In early 2023, Locus completed a strategic planning process that challenged us to ask tough questions: What’s our mission? Who do we serve? What is the greatest and most impactful way for Locus to use our resources? Answering these questions took us back to the roots of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) movement – “to serve and empower” people and places that the traditional capital system had overlooked or excluded. As we considered how to bring the most value possible as a community partner, we focused on designing a place-based investment strategy that would guide us to working differently in place.
What does a place-based investment strategy mean for Locus? Simply put, it means leading with a set of values. We want to work in places where our partnership is welcomed and where we have the opportunity and invitation to build relationships across sectors – public, private, philanthropic. True to our CDFI roots, we want to show up where the capital system is not working for all. When we get there, we engage as learners, working to understand what the shared priorities are in communities and then considering how our tools can help to advance those priorities. And we don’t do this work alone. We work through embedded community organizations; we challenge anchor institutions to unlock their assets to drive benefits in place. Essentially, we support community partners that are committed to equity and inclusion and ensure that our policies and processes reflect that same commitment.
It also means being very clear on our Theory of Change. We believe working as a unified community development organization puts us in a unique position to go deep in partnership with communities to help them achieve the long-term, equitable prosperity they envision. We’ve spent time these past months becoming a more integrated organization, connecting our banking and financing resources more integrally with our strategic advising services. While we know that capital is a piece of the puzzle, we want to bring a broader set of tools to the opportunities and challenges that communities face. We can bring to that partnership our diverse skills and lived experiences; our partnerships, networks, and connections to field innovators; our values; our influence as a trusted partner in Virginia and nationally; and, of course, the financial capital we deploy and help others deploy.
What does a place-based investment strategy mean for communities? At the end of the day, Locus and our place-based partners seek the same thing – a robust, equitable investment ecosystem that is responsive to community needs and opportunities and ultimately supports the social, economic, health, and environmental conditions needed to promote well-being for all. If all this work does not result in impacts on the ground, why do it? To get to those impacts – and based on what we learn about community priorities and the unique opportunities and challenges in each place – we may:
- Collaborate with communities, mission-aligned institutions, and businesses to develop and implement strategies that strengthen the community investment ecosystem that, for example, supports a stronger local food economy.
- Partner to create innovative infrastructure to help capital flow more equitably and effectively where it is needed most, such as through the design and management of a regional guarantee pool.
- Deploy catalytic capital – equitable, lower cost, more patient, more risk tolerant – in partnership with philanthropy, to key sectors that address small business, housing affordability, climate change, and food systems.
- Evaluate the work we do and share what we learn to innovate and advocate for the communities we serve.
- Examine and adjust our practices and policies regularly to ensure equitable deployment of resources in alignment with community priorities.
For Locus, our place-based investment strategy is a journey, and we are on the first leg. We understand our “why” and are moving toward defining the “how” and the “what” of this important work. We are starting with a pilot in Virginia and building from there. We look forward to sharing the next leg of this journey in the months ahead.