September 21, 2020

 

Lieutenant Governor Endorses Efforts to Establish Georgia as the Technology Capital of the East Coast 

 

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced the official launch of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, a public-private partnership created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the Technology Capital of the East Coast. 

This goal was set by the lieutenant governor at the start of his term, and the corresponding efforts will establish the state as a national leader in technology research, development and implementation – ultimately encouraging growth, entrepreneurship and innovation across Georgia. The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation will build on the important foundational work of the Georgia Innovates Taskforce, which was convened by Lt. Gov. Duncan in January 2020 and provided final recommendations last month to accelerate Georgia’s path towards achieving this goal.

“As we shape the future of Georgia, we must prioritize innovation improvements and technology advancement across the state,” said Lt. Gov. Duncan. “With guidance and advocacy from the incredible leaders who comprise the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, I am confident Georgia will institute an impressive entrepreneurial identity as the Technology Capital of the East Coast.” 

Under the leadership of board chair Dr. G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Debra Lam, the executive director of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, the organization will implement recommendations outlined by the Georgia Innovates Taskforce, which support foundational, transformational and sustaining work and development throughout the state:

  • Foundational: Providing access to digital resources and education.
  • Transformational: Advancing agriculture, food system innovation, venture capital growth, lab-to-market tech transfer and more.
  • Sustaining: Ensuring the resources, access and opportunities created are sustained through coordinated and ongoing public-private partnerships.

These key themes follow the Taskforce’s guiding principles of inclusive innovation – connectedness, diversity, identity, sustainability and talent. The resulting work will build on Georgia’s already strong foundation, leveraging tremendous technology infrastructure and leadership, as well as the diverse economic, geographic and demographic energy of our state to execute this important initiative.

Advancement efforts will include a series of high-impact, low-cost pilot programs – including K-12 Digital Readiness, Advanced Food Supply Innovation and Regional Industry/Education Collaboratives. The first set of pilots was recently announced by the Georgia Smart Community Challenge, including:  

  • Civic Data Science for Equitable Development, Savannah – The city of Savannah plans to build new decision-making tools using a city data hub and analytics platform for programmatic outcomes for vacant and blighted properties. 
  • Traffic Monitoring and Communication System, Valdosta – This project includes the development of a smart traffic management system that will connect all 128 traffic signals in Valdosta for increased safety and efficiency. 

More pilots will begin in the coming months, and a framework will be created to evaluate and select additional pilot proposals. The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation will work closely with local governments, startups, nonprofits and the pilot managers to scale and institutionalize each pilot after its trial period. 

“Our efforts will bring access and opportunity to all Georgians, transforming entrepreneurship in our state for decades to come. I look forward to witnessing the innovation and progress we will achieve together,” said Dr. Peterson.  

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation has a board of established leaders throughout Georgia, united by their vision to advance Georgia and commitment to helping drive the long-term success of the organization. Additionally, Georgia Tech and notable Georgia-based companies, including Georgia Power, Jabian, Jackson Spalding and Kilpatrick Townsend, have provided counsel to the Georgia Innovates Taskforce and will continue to support the efforts of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation. Funding for the partnership will be split between the private and public sector. 

“Through collaboration between industry and education, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation has the potential to transform our entire state and the lives of its citizens,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech. “We at Georgia Tech are honored to help Georgia maximize inclusive innovation throughout our state.” 

 

For more information, visit PartnershipForInclusiveInnvoation.org.

September 2, 2020

Atlanta influences everything, the saying goes, and racial and gender equity in startups is no exception. Atlanta is home to the largest pitch event for underrepresented founders, Startup Runway, which is closing the equity gap by introducing unrepresented founders to their first investor. 

This semi-annual event competitively selects high-potential startups to receive mentorship, get investor introductions, and pitch for a chance to win $10,000 non-dilutive grants.

This month’s event takes place on September 9th and will feature general partners and managing directors of VC firms such as Valor Ventures, Boeing HorizonX, Bull City Venture Partners, TiE Angles, and more alongside speakers from Crunchbase, The Gathering Spot, HBCUvc and more.

There is no doubt that a large funding gap for founders of color and female founders exists, and Atlanta is home to many of these founders. In fact, less than 5% of venture capital dollars are allocated to these founders, which is why they are “underrepresented” in venture capital. In Atlanta, founders of color and women together are the majority of founders in our ecosystem, but are not consistently invited to participate in this economy. 

