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• Investing in Local Economies with the Denver Foundation

July 07 2016
July 07 2016

Billions of people in the U.S. and around the world are living at or near poverty levels; economic development is a pressing issue for communities long left out of the social equation. With limited or no savings, getting injured or ill can mean the difference in being able to pay rent, purchase food, and/or secure safe child care and reliable transportation. Investors and philanthropists alike have new opportunities to put their investments to work in their local economies by supporting place-based social enterprises.

Confluence Philanthropy partnered with the Denver Foundation to organize a social enterprise tour and discussion about investing in local economies on June 7th, 2016 in Denver, CO. This three-quarter day event engaged 35 funder and advisor participants, as well as 12 nonprofit organizations and small businesses who generously volunteered their time for the day.

The day began with a highly interactive funder-only social enterprise tour in the Denver area. Place-based investors met with a variety of local enterprises and organizations including the Urban Land Conservancy, Ours to Own: Denver, the Energy Resource Center, and Blue Star Recyclers, among others, to hear about their experiences as investees and builders of the local economy. The tour included a visit to “The Foundry” a 45,000 sq ft non-profit warehouse and co-working space.

Blue Star Recyclers and PC's for People

Blue Star Recyclers, an organization that trains and employs developmentally disabled adults to restore damaged computers, has teamed up with PC’s for People to restore and then re-sell the machines to below poverty line families with limited or no internet access. Impact investments from The Denver Foundation and Calvert Foundation have helped to bring The Foundry to life.

“It’s so inspiring to get out into communities and to see first-hand how the impact investments of our Members are making a real difference in peoples’ lives. Blue Star Recyclers is such a special organization and their work wouldn’t be possible without a safe, accessible facility like The Foundry. The tour brought life to the story,” reflected Dana Lanza, Confluence CEO.

In the afternoon the funder group was joined by the advisor attendees and special guest speakers Michael Shuman, Author of Local Dollars, Local Sense, the Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute & Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center, and Denver Foundation representatives for a panel discussion and reception. Discussion topics included investing in local businesses, nonprofits, employee ownership models, and nonprofit shared space to grow jobs and increase wealth in local communities.

“Over the past ten years, I’ve been promoting local investment because at the end of the day, local businesses are key to the prosperity of communities, and local investment is key to the prosperity of local businesses. Kudos to Confluence Philanthropy and the Denver Foundation for introducing three dozen movers and shakers in Colorado to the local investment revolution.  The gathering was an opportunity for everyone to learn about what’s working in the region, and what more can happen through creative institutional investment and grant-giving." Michael Shuman

Speakers throughout the day, included:

·      Michael Shuman | Author, Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Move Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity

·      Dana Lanza | CEO & Co-Founder, Confluence Philanthropy

·      Halisi Vinson | Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center

·      Patrick Horvath | Deputy VP & Director of Economic Opportunity, The Denver Foundation

·      Aaron Miripol | Executive Director, Urban Land Conservancy

·      Rob Smith | Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Micro-Finance Institute

Confluence members will continue discussions about how to build local economies via the upcoming fall webinar about the Jobs Act with Michael Shuman and a special session about "Building Resilience through Investment in Livelihoods,”  at the 7th Annual Confluence Practitioner Gathering in New Orleans – March 14-16, 2017.


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