As Laurel Blatchford, senior vice president at Enterprise Community Partners, recently wrote for Time magazine, catastrophic events such as Hurricane Matthew do not impact all communities equally. It is the low-income and disinvested communities that are more likely to be hurt by climate change. Blatchford writes, “Low-income communities and communities of color are on the front lines of the damage climate change has already caused, and they continue to face the brunt of the assault.”

This is why it was so important for OFN to partner with the CDFI Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a training specifically for CDFIs to learn more about building resilience and being proactive in the face of continued climate and economic disasters.

CDFI Connect caught up with Annie Donovan, Director of the CDFI Fund, to learn more about this partnership and the one-day Resilience Academy, offered free to 80 attendees just before OFN Conference kicks off in Atlanta. 

Why is resilience an important topic for CDFIs?

Building resilience is part of the DNA of CDFIs already. Most of what they do has the effect of building economic resilience in their communities. This session will put a climate change lens on the concept of resilience. We want CDFIs to be able to nimbly respond to unplanned needs, whether it is a natural disaster or an economic shock, and whether the impact is short-term or long-term. CDFIs need to be thinking more intentionally about resilience at the same time as they think more intentionally about their partnerships, products, and services.

The environment in which CDFIs are operating is constantly changing. In some cases, climate change is forcing these changes. And in the future, this will be increasingly so. Building the resilience of their communities is an opportunity for CDFIs. This training will increase your CDFI’s capacity to understand the risks in your community, to build partnerships, and to be part of solutions.

Why is resilience training important right now?

Climate change is unfolding already. Some of the communities most impacted by these changes are low-income communities, which are often located in more vulnerable places and have less wherewithal to respond and rebuild after natural disasters. For these communities the impact can be heavier and more severe, which means the process of rebounding can be longer and harder.

Can you tell me how this committee formed and some of the goals? 

Earlier this year, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) hosted a convening of CDFIs to build an understanding of how CDFIs are playing a role in enhancing the capacity of vulnerable communities to respond to climate change. CDFIs have such great potential as partners in creating resilient communities because they bring the kind of capital and commitment to public-private partnerships that is very important to this kind of work.

It was a great discussion, and we realized that we need to bring even more CDFIs into the conversation. So we decided to collaborate with the Rockefeller Foundation, OFN, and the Environmental Protection Agency on a Resilience Academy for CDFIs.  

What happens beyond the one-day training, are there next steps?

We expect this training will be an eye opener for the CDFIs who attend. There may be a desire among CDFIs to collaborate with each other and with organizations in their local communities to pursue additional resilience strategies in the future. We hope the Resilience Academy is just the opening chapter - there is a lot of work to be done here.

Can you share a sneak peek at the case studies that are part of the training?

The training will present four different CDFI specific case studies, as well as case studies from HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition.  We will also examine work happening in Atlanta in the Proctor Creek community. In some of the case studies, CDFIs were involved with the local response.

In scenarios where CDFIs are not involved, we will look at how CDFIs might have played a role, and how they might become involved in the future.

By examining these case studies we hope to uncover opportunities. What products and services can CDFIs be working on right now that are robust enough to respond to these situations in the future? Think about the recent flooding in Baton Rouge. No one expected a 100-year flood, and as a result many residents didn’t have flood insurance. Many cars were damaged so people couldn’t get to work. To recover, community members will need affordable credit to get back on their feet. These examples are cropping up more and more. As we speak, Hurricane Matthew is taking a toll on the East Coast. How many homes might be damaged, and how many small businesses might be disrupted in low-income communities as a result of the storm and the flooding? The truth is that this work will only become more pressing in our lifetime. It’s going to be important that the communities we are working in are ready for the changes that seem inevitable.

What will the session look like?

It is going to be a very creative, hands-on training. There is a wonderful group of practitioners coming together to share their stories, so it is going to be a great learning experience. I really encourage other CDFIs to come, engage, and add to the discussion. And the whole day is free!

Register now, space is limited! 


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