Startup Runway invites these underrepresented founders to participate in the venture and angel economy by introducing them to their first investor. To date, finalists have raised over $20 million in venture capital funding, tipping the scale towards equality. And 1 in 3 finalists have been backed by an investor within 6 months of the event. Startup Runway instills confidence in its Finalists and provides them with mentorship and tools for success, helping them better navigate the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

You can find more information or register for the upcoming showcase. If you are a founder interested in applying for an upcoming showcase, you can find information here.

August 31, 2020

Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, EnrichHER.com

I founded my company, EnrichHER, partly because my mother instilled in me at a young age that, as a Black woman, I was going to have to be my own financial advocate. She knew she had to teach me this because she knew that the outside world would try to teach me many cruel lessons — lessons that compounded to tell me that I did not deserve the same monetary access and decision-making power available white men. Because of the stories my mother and her friends told me about the doors financial literacy opened for them, I was inspired to earn a PhD in Systems Engineering and Finance, and to use my knowledge and skills to empower others to own their own economic destinies. Because that empowerment is important to a diverse and equal society, I want to introduce you to a couple of people who themselves have amazing stories to tell.

This is Barbara Jones. She started out working as a cashier; now she’s known as a technological innovator. Barbara earned a Computer Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin and became an early Java developer. She combined this knowledge with previous experience as a cashier and began writing point-of-sale software (in layman’s terms — cash register software). After refining her skills at Freescale Semiconductor and 360 Commerce, Barbara founded LilliiRnB, a boutique IT consulting firm that helps Fortune 500 companies and government agencies increase their revenue, while improving the retail experience. LilliiRnB specialties include integrations for merchandise returns management, loss prevention and asset protection, cyber security and cloud-based POS systems. LilliiRnB plans to use the money raised from the All Rise Factory to grow and scale Freeing Returns, their proprietary merchandise returns platform. Doesn’t such perseverance and innovation deserve as large a platform as possible?

This is Missy Koefod. During the Snowpocalypse of 2014 in Atlanta, she and her wife Kristin passed the time experimenting with different flavors of bitters to add to their cocktails. Because they enjoyed these experiments so much, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to see if anyone else might be interested in what they were mixing up. Their campaign earned $9,225, which was 23 percent more than their $7,500 goal. You might say that things snowballed from there. 18.21 Bitters (named for the 18th amendment, which established Prohibition, and the 21st, which repealed it) now produces shrubs and syrups in addition to the eponymous bitters, and the company has a brick and mortar location in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. When Missy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2011, she and Kristin had just gotten married after she graduated from law school. The timing could not have been worse. After battling her way back to good health, she returned to work at her law firm, but her heart wasn’t in it. Although she was looking to make a career change, starting a beverage company had been the furthest thing from her mind before the snowstorm. She let that change in priorities prompt her to lean into her creativity, and she hasn’t looked back. Missy and Kristin plan to use the money earned through the All Rise Factory to increase their production capacity so they can meet current user demand.

These two amazing women and their companies are members of EnrichHER’s All Rise Factory cohort; you can meet the other five companies in the cohort by clicking the link in this sentence. The All Rise Factory is designed to allow investors to support a group of vetted, successful women-led and Black-owned businesses so that their success can increase. They have products and services that people want; they just need capital to grow. These businesses need support because our current financial system has proven time and again that it is not yet equitable. When financial equity increases, access to power and decision-making is tied to more diverse perspectives; when that happens, we all rise together.

August 27, 2020

By: Brent Macon, Chief Partnerships Officer

 

At its heart, Daymaker is a compassion platform. We believe that giving expands our capacity to love one another while transferring resources so that every kid can develop into a life of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. 

Our product has historically helped companies run seasonal giving campaigns like Back to School and Holidays that enable employees to empower kids in their local communities by donating gifts and much needed supplies. We fulfill those gifts in partnership with high-impact 501(c)3 nonprofit partners serving children who lack access to resources. The hallmark of Daymaker is that it is personally connective. Donors give to a specific child whose story they get to learn about, developing a sense of kinship as they share love and resources. 

