For impact investors, one of the many takeaways from the last 18 months should be this: incrementalism will not get us where we need to go.

That is true on a host of issues, from climate change to global poverty, but right now it is particularly relevant for U.S. community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, which are coming off one of the most productive periods in the sector’s history.

In this, CDFIs have been countercyclical, growing when so many organizations have struggled. They have been central to pandemic relief efforts, particularly for businesses and communities not effectively served by the conventional marketplace. They have been a pipeline for racial equity investments, designing high-impact opportunities for corporate and philanthropic investors. And they have accelerated efforts around economic resilience, advocating for strategies that help communities better prepare for the health, financial and weather-related disasters yet to come.

The challenge now is to build on that momentum, not slip back into business as usual. Decades of steady gains—building job by job, business by business, block by block—have been incredibly valuable to families and communities and have been a clear demonstration of what works to spur economic opportunity.

But CDFIs and community-based organizations have argued for many years that the scale of investment activity is nowhere near enough to meet the enormity of the challenge. Transformative progress requires better access to patient, flexible, risk-taking capital. When that falls short, so too does the hoped-for levels of social, racial and economic gain.

Read the full article about CDFIs by Annie Donovan at LISC.