Growing the Community Finance Ecosystem in Canada

The TOWARDS: Community Finance Development Accelerator is a capacity-building program providing technical knowledge, advice, visibility to investors, and peer support for community finance intermediaries seeking to drive positive social and environmental impact in their communities through lending and investing.

From community loan funds, investment co-operatives, land trusts, community futures organizations, Indigenous financial institutions (AFIs/IFIs) and credit unions, the Accelerator seeks to empower a range of community-centric and/or place-based financial institutions, dedicated to supporting resilient communities.

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Timeline: Weekly two-hour sessions from May 6th, 2024 to June 30th, 2024 for 16 hours total.

Application Timeline:

  • Applications Open: March 18th, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 8th, 2024 at 12pm Eastern Time
  • TOWARDS Zoom Information Session: March 26th, 2024 at 1pm Eastern Time. Register here.
  • Selection: April 8th, 2024 to April 18th, 2024
  • Program Period: May 6th, 2024 – June 30th, 2024
  • Applicants will be screened based on eligibility criteria. Selected candidates will be notified by April 23rd, 2024 (via email) and will need to confirm their spot by April 29th, 2024
  • Confirmed participants will receive an onboarding package and will start orientation on Monday, May 6th, 2024
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Format: Online Sessions

Region Serving: Across Canada

Ready to level-up your community finance organization? Apply below or send it to an organization that would benefit.

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Enhancing Impact Investing Through Community Finance

The TOWARDS Accelerator is designed to be an immersive program to grow community finance intermediaries. TOWARDS takes inspiration from the American Network of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and its impact in providing tailored community finance solutions to underserved communities.

Growing community finance intermediaries within the impact investing and social finance ecosystems will allow more individuals, business owners and social-purpose organizations to access financial resources.

Program Components

    • Weekly Skill-Building Sessions: Tailored sessions cover foundational topics such as financial management for communities, social equity-based lending, theory of change and more.
    • Access to Tailored Support: Personalized advice and support from a wide range of subject matter experts addressing their unique organizational challenges and strategic goals.
    • Mentorship and Coaching: Access to mentorship and coaching from North America’s leading community finance institutions.
    • Networking Opportunities with Canadian Investors: Participants will have an opportunity to present their investment thesis to investors and receive feedback from both investors and cohort peers.
    • Focus on Community Wealth Building: The program will have a particular emphasis on how to operate and flow money to best support equity-deserving groups or communities. It will explore emerging social finance models such as community wealth sharing, cooperative ownership, community land trusts, and place-based investment mechanisms.

    • Access to Unrestricted Grants: Participants in the TOWARDS Accelerator will be eligible for grants pulled from a $200,000 CAD capital pool. The selected grant recipient(s) will be chosen at the end of the program during the investor showcase.

Core Content

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Introduction to TOWARDS Accelerator, Community Finance and Impact Investing

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Technical

  • Business Models for Community Finance Intermediaries
  • Capitalization and Financing for Community Finance Intermediaries
  • Budgeting, Financial Planning, Management and Reporting
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Impact

  • Theory of Change and Impact Thesis
  • Impact Measurement, Reporting and Management
  • Equity Lens Investing: Gender, Social Equity, Indigenous Rights & Reconciliation
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Showcase

  • TOWARDS Community Finance Showcase

Optional Content

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Community Finance in Housing

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Getting Ready for Due Diligence Workshop

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Climate Finance in Practice

Eligibility Criteria

✓  Organization Type: Beyond ideation and ready to scale up operations with at least one dedicated team member part-time.

✓  Organization Stage: These entities should be beyond ideation and ready to scale up operations with at least one dedicated team member. While this team member doesn’t necessarily need to be full-time, it’s important that there is at least one staff member who incorporates the intermediary role into their job responsibilities.

✓  Capital Raise: Planning to raise at least $1 million capital in the next 12 months.

✓  Impact Intent: Demonstrated commitment to deepen organizational impact and/or integrate impact deeply into business and operating models.

✓  Equity Commitment: Commitment to gender, racial, social, and environmental equity in current and/or future operations.

✓  Community Engagement: Significant community involvement or willingness to enhance community-focused initiatives via impact investing.

Ideal Characteristics (non-mandatory)

  • Interest or experience in community ownership or wealth building models.
  • We encourage intermediaries led by and for equity-deserving groups, including racialized, Indigenous, women/non-binary and rural communities to participate in the Accelerator.

Required Commitments

  • A commitment from 1 or 2 Key staff to attend all virtual sessions and meetings (16 hours total).
  • Full participation and engagement in weekly virtual sessions (~3 hours per week).
  • Completion of relevant program activities and action work.
  • Engagement with coaches, mentors, and investment pitch sessions.

Why “Towards” and why a Turtle?

The TOWARDS Accelerator embodies the essence of resilient progress. Like the steadfast journey of a turtle towards its destination, this initiative aims to catalyze a gradual transformation in the landscape of community finance. Our goal is clear: to propel us steadily toward a future marked by equity, inclusivity, and shared prosperity across Turtle Island.

Turtle Island is another name for North America, and often used in lieu of saying Canada, as per many Indigenous creation stories. This wording reminds us to view the continent and its people as a living being, worthy of respect and protection. Further, the turtle is also culturally significant to other communities and peoples that have settled in Canada.  The turtle is one of the four sacred animals in Chinese culture, symbolizing longevity, power, and tenacity. In Hinduism, the world is thought to rest on the back of a giant turtle named Kurma, representing the foundation of the universe. In Buddhism, the turtle symbolizes steadfastness and tranquility.

The choice of a turtle as a metaphor for an Accelerator program is deliberate. It underscores the importance of intentionality in our endeavours. True transformation isn’t about racing to the finish line; it’s about nurturing deliberate connections and fostering sustainable growth. By doing so, we propel ourselves towards our goals with greater speed and endurance, reaching farther together than we ever could alone.

Partners

Initiated by:

Implemented by:

In partnership with the social finance and impact investing ecosystem: