Across the country, cross-sector teams are coming together in communities to improve the lives of their residents and increase access to opportunity. Connect Capital is an initiative designed by CCI to assist these teams and communities in attracting and deploying capital at scale to address their needs. With a focus on equity, Connect Capital concentrates not only on executing individual projects but also on laying the necessary groundwork to achieve results at scale. Connect Capital helps participating teams establish shared priorities across stakeholders, create pipelines of investable projects, and strengthen the policies and practices required to achieve their desired results.
Connect Capital provides each team with a suite of supports including customized coaching, facilitated peer learning, and a two-year, $200,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund a local staff position dedicated to advancing the team’s work.
Each participating community designates a “travel team” comprised of the individuals and organizations who are leading the effort, as well as a “home team” made up of a broader group of stakeholders. Over the course of the two years, the travel team attends a series of off-site, multi-day workshops that provides them with the necessary support, encouragement, accountability and peer learning to think strategically about how to most efficiently and effectively achieve the community’s priorities. Between workshops, the full team works with a CCI coach to address challenges and complete assignments designed to move the work forward.
The heart of Connect Capital is the Capital Absorption Framework, the unique lens through which participants pursue their community development objectives. Designed to encourage a more systemic approach to the work and better direct investment capital to areas of need, the Framework consists of three key components:
- Establishing shared priorities across stakeholders. Participants identify the community’s highest priorities, define their targeted results, and agree on a strategy to achieve them.
- Creating a pipeline of deals and projects. By examining deals in progress, analyzing whether they support the priorities, and considering where there may be gaps, participants build a pipeline of deals and develop a strategy for moving them forward together to achieve greater impact and efficiency.
- Strengthening the enabling environment. Armed with a clear sense of shared priorities and a pipeline of deals and projects, participants determine whether the necessary policies, practices and capacities exist to facilitate those deals and strategize ways to address missing components.
Because each community’s challenges and opportunities are unique, outcomes will vary by team. When the capital absorption framework was piloted, outcomes included the adoption by the Bay Area Regional Transit Authority of new transit-oriented development targets on agency-owned land, and a resurgence in lending to finance projects that promote density, diversity, vibrancy and walkability in Detroit’s core neighborhoods.
Six teams have been competitively selected to participate in Connect Capital. Teams consist of local leaders across a range of sectors and disciplines, including foundations, local government, neighborhood organizations and public utilities who together tackle problems that are considered by residents to be critical to the well-being of the community.
Central Appalachia (multi-state): The Invest Appalachia (IA) Connect Capital team is building resilient communities and accelerating market development in Central Appalachia. The team is forming a new social impact collective entity that provides integrated investment and philanthropic capital to local enterprises, intermediaries, and community facilities. Through this entity, IA seeks to work across jurisdictional boundaries to create more quality jobs and boost local wealth.
Coachella Valley, California: The Connect Capital Team is leading a bold effort to radically change the way affordable housing is defined, planned, resourced, and built in the Coachella Valley region. The team has begun to tackle the policy changes, funding interventions, and advocacy needed to achieve this goal. This includes creating a regional housing fund that can bring currently financially infeasible projects to fruition. Currently, nearly 55 percent of region’s residents spend more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing. Ultimately, these strategic moves seek to reduce the rent burden among the area’s low-wage workers and increase their economic stability.
Miami, Florida: To advance regional equity and resiliency, the Miami Connect Capital team is developing and preserving affordable housing near jobs and transit. Following an intensive community engagement process, the team released a report that outlines strategies to combat the city's affordable housing crisis. The team is working with the city and other key players to implement those recommendations, including making changes to the zoning code and finding ways to leverage public funding.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Connect Capital team is coordinating with regional and local agencies and community leaders to ensure that residents and businesses benefit from flood management and green infrastructure investments. The team’s work has helped recruit a variety of stakeholders to accomplish their goal, including industry and property owners in the commercial corridors.
Richmond, Virginia: The Connect Capital team in Richmond aims to curb very low-income residents’ housing instability. The team is taking a two-prong approach to achieve this goal: they’re accelerating the availability of mixed-income communities and creating clearer pathways for current public housing residents to access new housing opportunities and supportive services.
Seattle, Washington: Seattle’s Connect Capital team is developing a strategy to advance environmental justice, climate resilience, and equitable development. Their work centers on the Duwamish Valley’s South Park neighborhood, which is home to a majority people of color and one of the most affordable parts of the city for people with low incomes. Flooding and toxic waste have disproportionately ravaged the area. In response, the team has focused its efforts on ensuring that the priorities of those most affected by racial inequities and health disparities guide where and how investments in their community are made.