Community investment is financing that targets the underserved (individuals, communities, and social enterprises) in order to develop opportunities and improve conditions. Who is involved in this sector in Canada today? How big is it? How important is it in the current recession? To answer these questions, the Canadian Community Investment Network Co-operative (CCINC) undertook a nation-wide survey in 2008-09.
CCINC discovered a sector comprising nearly 500 organizations whose community investment deals (loans, loan guarantees, or equity) had a total value in 2008 of at least $1.4 billion. The survey reveals actors that, while very diverse (Community Futures organizations, Aboriginal financial institutions, credit unions, CED investment funds and organizations, community loan funds and peer lending circles), share independence from government and the goal of blended returns on investment.
Their sources of capital include loans, loan guarantees, private equity and donations, associations, the government, and other mainstream financial institutions. They tend to invest in the conservation economy, affordable housing, Fair Trade, social enterprise, and financing people's transition from unemployment to work.
It's also a growing sector, when you compare these results from those gathered in 2006. With improved research, more operational funding and incentives for private investment, greater sharing of practices, and new, innovative structures, the sector could generate even more investment in Canadian communities. If anything, the current downturn is the time to keep deals flowing, to train people in financing and managing enterprises, and to educate the public in community-based investing.