Giving Compass’ Take:
• Writing for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Incourage Community Foundation’s Kelly Ryan talks about working in rural Wisconsin and investing in human capital rather than numbers on a ledger.
• How can other community-focused organizations be more engaged with residents and make sure they have a seat at the table? The payoff is huge.
Communities become “investable” when local residents and institutions believe they are investable; when they invest a range of their own capital or resources; and when they are engaged in values-aligned, mutually beneficial external investor relationships. In the best of circumstances, residents — not those investing in their community — define collective priorities, determine what metrics to track, and measure progress. Residents are well-placed to understand the full range of capitals they possess, and embrace the responsibility of being owners and stewards of their community and each other.
Incourage Community Foundation is a place-based philanthropy, community developer, and impact investor serving a rural area of central Wisconsin that some call the “rust belt” — a post-industrial economy suffering from disinvestment, and deeply embedded “one company town” cultural narratives and norms. In 2000, the sale of local paper manufacturer Consolidated Papers led to a 40 percent loss of area jobs within three years. The resulting concentration of power and control in the hands of few, and a sense of dependency and entitlement among residents (generations had planned their futures around a job at the mill) could have locked the community into a downward spiral of blame and distrust.
Over a decade, we’ve invested to help residents and institutions (including our own) see themselves and the community with new eyes, fostering a culture of shared stewardship and a mindset that moves from “I cannot” to “I can” to “we can do better.”
In the process, we have learned that an infusion of financial capital by itself does not yield behavior change and inclusive, sustainable economic growth. Change requires that we connect and leverage different kinds of capital — including moral, human, social, intellectual, reputational, and natural capital.
Effective intermediation requires that we bring not only patient capital and a long-term perspective, but also the respect, trust, and knowledge that comes from being embedded in and “of” community. This relationship enables a deep understanding of culture, including a more-nuanced and intimate knowledge of individuals, institutions, and systems. This knowledge generates investment opportunities and helps manage risk.
Read the full article about increasing impact with people at the center by Kelly Ryan at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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