We believe we are all connected in our shared humanity, and our team has been looking for ways to deepen the support we offer to the wonderful children on our platform. These kids often lack access to the tools and experiences needed to thrive, through no fault of their own. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) compound the developmental challenges. The pain and tragedy of systemic racism and the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on marginalized communities have made the need for equity conversations more clear and more pressing. 

Starting with our back-to-school campaign that is currently live, Daymaker is announcing the ‘Receiver’s Journey’ element of our platform – a shift towards making a long-term commitment to the kids and nonprofits on our platform, with expanded ways for donors to support and empower the children they give to. 

We’ve asked our nonprofit partners to make a commitment to have kids on the platform for 3 or more years. Donors will still give during seasonal giving campaigns, but they’ll see expanded wishlist items and the opportunity to help with more holistic interventions in addition to one-off gifts and supplies. For our back to school campaign, that means we have standard school supply kits, but have also added face masks, books celebrating diverse heroes, and ‘Daymaker Discover Bundles’ that come once a month over the course of the fall and keep kids engaged and inspired. Longer-term, we plan to help with things like consistent access to counseling and healthy meal kits.  

See below for example of current wishlist:

Givers will be able to support the same kid over multiple campaigns, donating alongside their teammates and creating a sense of longitudinal connection.  This shift will offer children more sustainable, consistent, and reliable support from people in their community, fostering a more inclusive and cohesive space for them to develop and grow as human beings.  

To make this change, we’ve worked with each of our nonprofit partners to identify fit with this new model and determine the unique needs of each community during this 2020 back to school season.  During one of those conversations, a nonprofit leader said something that has resonated with us ever since: “Sustained support from outside the home would’ve changed the whole story that it was me against the world.”

We are hopeful that these changes to the Daymaker product will bring more light and love into both the giver and the receiver’s experience, because the shared journey of giving is the foundation for a healthy, vibrant community.  We know there are challenges in every community, but together, we can help tell a new story. 

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Daymaker is a benefit corporation with central operations in Atlanta; to participate in the current ‘Hope at Home’ campaign, please visit our Daymaker ‘Friends and Family’ campaign page.  If you are interested in turning on a giving page for your company for the Holiday campaign, please reach out to Brent Macon, [email protected].

Businesses in Georgia Can Soon Incorporate for Profit and Purpose

ATLANTA – August 26, 2020 – The Georgia Senate passed House Bill 230 on June 25, just before the end of the 2019-2020 regular session. Governor Kemp signed the legislation on July 19, 2020, with an effective date of January 1, 2021. Businesses in Georgia will now have the opportunity to incorporate as benefit corporations, making Georgia the thirty-fifth state to create such a designation.

In the U.S., there are more than 1,200 benefit corporations (similar but not the same as “B Corps”), which stand behind their commitment to certain environmental, social and governance standards, as a part of a broader trend of blending social good into business practices. Most benefit corporations are concentrated in one of the 34 states that have already passed benefit corporation legislation, including Delaware (passed in 2013) and the southern states of Florida (2014) and South Carolina (2012). Around the world, there are more than 2,500 globally across 50 countries.

“We know Georgia-based businesses have gone to states where this legislation already existed,” said State Representative Scott Holcomb (D – Atlanta), the bill’s lead sponsor. “Georgia may be late to the conversation, but we have a thriving ecosystem of social entrepreneurs who will be able to take advantage of these new rules.”

Benefit corporations commit to operating their businesses in a manner that creates a public benefit – a positive effect on society, the community or the environment –  in addition to providing a financial return to their shareholders. As a part of this commitment, the Board of Directors shall consider the effect their company will have on their employees, community, supply chain, environment, etc. when making business decisions. Benefit corporations don’t just adopt policies, they must create a standard by which to measure progress toward their particular public benefit, and then measures that impact and report it to their shareholders and the general public. This transparency, often measured against an independent third party, allows business owners, investors, employees, and consumers to have confidence that a given company adheres to socially responsible and sustainable business practices, as opposed to “greenwashing,” which are superficial efforts to boost sales or avoid litigation.

“This legislation recognizes something that many businesses already know: It’s possible to both do well and do good,” said Jeff Woodward, nonprofit counsel at Taylor English Duma LLP and a founding member of the Georgia Social Impact Collaboration (GSIC). “Consumers are demanding a commitment to the community, employees, and the environment  in business, and now there’s a chance for businesses in Georgia to make strong commitments.”

