Reflections from CoCap 2019

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Nov 7, 2019 Common Future

We were honored to co-host CoCap’s sixth annual conference on October 20–22 in Oakland and San Francisco in partnership with Impact Hub Oakland and AmbitioUS. Over three packed days, we brought together community leaders, funders, and aligned supporters to examine alternative investment and ownership models, and strategies that prioritize equity in communities.

Over the past six years, the Community Capital (CoCap) conference has complemented the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference by hosting practical and applied conversations for leaders who are building community wealth and funders who are interested in partnering in these solutions. Founded by Jenny Kassan and Konda Mason, the CoCap conference takes a community-centric approach to change-making by centering solutions that are democratic, worker-owned, and equity explicit.

Common Future, formerly known as BALLE, has been convening national conferences in the community wealth building space for the last decade. Concurrently, we’ve built a network of leaders who are creating viable alternatives to the mainstream economy. We were thrilled to welcome a number of Local Economy Fellows to speak at the conference this year.

Over the years, we’ve also built communities of practice for funders through our Foundation Circle (currently recruiting for 2020) and our Investors Circle. By holding relationships with both community wealth-builders and wealth-holders, we’ve come to understand the barriers that hinder communication and authentic relationships. We work to support these leaders, shift capital to promising solutions, and champion these models for scale.

The intention behind CoCap

Coming together in a shared space with shared values and intentions has been a powerful driver for our collective work. As a platform for leaders (re)building our economy, we leverage our position to facilitate connections between these leaders. Most importantly, as we look across the funding divide, we must find ways to build trust and relationships with one another.

The 260 leaders that gathered at the conference are working on powerful, creative, and impactful community development and economic justice projects, and much of their work has the potential to change the economic fabric of local economies. By uplifting, celebrating, and strategizing around this work, we hope to be a catalytic spark for increased connections, ideas and the flow of capital.

With support from the Kellogg FoundationSolidago FoundationKenneth Rainin FoundationEast Bay Community FoundationBeneficial State FoundationRSF Social Finance, and Amalgamated Bank, we spent three days diving into the why, what and how of building an economy that includes everyone. CoCap aimed to inspire, provide knowledge about solutions, and encourage action by facilitating conversations grounded in strategies that collectively advance this work.

So, what happened?

As the sun rose over Oakland that Sunday morning, 260 local and national cross-sector professionals gathered to kick off lively conversations at Impact Hub Oakland, a space that has hosted powerful and meaningful events since its founding in 2013. Konda Mason’s creation has become a pillar of community-centered development in the Bay Area, a region that has experienced massive income inequality and displacement of black and brown people. Leslie Lindo, Common Future’s VP of Strategic Partnerships and the mastermind behind CoCap, welcomed us alongside Maria Nakae of Justice Funders, a valued thought partner for this convening. Maria delivered an important reminder of the land we were standing on — Ohlone land of the Ohlone people. Maria shared that wealth was first acquired by extractive and colonizing means: land was stolen, peoples were enslaved, and resources were extracted to acquire wealth, power and control. She noted that we must restore and rectify these wrongs so that all of us can benefit from these resources.

Konda Mason built upon these ideas in our first panel, “Decolonizing Access to Capital,” (inspired by Edgar Villanueva’s book: Decolonizing Wealth) when she urged us to think outside the box: “The house is on fire,” she explained. If trends continue, the median wealth for African Americans will fall to $0 by 2053. If we’re going to change the system, we must shift away from the mindset that created this system.

The following discussions that day interrogated a central question: What then, is possible? Panels included: Cross-Sector Collaboration for Equitable Opportunity Zones, Funding Strategies for Cooperatives, and Community Owned Housing and Land. That afternoon, we dove into strategic planning sessions, also known as our Solutions Exchange (SOLx): a next-level learning exchange modeled after Global Village Square, that engaged the significant wisdom of CoCap participants. SOLx, first launched at the BALLE Shift Capital Summit in 2018, featured ten initiatives that are underway in communities nationwide. In a small group format, presenters shared early wins and received input on improving existing efforts to move the work forward. Featured initiatives that are building community wealth included: AmpledCASTClimate Justice AllianceEkvn-YefolecvMission Driven FinanceNext EggPeople Power SolarReal People’s Fund, and the Runway Project.

That evening, we ended with a dose of inspiration in the form of “Power Talks,” short, high-energy presentations that highlighted the creative, passionate work of a select group of local economy leaders. Rodney Foxworth, our CEO, kicked us off with a video about our refreshed identity, one that is centered on (re)building an economy that includes everyone. By embracing refreshed roles in our ecosystem, Common Future is becoming a platform for leaders to incubate ideas, an aggregator of philanthropic and impact investment capital, a trusted advisor to funders, a collaborator working alongside our Network, and a mainstream influence for reimagining the economy.

Jennifer Johns closed us out that evening, leaving participants with a deep sense of optimism. Jennifer challenged us to take one minute each day to imagine a future that we want to live in. It can be difficult, at times, to find the energy to keep pushing forward with challenging work. Only when we imagine what is possible can we break from our conventions and build a better world, as Konda described so poignantly that morning.

We spent the next two days of the conference in actionable workshops that examined what it will take to build equitable economies. Sessions included: Financing a Movement-Led Economic Enterprise, Reclaiming and Revitalizing Local Economies through an Indigenous Community Wealth Building Lens, and Building Rural Ecosystems. These sessions provided attendees with knowledge and connections to fuel their work. We were excited to witness partnerships arising from this convening in real-time. Erin Kilmer Neel, Executive Director and Chief Impact Officer of the Beneficial State Foundation, described her session on Reinventing the Community Bank System:

“Our deep dive session engendered several meaningful ideas related to the anti-displacement work we and others are doing, and I foresee follow-ups with several of the folks in that session. I am planning to meet up with my co-panelists to share best practices and keep dialogues open.

Tuesday brought us to Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco to focus on exchanging practical and applied knowledge. (Impact Alpha has already identified some of the most promising models featured at the conference.) We discussed the “how” of: Structuring an Aggregated Community Capital Fund, Equitable Food and Farm Financing, Shifting Health Capital to Community Wealth, and Democratic Ownership and ManagementPierre Joseph, Program Officer at the Solidago Foundation, described his experience of the first session on community capital funds succinctly:

“The challenge we presented in the aggregated community capital workshop is how those with power and influence (philanthropy and investors) can work with communities to build the necessary tools to begin creating the economy we all deserve…Using the formation of the Real People’s Fund, as an example…we were able to demonstrate the very real issues communities grapple within the space. Issues like building trust between community-based organizations and financial intermediaries, knowing full well the ways in which finance and banking have harmed communities…all in all it was a really powerful session. Folks walked away hungry to engage, find partners and build their own local funds. To support that effort — Solidago is working with National Coalition for Community Capital on a handbook that will walk communities through the fund formation process, with case study examples to pull from.”

What about SOCAP?

The next morning, we maintained the momentum by sharing similar themes from CoCap on the SOCAP mainstage. Rodney Foxworth was featured on the panel: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap: Essential Conversations for Impact Investors, moderated by Felicia Wong of the Roosevelt Institute, in conversation with Rashad Robinson of Color of Change and Alicia Garza of Black Futures Lab and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter.

They discussed what impact investors should understand about the political landscape and the implications for economic opportunity. At Common Future, we see our role as influencing a variety of stakeholders, from impact investors to thought leaders, to uplift the work of leaders who are shaping the system. As Rodney explained in his SOCAP panel:

“We are where we are today because of a set of actions that have been done and continue to happen…[we need] to heal.”

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