Lindsay Gardner, Senior Associate of Strategic Communications, Opportunity Finance Network
Read time: 4 minutes
OFN’s last regional meeting of 2023 focused on health, racial, and climate justice, and built anticipation for the annual conference
OFN held our 2023 Northeast Regional Meeting on August 9 in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. To close out our regional meetings of the year, one topic was hot on the agenda: climate.
OFN kicked off the 2023 Northeast Regional Meeting with an introduction from Anna Steiger, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Terence Floyd from Wells Fargo. They set the tone for the meeting by describing each of their organization’s commitments to the CDFI industry.
On the policy front, Mary Scott Balys, VP of public policy at OFN, shared OFN’s 2023 public policy priorities, congressional updates, and opportunities to take action. She detailed how we are leveraging our industry voice in Washington to actively advocate for policies related to the CDFI Fund, modernizing the CDFI certification application, and CRA regulations.
Each CDFI was invited to provide a brief status update on the current challenges and/or opportunities they are facing. A few themes emerged: access to capital, expanding product offerings, scaling small CDFIs, and working to close the racial wealth gap. Attendees broke into small groups to engage in deeper conversations around these topics, fueling questions, related issues, and the spark of solutions to some of these challenges.
Our Role in Advancing Equity
OFN CEO Harold Pettigrew reaffirmed CDFIs’ unique position as a bipartisan industry amid a culture of political divide — one that allows us to enact changes that support rural, urban, and Native communities. He shared that, throughout his career, he has been called by the question, “How do you advance communities?” and reflected on how this resonates for him since stepping into the leadership role at OFN. This question served as a strong foundation for conversations for the remainder of the afternoon.
Since the announcement of the competitive Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, we leaned into the theme that was brewing on everyone’s mind, with a session on “Race, Health, and Climate Justice in CDFI Work.” The panel was comprised of Karen Kelleher from BlueHub Capital, Daniel Wallace from Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Betty Francisco from Boston Impact Initiative, Becky Regan from Capital Link, and Kristin Giantris from Nonprofit Finance Fund. One unanimous message stood out: You can’t separate climate justice and racial equity. “Low-income communities are hit first and worst, and we know that with climate change,” Regan said, emphasizing the need for CDFIs to be first responders to this crisis.
After many months of preparation, OFN offered the first update on our approach and opportunities to get involved with the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. We can’t underscore enough the importance of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to accelerate the clean energy transition. OFN believes in the strength of collaboration and recognizes that we cannot do this alone. This is a time for CDFIs to come together, alongside other mission-driven lenders, to seize this transformative opportunity to unite economic justice and environmental justice. Our planet cannot afford for us to be left out.
Boston Site Visit Shows CDFIs in Action
In addition, a small team visited the Boston office of OFN member, Community Health Center Capital Fund, to learn more about their lending and mission to support community-based healthcare centers serving low-income and uninsured populations.
Capital Fund funds health centers in over a dozen states and leverages additional financing for various types of health center projects in high-need communities. These projects not only support health centers in serving tens of thousands of additional patients annually, but they also support the creation of hundreds of construction-related jobs and jobs in the health centers themselves.
OFN is grateful to the participants and supporters of our 2023 Northeast Regional Meeting and thanks Wells Fargo for their generous sponsorship of our 2023 Regional Meetings. We can’t wait to continue these transformative conversations and see you again in October at our annual OFN Conference. Registration is now open!
Stay Connected with OFN
Subscribe to OFN newsletters to receive regular updates straight to your inbox and check out the OFN blog for the latest coverage from OFN and the CDFI industry. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.