Despite all the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, Beth Bafford, Vice President of Syndications and Strategy at Calvert Impact Capital, Duke MBA class of 2012 and CASE i3 Advisory Council member, is hopeful about one thing: we can all do so much more when we work together.
“The old saying rings true: ‘When you want to walk fast, walk alone. When you want to walk far, walk together,’” said Bafford when talking about the extensive collaboration efforts of organizations within a new fund she is working on, the Community Recovery Vehicle.
Built by a collaboration of mission-driven partners interested in increasing access to capital in communities that are not served by the traditional banking system, the Community Recovery Vehicle is a tool to support new lending to small businesses and nonprofits by community-based lending organizations, like Community Development Financial Institutions. With many of these small businesses and nonprofits struggling due to COVID-19 and its economic effects, it’s now more important than ever to create tailored and targeted solutions to include entrepreneurs that have been left outside of the financial system for decades – particularly Black, Indigenous, people of color and female entrepreneurs.
“If we are going to begin reducing wealth and income disparities across our country – and around the world – we have to focus on creating clear pathways to wealth creation,” said Bafford. “And one of the most direct pathways is business ownership. We know that to start and grow a business, entrepreneurs need access to capital and credit.”
An example of the Community Relief Vehicle work in action is the New York Forward Loan Fund, which was launched by Governor Cuomo in May. In New York, the first loans closed to small businesses had an average loan size of $50,000. These loans – flexible and affordable working capital – could make the difference between a business that can retool and survive this economic crisis and one who has to shut down.
Another CASE alumni, Manuel Costa, Executive Staff at Self-Help and Duke MBA class of 2018, is working on the RISE Miami-Dade Fund, which is a revolving loan fund for small business owners to help in the recovery and re-activation of their businesses. Like Bafford, he is hopeful about the level of collaboration that is happening, however, he also finds it to be the biggest challenge.
“The unprecedented circumstances and magnitude of all this required us to collaborate and be more than the sum of our parts. But how do we do that when we can’t meet? When we don’t have the time? When we have never had this scale of collaboration before? That, to me, is the biggest challenge,” said Costa.
This demonstrated need for collaboration, with both its benefits and challenges, is one of the reasons that CASE’s social impact competencies focus on cultivating tri-sector leadership skills – which both Bafford and Costa have seen firsthand as they continue their work in the impact investing field and support its response to COVID-19.
“This model only works with active collaboration and support from all three sectors – private, public, and social – so having the ability to understand the roles and strengths of each sector has been critical,” said Bafford.