• Confluence Philanthropy Attends the White House Rural Opportunity Investment Council

July 14 2016
July 14 2016

Confluence Philanthropy and several of our members participated in the Rural Opportunity Investment (ROI) Conference sponsored by Secretary Vilsack, Chair of the White House Rural Council on May 3, 2016

The purpose of the gathering was to encourage private sector investment in the areas of rural economic development and natural resource conservation.

Confluence Philanthropy was pleased to be among the invited guests such as: the Department of the Treasury, Department of Agriculture, the Federal Reserve Bank, investment banks, and issue-based NGO’s.  Confluence members in attendance included InCourage Community Foundation and Encourage Capital.

In addition to Secretary Vilsack’s announcement of the $100 million Open Prairie Rural Opportunities Fund at the conference, here is some additional information on other USDA programs and initiatives discussed over the course of the afternoon:

Rural Development (RD) is USDA’s mission area committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America.  RD offers loans, grants, and loan guarantees to support essential services such as housing, water/electric/communications infrastructure, economic development, and other social infrastructure (facilities for health care, education, and first responders).  Recently, RD has been encouraging equity investment in rural businesses through its Rural Business Investment Program.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is USDA’s conservation agency that works with farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners nationwide to identify and address natural resource objectives in balance with operational goals in order to benefit soil, water, wildlife, and related natural resources.  NRCS often partners with the private sector through its Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, which includes a conservation finance project category, and its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP).

The Food LINC initiative was launched to strengthen local food supply chains around ten key U.S. cities.

Confluence Philanthropy was represented by Sarah DeNicola, Membership Manager, who commented, “The commitment by White House leadership alongside business leaders, and our members, to support rural and Native American economies through impact investing come through loud and clear at the convening. I am especially heartened by the explicit connections that were made between natural resource management, environmental conservation, and rural economic development.”

Kelly Ryan, of Incourage in Central Wisconsin, spoke on a panel entitled “Investing for Impactful Rural Economic Development.”  She highlighted Incourage’s lead investments in the USDA-supported Tribune community accelerator and Blueprints initiative that is building regional networks and skills in equitable, sustainable development as examples of how the public and private sectors can work together to build the pipeline of deals and capacity to leverage impact investments in rural communities.  As rural economies transition from models of resource extraction to shared stewardship, she noted the importance of resident engagement: “Residents who feel a sense of ownership, shared responsibility and shared destiny by virtue of a shared place are essential in shaping healthy, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Confluence is very pleased to be continuing these discussions and this work through our Native Green FundOur next Native Green Fund Working Group event is a retreat for the Advisory Committee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, August 4-5, 2016. To learn more, contact Sarah DeNicola, Membership Manager.


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