Award for LWM co-founder of the Aston Reinvestment Trust

pat conaty community finance award

The Citi Foundation and Community Development Finance Association awards recently recognised several organisations finding innovative ways to finance the communities that need it most.

Pat Conaty received an individual award for working to improve access to finance and support the community development finance sector. On the right is Shamima Begum, the other individual award winner.

Pat first brought the CDFI concept to the UK from his native United States. He set up several CDFIs, such as the Aston Reinvestment Trust in Birmingham, and innovated the products, forms and funding that CDFIs use. ART’s loan support  has now created or safeguarded 5000 jobs and over 650 loans have been delivered since 1997.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been enabled to access fair and affordable finance in the UK through CDFIs, which also helped to create over 8,000 businesses in 2013 and almost 12,000 new jobs, delivering Start Up Loans, New Enterprise Allowance and Regional Growth Fund programmes.

To read more about the work of CDFA and the awards go to http://www.cdfa.org.uk/2013/10/09/time-to-celebrate-finance-heroes-in-the-uk/

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Missing the ownership element of sustainable development – thoughts from the BCSD workshop

I attended the Business Council for Sustainable Development UK reception and sustainable development workshop today.

The Council’s worldwide President, Peter Bakker, talked (excellently) about the need to entirely reform capitalism in order to achieve better social goals and to live within environmental limits. Then there were workshop sessions on how businesses need to engage with and account for ecosystems services, and on localising manufacturing – is it desirable, and how do we help it to happen.  There was lots of discussion in the second workshop about the whether businesses would be prepared to move close to their markets, what this means, and the implications for moving raw materials around and for within-boundary CO2 accounting. But it did strike me – unsurprisingly, given LWM’s current immersion in our Mainstreaming Community Economic Development project, which is essentially about localism and localisation – that in the whole days’ discussion, decentralisation of capital and ownership was not mentioned despite all the open goals for addressing it. (I should, of course, have had my hand up more quickly in the Q&A. In my defence I was listening to interesting people!)

In terms of reforming capitalism, I’d refer not for the first time to my favourite piece capitalism thinking (capitalism and the concentration of ownership) that decentralising wealth, ownership and economic power into more hands is an essential bit of the reform we’re seeking. More practically, our talk of localising manufacturing needs to be putting forward a relationship economy, local ‘buy-in’ and local knowledge. A Portuguese private sector delegate to the conference said “we are not interested in moving because we know where we are, we know the people”. James McKay suggested that sustainability isn’t getting heard because of the challenge of making it locally understood and locally relevant.  If we’re trying to achieve sustainable development, to get businesses that understand it, to build social capital and to reduce the energy implications of trade, I’d be far more interested in getting local businesses to grow and thrive, get to know local resource flows and human beings, feel they belong, care what happens to the area, redistribute their turnover within it, and build their sustainable success on that.

Excuse the rapid reflections – writing the MCED report doesn’t allow me time to refine this, but it seemed worth throwing in a reference to this missing half of the sustainable development agenda.

Karen Leach

Osborne’s anti-business culture

Osborne said “There are those who are trying to create an anti-business culture in Britain – and we have to stop them. At stake are not pay packages for a few but jobs and prosperity for the many.”

Agreed, but not the way he means it. Large bonus culture is one illustration of how our over- centralised economic structure has to be propped up by the less wealthy majority.

It is anti-business to tailor your economic development funds – such as regional growth fund – your tax regime and your planning system towards inward investment and transnational corporations at the expense of locally owned and smaller scale enterprise.

The multitude of tiny bonuses in the local economy gives true trickle-down. Eye-wateringly large bonuses in the transnational economy only give us trickle-up. Let’s fight the Treasury’s anti-business culture with a coalition for a better economy.

Karen Leach