Purposeful lending: Forward Community Investments

Investing in community
Purposeful lending: Forward Community Investments
Salli Martyniak

Sure, the term “win-win” is thrown around frequently, but a nonprofit community development financial institution that lends money to projects that look to reduce social, economic and racial disparities? Well, the term seems to fit.

Forward Community Investments’ model embodies social innovation: Individuals lend FCI money that the nonprofit “re-lends” to the community for initiatives that reduce social, racial and economic disparities throughout Wisconsin. Lenders are even paid out interest on a semiannual basis. The business has loaned its money and clout to the Urban League of Greater Madison, Housing Initiatives and the Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, to name a few. FCI also provides financial advisory services. “What we’re looking at is how do we address the social issues in our communities,” says president Salli Martyniak. “We look at projects from an equity lens and we underwrite from an equity lens.” Martyniak is proud of FCI’s work on financing FEED Kitchen, an incubator that provides kitchen space for food startup businesses. “This is creating job opportunities for new businesses.”

What is social innovation?

According to Stanford University’s Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a “novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions” and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth

Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.

Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.

Can’t be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The M List
Madison Magazine‘s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year’s list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Click here to return to the 2015 M List.