Amir Kirkwood’s Monthly Update – March 2023

March 30, 2023 | Other

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Partners and Friends,

March has been an incredibly active month with ample opportunities for the CDFI sector to take part in advocacy and education, and VCCSE has been right on the frontlines of engagement. Critical issues related to economic development, climate change, and affordable housing require active participation by CDFIs like us to ensure investors, philanthropy, and government provide the appropriate support to help us meet the needs of the communities we serve. Below is an overview of some of the critical activity in the industry and where VCCSE has participated.

  • Leadership at OFN – Congratulations to Harold Pettigrew, Opportunity Finance Network’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer. Prior to his appointment, Harold was the CEO of Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF) , a CDFI small business lender covering the District. Harold joins OFN at a critical time for our industry, as we adapt new standards for CDFI certification and incorporate new mandates around climate finance into community development. I have personally had the opportunity to work with Harold over the years and can attest to how much CDFIs will benefit from his leadership.
  • CDFI Coalition – VCCSE Chief External Affairs Officer Caroline Nowery and I attended the CDFI Coalition’s 2023 CDFI Institute. Each year the CDFI Coalition brings together investors, government officials, philanthropies, and of course, CDFIs to discuss the important areas requiring federal funding for CDFIs. Some key issues discussed at the Institute include the pending launch of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the impact of inflation on lending. We also met staff from the Virginia congressional delegation, including Richmond’s own Senator Tim Kaine’s staff, to educate them on the work of VCCSE. The CDFI Institute also provided a forum to learn more about the status of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the potential role that CDFIs will play. I expect an RFP for grantees will be released in the second quarter of 2023 and will be led by a coalition of trade organizations, including OFN, Inclusiv (community development credit unions), the Council of Development Finance Agencies, and the Community Builders of Color Coalition.
  • OFN Connect+ – On March 21st, I had the honor of participating in Opportunity Finance Network’s Connect+ Forum opening plenary, Fostering a Culture of Growth. The panel, which also included Brad McConnell of Allies for Community Business and Rosa Rios Valdez from BCL of Texas, discussed the importance of developing culture during what has been a very dynamic period for CDFIs and their teams throughout and following the pandemic. Topics discussed included managing growth, ensuring inclusivity, and addressing conflict through transparency.
  • Ceres Global – On March 24th, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the Ceres Global Annual Summit in New York. Ceres is a network of wealth managers who see how the climate crisis, water scarcity, nature and biodiversity loss, and social inequity are plaguing the health and prosperity of our global communities, impacting our daily lives, and threatening the economic and financial stability of the world. My specific panel, Environmental and Climate Justice in the New Decarbonized Economy, brought together financial professionals and climate justice activists to explore environmental and climate justice through the lens of economic empowerment in the new green and decarbonized economy. The Justice40 commitments, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, taken together, herald a monumental reshaping of the national economy. The panel allowed an opportunity to discuss how these legislative efforts recognize that historically marginalized communities are agents of economic change, not just the beneficiaries of much-needed reparative efforts.

These remain important times for VCCSE to engage in excellence in how we deliver our work in communities, whether through our bank, loan fund, advisory, or the Community Investment Guarantee Pool (CIGP). A critical aspect of our ability to be effective is active engagement at local and national levels on issues that matter to our collective CDFI sector.


Amir Kirkwood
President & CEO
VCC Social Enterprises