In March, I had the honor of joining 45 CDFI practitioners from across the U.S. to attend Fundamentals of the Opportunity Finance Industry: Certificate in Community Development Finance. This course, facilitated and led by Dr. Michael Swack, Director, Center for Impact Finance for the Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire and Beth Lipson, OFN executive vice president Strategic Initiatives, took place in Durham, NC at Self-Help's training facility

I had already learned that the CDFI industry had started as an economic justice movement, but I was thoroughly inspired and surprised by the depth of the commitment of many CDFI leaders to this vision of economic justice. Martin Eakes, president and CEO of Self-Help shared stirring stories on the first day about the path he and others took to bring this vision to life. Many of the attendees shared they are attracted to this kind of work because of its history and the significance.

The diversity of attendees made this a particularly interesting experience. Many, like myself, had only been a part of the industry a few months. Others came for a refresher on CAMEL analysis and best underwriting practices. This intensive three-day program provides a unique opportunity for CDFIs at all levels to dig deep into professional development exercises in a relatively short period, as well as to network and build relationships with peers in the industry.

The course offered the opportunity to see CDFI impact in the city where we were hosted. I don't know what I expected of Durham, but I was pleased to find a lot of construction going on in the downtown area where Self-Help, an OFN Member, plays an important role in its revival. During our borrower tour, we saw several development projects, including: the American Underground, the 21 C Museum Hotel, as well as some upcoming development projects for small businesses, affordable housing, and an education program. The new developments that have taken place over the last decade have transformed the city, as we learned on our tour.

The experience was very valuable and gave me an opportunity to connect with CDFI practitioners who are working directly within their communities. In my role as an associate on OFN's development team, where we do not get on the ground to see the direct work of CDFI investment, it was particularly helpful for me to hear and witness the challenges and opportunities CDFI practitioners face on a daily basis.

Learn more about what we covered during the course.


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