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Social Capitalists

CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

Finalist's Statement

CFED, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1979 and based in Washington, DC, works to expand economic opportunity so that every person--especially those with low income--can participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the economy. In 2005 alone, 133,125 individuals and 2,182 organizations benefited from our programs and services. We rely on tax-deductible grants and contributions from foundations and socially responsible individuals to support its work.

CFED promotes entrepreneurship and asset building, bringing together the work of community groups, public policy, and private markets in order to deliver savings, lending, and investment products to lower-income savers and entrepreneurs. Consider how we're addressing the following issues:

Fact: More than one-third of American children live in a household without enough savings to weather emergencies or invest in their futures.

CFED believes that children's savings allows disadvantaged youth the opportunity to achieve the American dream when all the odds are against them. That's why we coordinated SEED, a national initiative to demonstrate that matched savings accounts and financial education for children will help them save and prosper in the future. The initiative sets the stage for universal, progressive American policy for asset building among children, youth and families.

SEED is helping more than 1,000 families save today with the goal of expanding to the 4 million American children born each year.

Fact: There are hundreds of thousands of people whose vision, talent, and determination for economic success remain untapped.

CFED has been instrumental in building the microenterprise field in the United States for more than 25 years. We believe that opportunities to open and grow a business should be broadly available to all people, particularly those in disadvantaged and rural communities.

Twenty years ago, CFED ran a community demonstration to see what works in helping entrepreneurs get started. We collected data for policy makers that played an integral part in passing a range of federal programs to support small businesses and microenterprises in disadvantaged communities. Our work culminated in strong gains that in the last five years led to Congress's appropriating more than $800 million to help entrepreneurs.

Today, over 70,000 small business owners are supported by the systems CFED helped create. Over the next 10 years, we will continue to identify and support the field so that hundreds of thousands more entrepreneurs can build successful businesses, creating economic security for their families and communities.

How do we do it? Our business model combines the innovation of a think tank with the "on-the-ground" insight of practitioners. We:

  • Identify Good Ideas CFED identifies ideas that make the economy work for everyone. We focus on communities that have been excluded from the mainstream economy. We seek ideas that have potential for practical application and real results.
  • Find What Works CFED works with local communities and the organizations that know them best to help test and refine promising ideas. We pilot programs and provide funding to design and modify effective strategies to be successful in different cultures, regions and economic conditions.
  • Help Good Ideas Reach Scale CFED develops and advocates for federal and state policies that move the nation toward a more equitable and inclusive economy. We share verifiable information and bring community voices to the table to participate in the policymaking progress.
  • Foster New Markets to Achieve Greater Economic Impact CFED drives the application of proven ideas until other stakeholders are invested enough for these strategies to stand on their own. We market ideas to interested partners and help create intermediary institutions to broker skills, information and funding.
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