July 7th’s Transforming Communities Through Business Breakfast Series kicked off yet again with Upohar’s wonderful breakfast stylings at the Southern Market Center. Local business owners, investors, and community members alike gathered for some early morning, “get to know your neighbor” exercises led by Randy Newswanger. After breaking the ice, ASSETS Executive Director Jessica King settled in behind the podium to start unpacking the topic at hand, “Community Capital.”
Community Capital is one of 8 principles embraced by the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). BALLE is a national network that aims to promote local, sustainable, impact-oriented businesses and economies. The intent behind Community Capital is to encourage communities to put their capital to work in their local environments, because all too often, financial investments are sent far way, out of sight. This investment trend leaves community members with little to no tangible ties to the impact of their investments.
“There’s a disconnect,” King began her address. She was referring to a traditional investment cycle – sharing examples of foundations that made grants to assist communities with problems caused in part by the businesses the same foundations profited from. “Traditional philanthropy may not be the answer,” King said, referring to making as much money as possible and giving some of the profit away, rather than examining the harm or the benefit of the business model making the profit.
The answer isn’t so simple, though. And the point of the “Community Capital” topic was not to lambast big business–King instead prompted the audience to consider their personal assets. She urged listeners to reflect on where their money comes from, how it was made, and how this income translates to personal assets. Could we all make small changes to see more of our money circulating in our immediate environment? While foundations and community funds can jumpstart capital for social good–and this already occurs in Lancaster County–individuals can also deploy capital to create socioeconomic change.
Shifting your shopping from large, corporate stores, to smaller, local businesses is proven to have a deeper impact in immediate communities. As King cited a statistic comparing the number of jobs created per $10 million consumer dollars spent, listeners learned that a site like Amazon.com only created 14 jobs with that capital, while the same $10 million could create 57 jobs, if spent locally.
As if on cue, King sensed the awe and reminded the audience that they could be the source of “very real impact on jobs and people locally.” But community capital doesn’t necessarily need to be focused on job creation. King encouraged attendees to consider what matters to them, individually.
The most promising part of the morning’s talk came with King’s final words to the audience. “How can we take a step?” she questioned. “It doesn’t need to be the whole hog,” she encouraged with a smile. Part of the crucial work in service of this mission was already getting started. The biggest takeaway from the morning’s musings was the hope that through conversations about these ideas, personal reflection about spending decisions, and sharing input with community members, we can begin to change our own community, through business, for the better. What a morning!
Look for more information to come on next month’s breakfast focusing on “Opportunity for All,” August 4th. We hope you’ll join us. 🙂