GSIC’s steering committee and network of over 400 investors, enterprises and partners have long supported benefit corporation legislation in Georgia. Several from GSIC’s network and founding members testified in front of members of the Georgia House and Senate, and the organization held several events in early 2020 to help drum up support for the legislation. GSIC’s partners from B Local Georgia and Goodie Nation provided vital resources to broadly educate and advocate for an economy that works for all.

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About the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative
In late 2016, a group of Georgia’s community leaders, representing a diverse range of constituencies, came together to confront a shared concern that impact investing was not developing in Georgia at the pace seen elsewhere. With an expansive network of over 400 throughout the state, the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) is committed to connecting, educating and inspiring stakeholders for the purpose of accelerating the development of Georgia’s impact investing ecosystem.

July 29, 2020

By: John Moon, Purposity Summer Intern

We believe that humanity is fundamentally good. 

Earlier this year, a series of fifteen tornadoes hit Tennessee in a single night, causing a single mother and her teenage daughter to lose their home, belongings, everything. And then, they were trying to rebuild during a pandemic. They didn’t know where or how to begin. This is where the non-profit platform Purposity came in. The mobile app shared the family’s needs, ranging from kitchen supplies to bedding and in one week, their neighbors met all those needs.

These stories of generosity teach us something so valuable: 1) Humanity is good, and 2) We are constantly looking for opportunities to give. These two insights – and the existing disconnect between everyday people and tangible altruism – inspired our team at Purposity to develop an app where people can live generously and with purpose.  

This free app connects the practical needs of people, vetted through established local nonprofits and school systems, with users who want to help, through just a few clicks. These needs can range from diapers for a newborn baby to tablets for students preparing for a virtual semester, and the best part is that every penny donated goes towards supplying those needs.

Purposity is a homegrown Atlanta nonprofit that is rapidly scaling nationwide. The organization is partnering with more than 1,200 local community partners across 27 states and has engaged more than 100,000 users on the app.  Its solution, particularly in a socially-distanced COVID world, has offered a meaningful next-generation approach to building engaged, supportive communities that can respond to some of our most pressing needs. 

Purposity has creatively leveraged partners across the Georgia social impact ecosystem to scale its work.  Georgia Power and Deloitte are two examples of companies who have recognized Purposity’s potential and invested in its work.  Georgia Power has recruited its school district and nonprofit partners across the state onto the platform and mobilized its employees to respond.  It has also sponsored all needs in the state of Georgia to help cover Purposity’s operating costs.  Deloitte has delivered multiple pro bono strategy engagements through its StepUp Georgia program for young professionals.

Purposity is also tapping the social impact talent of local universities, having nearly doubled its size this summer by onboarding an inaugural summer intern cohort consisting largely of students from Emory’s Social Impact Investing, Ethical Business, and community consulting groups. 

 

Ways to Join us.

The first way to join us is to download the Purposity app! Every week, hundreds of needs are posted on our app and every need you meet will greatly help someone in need in our community.

Secondly, if you work for a nonprofit, consider partnering with us. Purposity has connected hundreds of nonprofit organizations and school districts to new resources in their communities. There are no costs or gimmicks. We have an army of users (more than 30,000 in Georgia) ready to help support the individuals you serve.

Finally, we believe that companies can be a powerful force for good.  If you work for an impact-minded company, we are looking for partners to help inspire generosity in response to community needs.  A Purposity partnership allows companies to mobilize their brand for good and empower their employees and consumers to support their local organizations. For more information, please contact us at [email protected]

 

A Final Story

We want to leave you with this final story, from a Purposity user who gives our team so much hope with her incredible generosity:

“This is the best app ever! I LOVE knowing exactly where my money is going and feel so happy that I can help someone who has more needs than we do. You have created an app that deals only in love and taking care of everyone. Thank you, thank you, thank you! –Kimberly”

Every day, Purposity shares the stories of those who need our generosity. We start by sharing needs, and we trust you to help finish those stories. No matter how you join us, we want to empower you to be your own storytellers and to conclude these stories with love and hope.

This post originally appeared on the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta blog.

June 24, 2020

By: Jonny Newburgh, Impact Investment Associate, GoATL Fund

Small businesses are hurting. Black-owned businesses face added challenges.

