Last week CDFI practitioners, investors, and other key industry stakeholders came from places as far as Oregon and South Carolina, gathering in New Hampshire to take a deep dive into opportunity finance through our Fundamentals of the Opportunity Finance Certificate program. Our intense three-day course, hosted in partnership with the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, tackled everything from the history of the opportunity finance industry, to models for growth, to challenges and opportunities for the field. By taking this time to learn, recent entrants in the field essentially get a crash course in everything CDFI, providing them with a broader look at the industry beyond their own experience and an opportunity to network with peers. Ultimately, the goal is to help new entrants in the field gain insights that will not only impact their day to day work, but provide them with tools to grow the industry and see opportunities for future innovation.

Day one began with a look back, examining who we are and what we have learned as a result of 30 years of history as an industry. Our discussion was lively, and helped paint a picture of the evolution of the industry, from a movement that included a handful of community lenders determined to bring capital to those who needed it most, to an industry that now includes close to 1,000 certified CDFIs. Throughout that history, as we learned from a review of the OFN Longitudinal Study, CDFIs have evolved in both their sources of capital as well as in the services that they provide.

Elyse Cherry, President and CEO of Boston Community Capital, joined us to share some interesting insights on BCC’s history, how they have achieved their extraordinary growth, and the ingredients that contribute to their dynamic organizational culture.

On the second day, after an intense morning of reviewing CDFI financial statements, the group enjoyed learning from ROC USA and New Hampshire Community Loan Fund about the groundbreaking model to convert manufactured housing communities to resident ownership.  New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has financed 120 communities in its history and ROC USA is bringing the model to a national scale with partners in 14 states. We reviewed the project financing for a deal, and then visited several NH parks, with the highlight being meeting two manufacturing housing residents that have taken on Board leadership positions in their communities.  

The past and present inform the future for day three of the training. This starts with public policy, since the role of the Treasury and the CDFI Fund has become so critical to the industry. Both for our policy work and for work with our other partners, data has become an important piece of the puzzle, so we also examined the need to collect and disseminate industry impact and outcome data. As we move forward as an industry, a recent Carsey study recommends that we look to standardize the data we collect in the industry.

The next opportunity to participate in the course is September 12-14 in Seattle, WA. Thanks to the Northwest Area Foundation, scholarships are available to Native CDFIs in the Foundation’s service area to attend. Register today or apply for a scholarship here.


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