Revitalizing communities through strategic partnerships and mobilizing local capital for these efforts received strong collective thought during Virginia Community Capital’s (VCC) Annual Learning Exchange on Thursday, December 12 at Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel. Attended by nearly 200 leaders in community development, finance, philanthropy, government, and housing from across Virginia and beyond, the program began with an hour-long networking opportunity.
Immediately following lunch, President and CEO Jane Henderson kicked off formal proceedings with an update on VCC’s accomplishments. “We’ve reached $100 million in assets this year,” Henderson announced, reminding everyone in attendance that VCC originated only eight short years ago with a $15 million capital infusion by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Henderson also took the opportunity to thank the many partners in the room. The Learning Exchange is sponsored by a host of organizations. See list of sponsors here.
A brief video presented four ongoing Success Stories at VCC, illustrating the strong organizational focus on job creation, healthy foods, health care, and affordable housing. View the video here.
Henderson introduced the keynote speaker, Robin Hacke, who serves as Director of Capital Innovation for Living Cities, a national organization that harnesses the collective power of philanthropy and financial institutions to improve the lives of low-income people and cities. (Learn more about Living Cities here.) Hacke described the Living Cities Integration Initiative, which reaches “beyond simply adding affordable housing” to restore community vitality.
“We saw that we needed to tackle issues at the scale of system change in order to be effective,” Hacke explained. This type of collaboration crosses various systems to solve problems, for example connecting educators with employers or municipal administrators with business owners. Living Cities has worked with leadership in five cities: Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, and Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
Living Cities espouses a capital absorption system because “money itself will not solve problems,” according to Hacke. The recommended approach integrates the appropriate partners and a cohesive strategy to accomplish shared priorities. Key elements include:
As Hacke summarizes it: “It’s not magic, but when people talk to one another, they are able to do what they want to do.” See a graphic presentation of the Living Cities Capital Absorption process here.
Similar to our 2012 meeting, VCC surveyed Learning Exchange attendees using real-time audience response technology supplied by Richmond-based TMI Consulting. Questions cover audience composition, recent successes, and areas of focus for the coming year. On the latter topic, 24 percent attending cited small business growth as a point of interest. This was followed by access to financing with 19 percent. See complete results here.
Attendees left invigorated and ready to consider new avenues for accomplishing community development goals. As Henderson summarized at the end of the gathering: “Take what you heard here today. Utilize all of your resources to start working collaboratively in a new way. Let’s be more impactful in our communities. Or, as we say at VCC, ‘Let’s do more, together.’”