In good times, entrepreneurship is tough. The most recent Small Business Credit Survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve System in early 2020, found that in 2019 only 57% of small businesses enjoyed profits and 24% operated at a loss. When lockdowns began earlier this year, researchers found that the average small business had less than one month of cash on hand, leaving both small business owners and their employees – 47.5% of the private-sector workforce – at risk.

Clearly, the good times have ended. We are currently living in a global recession during a pandemic. Due to reduced revenues, many businesses are closing permanently and many others are reducing costs, including labor costs, in a bid for survival. Programs designed to offer financial relief, such as those in the federal CARES Act, have been unable to provide the needed support to prevent layoffs and avoid unemployment from reaching historic levels. Worse, federal programs not only overlooked rural, minority and women-owned businesses, but they also did not address pre-existing barriers to capital in communities of color.

Grantmaking for small businesses seeks to address inequities in accessing capital

Knowing the impacts of the dual economic and public health crises would impact the region unevenly, the Community Foundation worked with the United Way of Greater Atlanta to fund small business and nonprofit support organizations that work with and serve primarily non-White entrepreneurs and clients . In part, our support for small businesses is a recognition of the importance of business for social purpose, a point advocated by the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC).

To date, the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund has granted $995,000, and donors have invested an additional $106,600 through the end of May to organizations in metro Atlanta that form the small business ecosystem. These organizations include the Center for Civic Innovation, which has long supported entrepreneurs leading civic enterprises that address inequities in Atlanta, and both of Georgia’s Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Centers – Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) and The Edge.

ACE is also one of metro Atlanta’s leading small business Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), a nonprofit loan fund that has invested over $70 million in metro area small businesses since 1999. ACE is the largest and most impactful small business CDFI in the region. With a mission to invest in disinvested communities, in 2019 ACE invested 45% of its funds in Black-owned businesses, 37% in women-owned businesses and 16% in Hispanic-owned businesses. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census, only 6% of small businesses in metro Atlanta are Black-owned, 22% are women-owned and 4% are Hispanic-owned.

As local governments announced lockdowns, ACE began surveying its clients to determine market needs. In just 12 weeks, it provided $8.5M in emergency loan capital, including Paycheck Protection Program loans, for 300 businesses and business advisory support to hundreds more.

Our impact investments provide low-cost, flexible capital to support an equitable recovery

The Community Foundation developed the GoATL Fund, the region’s first impact investment fund, to address these disparities and support wealth building through entrepreneurship in the same communities that ACE works with. CDFIs like ACE need grants to fund technical assistance programs and to provide equity in their loan funds, but they also need investors – like GoATL – to provide capital for relending for longer term social outcomes.

Since June 2018, GoATL has invested $1.25 million in ACE. ACE has used our investment to fund SBA Capital Advantage Program (CAP) loans and to fund loans for economic relief and recovery, such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

In 2019, ACE funded more than 90 loans, 49% of which financed Black-owned businesses. These loans, in turn, retained or created 831 jobs.

As governments across the metro area announced lockdowns due to the pandemic, ACE began working with local governments, development authorities and investment partners to develop new financing tools, increase available capital and offer greater flexibility to borrowers until the economy recovers.

But capital markets are racist, and they require anti-racist innovations

Having recently committed to a strategic plan that advances equity of opportunity , the Community Foundation also recognized that CDFIs cannot fill every gap in the market – and that an inequitable recovery is no recovery at all.

That’s why the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund granted $250,000 to the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI), which has long been working on alternative models of investment, such as character-based lending. AWBI was  also quick to offer grants to small businesses in Southwest, Southeast and Northwest Atlanta to ensure that small businesses, especially those owned by people of color, do not fail as a result of COVID-19.

Pictured: Takes a Village Transportation, ACE loan recipient

The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative’s Steering Committee is committed to addressing racism and racial inequities internally and in our work in the community to accelerate the social impact ecosystem across Georgia.

We must do and be better. We commit to listening, learning, and reflecting individually and as a group, by taking counsel with our partners and friends, and by accessing resources and expertise on racial justice and inclusive capital. We believe that racial equity will not come about without intentional action to address significant inequities in investment capital and network access, while also confronting bias, reimagining power dynamics and changing narratives.

Our hope is that others within the social impact ecosystem will join us in this work by contributing leadership, participation and equitable access to resources. 

