Supporting Research that Examines the Power of CDFIs  

The first-ever CDFI research consortium has released a call for proposals to fund projects across a range of topics 

Data and research can be used as tools to help drive social change, and this is true for CDFIs. The newly established, first of its kind, CDFI Research Consortium will provide thought leadership, research, and resources for the CDFI industry to do just that. Launched by the Center for Impact Finance at the University of New Hampshire, the Consortium involves diverse stakeholders, including CDFI practitioners, representatives of CDFI trade and membership organizations, academics, and other researchers. 

OFN is a leader in the Consortium and serves on its research advisory board and executive committee. OFN has adopted a proactive research agenda that aligns with the goals of the Consortium and other research partners. 

Now, the Consortium has released its first call for proposals to support a wide range of research on CDFI impact, performance, strategies, partnerships, barriers, and opportunities.  The deadline for proposal submissions is June 30, 2023.

The need for research and knowledge building 

CDFIs are a mature industry, and we already know a lot, but there is room to learn more. The past several years have brought unparalleled attention to our industry. The economic shocks of the pandemic and renewed calls for racial justice sparked broad interest in CDFIs, marked by a surge in media attention and investments from new corporate, philanthropic, and government investors.  

To leverage this favorable attention, we need research that informs, solidifies, and promotes the CDFI model. Theoretically grounded, empirically-based research will help us demonstrate, with evidence, what we all know about the power of CDFIs to deliver change in communities. 

Exploring a broad range of research topics 

As a leader in the Consortium, OFN advocates for centering CDFIs and the communities they serve in its knowledge-building efforts. OFN is interested in a range of topics, including: 

  • Theories on the CDFI model and its preferred strategies and tools (e.g., financial products, technical assistance, grantmaking)  
  • The history, trends, and operations of the industry  
  • The value of impact measurement and evaluation 
  • Funding and investment strategies that enhance CDFI capacity, sustainability, and impact 
  • Data collection and data partnerships to expand CDFI research. 

Later this year, OFN, together with other CDFI researchers, will release a brief that unpacks these topics and lays out a set of priorities for future research.  

Growing research on CDFIs is key to improving their operations and ensuring their products and programs maximize social impact. The CDFI Research Consortium, the projects it will support through this call for proposals, and other new initiatives are important opportunities to create a culture of shared learning and knowledge development of, for, and by the industry.  

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