, in partnership with the Latino Credit Union, to strengthen the Hispanic business community. The project will offer a series of classes at sites around the state on how to run a successful business.
  • Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corp., Morganton – to develop a business incubator serving the western N.C. counties of Burke, Caldwell and Catawba that will help create or expand more than six businesses operated by low-income and traditionally disadvantaged individuals and generate jobs for the region.
  • Southeastern N.C. Food Systems Program (Feast Down East), Wilmington – to respond to local job losses and maximize market opportunities for local farm products. Grant funds will provide healthy, affordable local food for low-income consumers while generating additional income for local small-scale limited resource farmers.
  • StepUp Ministry, Raleigh – to launch a new entrepreneurship program to help 130 ex-offenders develop businesses, promoting long-term economic development by improving career pathways and the earning potential of participants while promoting economic growth in the local community.

For more information on the Innovation Fund, visit www.ncinitiative.org/financial-investments/grants/innovation-fund or contact Saddler at 919-835-6015 or lsaddler@ncinitiative.org.

The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.

Visit us on Flickr for additional photos of the Innovation Forum.

Many thanks to our sponsors

BB&T Oak Foundation Z Smith Reynolds Foundation Wells Fargo PNC Suntrust Kate B Reynolds Charitable Trust Local First Bank Fifth Third Bank First Tennessee Bank