We remain committed to inspiring more mission-driven capital to sustain an economy in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

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How can a campus achieve aggressive reductions in energy use, and reduce its carbon footprint, through efficiency upgrades? Agnes Scott College initiated the college’s Green Revolving Fund (GRF) in 2011 as a practical solution to this common challenge shared by colleges and universities that have committed to a goal of climate neutrality.

By 2015 Agnes Scott’s GRF had become a model for meeting this sustainability challenge, especially for schools with 5,000 or fewer students, by revolving more than $1 million to support energy capture and efficiency as well as water fixture retrofits campus wide. Now, five years after that first major goal was met, the Agnes Scott GRF has invested in efficiency retrofits totaling close to $2 million, including direct support for several large scale, innovative projects. Most notably, 10% of the college’s 1 million square feet of building space gained geothermal heat and air conditioning with support from the GRF. In addition, this fund has proven not only to be an incredibly effective tool to finance efficiency projects, it has also been a key element in advancing two other campus sustainability objectives: engaging our students in research to solve “real world” sustainability challenges, and creating a campus culture that supports the goal of advancing climate neutrality initiatives.

The basic concept of a green revolving fund is to establish a pool of financial resources dedicated to investing in energy and water efficiency upgrades that will generate utility cost savings. The money saved through these projects is then recycled back into the fund for future projects, resulting in a sustainable funding source for climate neutrality efforts. At Agnes Scott the GRF was designed to strengthen the college’s institutional capacity for building upgrades while ensuring that the campus will be more energy efficient. It was also designed to be managed by the campus community rather than by one department. 

Agnes Scott is a liberal arts college for women founded in 1889 and located in Decatur. The enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year was just over 1,000 students. The college’s mission statement is to educate women “to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.”  The approach that the college has taken to the GRF reflects this mission.

Sustainability and climate action are viewed by the leadership of the college as important components of Agnes Scott’s mission. In 2007 Agnes Scott was a charter signatory of Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment and in 2015 the college added a commitment to complete a Climate Resilience Plan with the surrounding community of Decatur. The college also participated as one of the first colleges to join the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, committing  to invest $1 million toward its GRF within the first three years after startup. 

Soon after signing the climate commitment, the college completed its first greenhouse gas inventory and drafted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) with a goal of climate neutrality by 2037. At the same time the Board of Trustees passed a resolution that all major renovation and new construction projects on campus would be required to achieve at least LEED Silver status. Since then three renovation projects have been completed:  The Anna Young Alumnae House (LEED Silver), Campbell Hall (LEED Gold), and Rebekah Scott Hall (LEED Platinum). The Campbell Hall and Rebekah Hall renovations benefited directly from GRF support and now operate on 100% geothermal HVAC.

The GRF has been a major driver in helping Agnes Scott College reduce its energy and water consumption and in the college’s efforts to achieve climate neutrality. Results include:

  • As of the 2017-2018 school year the college has reduced its emissions overall by close to 30% and emissions per full-time student by 39%.
  • Projects funded thus far funded by the GRF save the college an estimated total of $1 million in avoided water and energy expenses. 
  • Six individual student internships have brought students from different academic departments to the Center. These are often students that may not have had a sustainability focus previously. 
  • Moreover, the educational objective of the GRF has given many more students the opportunity to engage in environmental and sustainability issues and to wrestle with trying to create the right balance of environment, economics and equity as they make decisions. Students participating in the GRF Committee have made valuable contributions to proposal discussions, and have influenced the decision-making process with inventive solutions. 

At Agnes Scott the innovation investment of the GRF is truly seen as a tool for college improvement. It builds trust. The improvements from GRF projects, while not always flashy, have made the Center for Sustainability better at showing that climate mitigation takes a community approach and involves projects ranging from lighting upgrades to solar panels.

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Susan Kidd is the Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability at Agnes Scott College. In addition to the attention that the GRF has received, Agnes Scott’s overall sustainability profile has increased recently. The college received its STARS Gold rating in 2018 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and then in 2019 received recognition for data accuracy in the Sustainable Campus Index that was released by AASHE. In 2020 Agnes Scott was ranked 13th in The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges. This marked the first time Agnes Scott has been ranked in the top tier, and is the only college with fewer than 5,000 in the top 15. Agnes Scott also earned a top performer award for energy conservation from the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge in 2019.

