“How many of you grew up in a rural community?” Melanie Edwards, CEO of Mobile Metrix, asked the group. Fifteen hands went up. “And how many of you still live there?” Melanie asked. Fourteen hands went down. Rural flight was a pressing issue, and in order to spark investment in these neglected communities, it was our goal as a group to identify the key challenges, potential opportunities, and push for new and innovative investment opportunities.

In partnership with Sapelo Foundation, a private family foundation supporting low-resource regions of Georgia, Impact Experience brought together 30 people representing impact investing, entrepreneurship, education, coastal restoration and sustainable agriculture to tackle key challenges faced by rural communities.

Rather than solution-building from the outside, we took an inside-out approach, highlighting the voices of local community members in order to understand the complexity of challenges, and co-developing solutions collectively as a broader community committed to catalyzing change in rural Georgia.

Community members representing rural Georgia and the regional South at-large emphasized the importance of the structural and historical roots of today’s challenges. Rich McCline, Senior Public Service Associate at The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development,explained how the education system in Georgia continues to be segregated by race and class, affecting the quality of education and resources available to African American students. This catalyzed discussions on potential solutions that could provide financial resources to improve school systems as well as provide broadband infrastructure to close the digital literacy gap.

These powerful stories not only revealed how deeply rooted contemporary challenges were, but also illuminated innovative ways in which private capital, philanthropy, and impact investing could take shape to improve these conditions.

Read the full article about philanthropy in the South by Jenna Nicholas and Chisato Fukuda at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.