In the spring of 2021, ROC USA was featured in a report by Transform Finance titled “Grassroots Community Engaged Investment: Making the Case for Community Engagement, Grassroots Participation, Democratization, and Shared Governance in Capital Interventions.” The report highlights nonprofits engaging in Grassroots Community Engaged Investing, which they describe as a “power-building approach to investment.” In today’s episode of Ownership Matters, we’re joined by Curt Lyons, co-author of the report, to learn more about Transform Finance, talk about community engaged investing, and hear this thoughts on what stands out about ROC USA and Resident Owned Communities nationwide.
Episode: Curt Lyon Of Transform Finance On Investing With Conscience
Welcome to the Ownership Matters podcast, where hosts Paul Bradley and Mike Bullard highlight the stories of people at the heart of the manufactured housing and resident-ownership movements. ROC USA—an organization working with resident owners in manufactured home communities—offers these resources for various listeners. In this episode, Paul and Mike welcome guest Curt Lyon to discuss community finance.
0:25 Introduction of guest and episode
Hosts Paul Bradley and Mike Bullard introduce today’s and guest and discussion topic: community finance. We will get a look into the types of investors who lend to community lenders like ROC USA Capital. Our guest today is Curt Lyon of Transform Finance, whose aim is to inform investors that the best community development members are those who listen to community.
2:00 More about Curt’s position
Curt is the Deputy Director at Transform Finance, where he advocates for a more just economy. He manages research and advisory projects, contributes to reports and briefings and coordinates staff. He became activated by solidarity economy movements and provided support for several Boston area organizations. He is an active learner of investment structures that redistribute wealth and power.
3:49 All about Transform Finance
Transform assists a wide variety of stakeholders in transforming finance to be more in line with social justice goals and everyday life. They do research, direct work with various investors, strategies and narrative change work within the world of finance. They also work with movement organizations, non profits and community based groups. Their work is making finance a tool for social justice.
5:50 The lenders that care for community engagement
Transform Finane’s three guiding principles are: for those involved in the investments to be engaged in the community governance, ensuring investments are non-extractive and fair balancing of risk and return. There is a wide range of lenders interested in this framework like impact funds, family offices and community development financial institutions.
8:50 How community engagement is possible
CFIs are typically top down and differ greatly in their community engagement approach. Resource Pro specializes in thinking about bottom up methods when working with communities affected by an investment. Grassroots organizations have been shown to step into the complicated world of finance and do well.
13:40 How receptive are lenders to Transform Finance’s principles?
The pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement has been a catalyst for progressive financial institutions to dip their toes even further in redistribution of wealth. However, sharing decision making and power in investments is still not a mainstream approach.
16:13 How Transform Finance’s principles operate
As an example of Transform Finance’s three principles in action, Curt references a Boston area project which is totally community controlled and governed. They also have a wide voting base including what businesses to support and engaging local groups.
21:00 Curt’s report on and praise of ROC USA
To Curt, ROC USA stands out in their work providing upstart lending capital to communities but leaving major decisions up to residents. Their national governance model reflects the community’s accountability. Finally, he praises the impact of community housing. What makes ROC USA unique is their national scale and clear replicability.
26:37 Curt shares closing thoughts as the episode wraps up.
At Transform Finance, the team loves speaking with others interested in similar goals of social justice, power, ownership and finance as a tool for social change. It’s organizations such as ROC USA who are really bringing the vision of this work to life.
29:00 Closing words and thank you for joining us.
Learn more about ROC USA through our website.
Thoughts? Questions? Stories? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.