Alongside Mission Investors Exchange (MIE), which held its 2020 conference virtually (instead of the originally planned location in Atlanta), GSIC hosted a session on place-based impact investing in Georgia on May 22. With over 75 participants, we witnessed a deep interest in understanding how impact capital can support investment in improved outcomes in our communities. Below is a short read-out of the conversation:

Mark Crosswell, GoATL Fund (Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta) and the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC)

  • Gave background on the GoATL Fund, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s place-based impact fund, which deploys low-cost debt through financial intermediaries for social outcomes in alignment with the Foundation’s strategy to increase equity of opportunity.
  • GoATL started with $10 million in capital from the Foundation and began raising capital from its donors in 2018. With almost $12 million in total capital, GoATL has committed over $9 million, mostly to scale affordable housing, minority-owned small businesses and quality education through metro Atlanta’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs in Georgia.)

Jennifer Barksdale, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation

  • The Babcock Foundation transitioned to a 100% mission-aligned portfolio in the last several years. It has required each investment be made in accordance with their ESG Policy, which is updated regularly to consider new screens (such as private prisons).
  • To approach place-based work, the Babcock Foundation invests through CDFIs with grants, loans and credit enhancements. The Babcock Foundation does not make direct investments due to staff capacity requirements.
  • In response to COVID-19, the Babcock Foundation doubled unrestricted cash grants to all grantees, extended grant periods, eliminated interest on Program Related Investments (PRIs), forgave 20% and extended the maturity of all PRIs due this year by one year. The result is a doubling of their 2020 payouts. (See blog.)

Tracy Kartye, Annie E Casey Foundation

  • The Casey Foundation has allocated $200 million to its social investments, which began in 2002, before the term “impact investing” was coined. They invest both through CDFIs and directly into projects. They are very selective about their direct investments due to limited staff capacity.
  • Much of the Casey Foundation’s strategy in Atlanta has been around the Pittsburgh Yards development in NPU-V. It is a rare example of community-based development along the BeltLine, and it intends to provide employment opportunities and access to capital for individuals and hyperlocal businesses. To finance the $26 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) project, the Casey Foundation found both private and public investment partners.

Natallie Keiser, Annie E Casey Foundation

  • The Casey Foundation is embedded in NPU-V, Pittsburgh in particular, due to the extreme disparities in Atlanta by race and wealth. Caseyhas been a leader in promoting strategies for supporting greater equity in Atlanta through partnerships with entrepreneurs of color to build wealth, and developers to preserve and promote affordable housing, and families to minimize academic disruption.
  • Through the Foundation’s work in NPU-V, staff learned that Capitol View (a BeltLine adjacent multi-family property; photo) was for sale. Leveraging staff in both Atlanta and Baltimore, the Casey Foundation followed the Kresge Foundation’s Community Investment framework to evaluate and proceed with their investment. In partnership with HouseATL, the Casey Foundation found investment partners in Enterprise Community Partners, Invest Atlanta and others.
  • A major difference between the response to the ongoing pandemic and the last recession is the clarity around the need for emergency relief and early investment in recovery. After the last recession, the Casey Foundation invested $3 million to acquire 50 single family lots in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood. With additional investment, they are exploring solutions to ensure permanent affordability.

Dale Royal, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

  • LISC opened its local office in Atlanta just last year but they have already developed a series of Financial Opportunity Centers, which are career and personal finance service centers that help low- to moderate-income people focus on the financial bottom line with integrated delivery of employment services, financial coaching and access to income supports.
  • In Atlanta, LISC is focusing its resources on building capacity of small businesses through strategies developed in other regions, as well as from their surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Right now, a major focus is on micro-lending, as micro-enterprises have the hardest time raising capital for their businesses and are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus-related lockdowns.

Local Updates:

  • The Sapelo Foundation is speaking with Albany Communities Together! (ACT!) about a PRI for their work in south Georgia. They are looking for partners to invest alongside them. Request more information.
  • Initiatives in southwest Atlanta are advancing equitable approaches to small business financing and wealth building to close the racial wealth gap, such as the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative and the Village Micro Fund.
  • SPARCC (Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge) published a guide to support an equitable and just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be found here.
  • Several participants commented on the interest in rural and urban funding. Many shared their excitement that Natural Capital Investment Fund is considering an expansion into Georgia.

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