‘It’s Doable and Possible that Communities Take Control of Their Own Needs’

The Mount, Kawartha Credit Union and Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough are stellar examples of social finance

From providing shelter to funding projects and dreams, social finance is already behind activities contributing to the “Common Good” in the community of Peterborough.

For instance, one social financing endeavor helped create 43 apartments for people of varied incomes at The Mount Community Centre. That same building serves as a community hub, boasting office space for nine local community organizations and opportunities for the use and enjoyment of several community groups and organizations.

Meanwhile, the Kawartha Credit Union, which provides loans, mortgages and lines of credit to citizens, gives back to its members, contributing more than $2 million to causes that matter most.

Investment with a conscience is happening in Peterborough.

Imagine if there were more examples.

John Martyn hopes that will soon be the case. John, citizen and vice-president of The Mount Community Centre Corporation, is working with other local social financing enthusiasts and participants of a recent forum to carve out the next steps.

He speaks with Electric City Magazine on the heels of Social Financing Solutions for the Common Good, held in Peterborough Jan. 22, which attracted 80-plus citizens.

John suspects there are a few reasons for the Jan. 22 forum’s appeal to local residents, one being the diversity of the five panelists, which ranged from a local developer to a credit union professional.

“I think there was some real genuine interest and curiosity about the topic,” John says.

“It was a new and interesting theme,” he says about the topic of the forum itself. The name of the event, incorporating the words “solutions” and “common good” proved to be enticing for delegates.

“One of the outcomes from the evening was opening some new doors.”

While there’s some level of local awareness about social finance, it’s a path not yet explored for others.

“One of the outcomes from the evening was opening some new doors.” From that perspective, the event was a great success illustrated by the attendees’ attentiveness, questions and note-taking activity, he says.

The forum explored social financing solutions in the contexts of housing, environment and social enterprise.

John says government is an investor but the social finance opportunity is also as important for the public and private sectors.

“It’s doable and possible that communities take control of their own needs and work in partnership with government to develop solutions. Social finance certainly is another tool that can be used to deal with serious social issues in the community.”

For business, social finance provides an opportunity for professionals to invest in meaningful work. John is confident there is a large number of local businesses who have social integrity.

“There’s so much going on in our community right now that actually is social financing, social innovation or social investment of some kind,” noted panelist Paul Bennett during his presentation at the event.

“We need to look around and see what’s in our community right now and build on it. There are also things we need to do to improve.”

One of the projects that emerged from the meeting to pursue was the establishment of a social finance advisory council. John says the council would help support citizens, organizations and businesses looking to explore social financing. That initiative is currently in its infancy stages and conversation about it is ongoing.

There’s another wish for the next steps. “Our hope would be that fairly quickly we could identify a project, either environment, housing or social enterprise, that would allow us to demonstrate again how social financing can be developed and used to bring a project to fruition.”

Finally, social financing enthusiasts’ work to raise the understanding and profile of social finance in the community in general will also continue.

“John and I have already been meeting with some folks around social financing, as a result of this workshop,” Michael VanDerHerberg, HOME Program Coordinator for Warming Room Community Ministries, adds.

To discover more about social financing and to hear the Social Financing Solutions for the Common Good panelists’ thoughts, check out the following videos:

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