The demand and necessity to invest for impact, globally and locally, is on the rise. However, current investment options and regulations in BC & Canada significantly restrict Canadians from investing into local opportunities. The result is that nearly all investment capital leaves local communities and is placed into far-off stock markets and corporations.
An unintended consequence is that while our investments create significant jobs and wealth elsewhere, the places we live, work and play are overlooked and under-financed. At the same time, rural business development studies and economic development organizations have identified that ‘access to capital’ is a top barrier to business (including co-ops) start-ups, expansions and successions.
Community Investment Co-ops (CICs) are a new and innovative support system for rural and urban economic and business development that effectively bridge the gap between local investors and local ventures in need of financing. CICs are a cost effective, community owned and controlled impact fund. They enable residents to become partners in locally driven economic development, which leads to stronger and more sustainable economies.
Community Investment Co-ops across Canada have successfully financed ventures that generate significant local impacts including: affordable housing; renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and food production; locally-owned small business development; technology; and community economic development projects.
In the past few years, eight new Community Investment Co-ops have established in British Columbia. This growth can be attributed to the sixth global Co-operative principle: cooperation amongst co-operatives. With help from the BC Co-operative Association, The British Columbia Community Impact Investment Coalition (BC CIIC) has brought together Community Investment Co-ops and other local lending organizations from across BC to build a movement for local ethical investing that benefits rural and urban local communities. The mission of the BC CIIC is to be a learning community for Community Impact Investment practitioners to advocate and develop enabling Community Impact Investment programs with the Provincial Government and other BC organizations.
Four of the eight Community Investment Co-ops are launching local impact funds in November and December.