The community kind of impact investing

Ever since JP Morgan Chase started talking about Impact Investing as a “new” asset class in 2010, it’s been a topic of discussion amongst elite investors in the know.

Impact investing is described in Investopedia as an investment that “actively seeks to make a positive impact.” Today, many of us are invested in mutual funds and we’re taught to look for the most money we can make on our investments in the shortest period of time, regardless of what we’re actually investing in. The focus here is on dollar impact, not social impact.

I can remember way back when my grandfather talked to me about investing. He was born at the beginning of the 20th century and believed in investing in companies that did things he liked. He was an engineer and he relished having shares in 3M which was, at the time, probably the most innovative company going! I miss his excitement about the places he invested. And even though 3M may not fit in today’s standards of social or environmental impact investing, it sure was making an impact on innovation back then, and this was an impact that my grandfather admired and sought out with his investment.
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Give trust a chance

We live in an era of possibility. Everyday new leaders and companies are rewriting long-standing rules to create value and unlock promise. These new leaders realize that many times the very norms and rules meant to protect us from risk end up blocking us from true potential. If you have a credit score below a certain number, you cannot take out a loan. If you’ve had a criminal record, you can’t get certain jobs.

We live in an era of possibility. Everyday new leaders and companies are rewriting long-standing rules to create value and unlock promise. These new leaders realize that many times the very norms and rules meant to protect us from risk end up blocking us from true potential. If you have a credit score below a certain number, you cannot take out a loan. If you’ve had a criminal record, you can’t get certain jobs.

What if we could suspend those rules? What kinds of opportunities would emerge? A beautiful thing can happen when people rely on trust and connections. Infinite possibilities are allowed to emerge. At the community level, where personal connections, history, relationships, and human emotion flourishes, there is less need for so many rules.
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Connecting Capital to Meaning

I talk a lot about driving capital flows (money) toward the things people value most — community mostly, but also family, education, and love.

Much like Diane (in the video above), I talk a lot about driving capital flows (money) toward the things people value most — community mostly, but also family, education, and love. It’s a simple concept. But our world is currently set up to drive capital flows toward more money. Implicit in the system is that more money will bring us a world that is more valuable — it will bring us more of what we most value. But many people find that it doesn’t work that way once our basic needs for food, shelter and healthcare are met. Does making more money create more value? This is the experiment our world is currently running.

What if we didn’t measure our wealth in money? What if we measured wealth as the number of mountains we’ve climbed, the number of books we’ve read, or the depth of the friendships we have? What would we do with our money then?
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A community line of credit: when possibility meets potential

There’s something exciting going on with Community Sourced Capital. Two businesses which  found success getting a loan from their community are at it again. Last summer, the Adrift Hotel borrowed $18,450 to finance a solar hot water installation for their sustainable hotel in Long Beach, Washington. They took on the loan, executed the project, held a party for their Squareholders, and perhaps best of all, they paid back the loan on schedule.
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Marching Roanoke toward possibility

Unlike many southern towns whose centers have been consumed by suburban sprawl over the last few decades, Roanoke has been moving in the opposite direction — revitalizing downtown, investing in the arts, leveraging the incredible natural beauty and amenities, and encouraging and promoting local business like crazy. It’s all in the name of making a great community.

Unlike many southern towns whose centers have been consumed by suburban sprawl over the last few decades, Roanoke has been moving in the opposite direction — revitalizing downtown, investing in the arts, leveraging the incredible natural beauty and amenities, and encouraging and promoting local business like crazy. It’s all in the name of making a great community.

I remember the heart of downtown 25 years ago. It was a seedy, unwelcoming place at night. Now, it’s hoppin’ with local restaurants and shops, museums, music venues, art galleries, and the oldest continuously operating farmers market in VA (which just got a facelift).

10 years ago, there were fewer than a dozen people living downtown. Today, the downtown population is well over 2,000 thanks to the redevelopment of old buildings by progressive developers.

5 years ago, we had one farmers market. Now, we have 5 thanks to a growing grassroots commitment to caring about the origin of our food. That commitment extends to Roanoke’s natural beauty, which has always been here, but is now being rediscovered and leveraged by groups like Roanoke Outside. Events like the Blue Ridge Marathon endure one of the country’s toughest road races.

There are so many things that still need to be done to realize all of Roanoke’s potential. There’s a small ground swell of interest in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship requires an eco-system of mentors, investors, infrastructure, and peers. Newly opened places like the CoLab are creating synergistic gathering and co-working spaces combined with programming, in an attempt to stimulate and nurture entrepreneurship that endures in our valley.

Just like everything in life, good things happen when multiple stars align. Roanoke has always had the fundamentals in place to be a truly amazing small city: natural beauty and outdoor amenities, a friendly and welcoming culture and that quintessential easy southern lifestyle.

When preparation meets opportunity, it’s called luck. It takes innovative people to see possibility and prepare their community for it. But that’s just the beginning. The real joy of this work comes when a community realizes its potential and decides to march toward opportunity together–full steam ahead.

Practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters quote

“Practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous.”

“Practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous.” – Seth Godin