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43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Calvert Social Investment Foundation

Bethesda, MD
Year founded: 1995
Executive Director: Shari Berenbach

What do a rural farmer in Benin, West Africa, an elderly woman living in New Hampshire, a kindergarten student in the inner city, and the average investor have in common? The answer is simple: everyone can benefit from Community Investment.

Community investments alleviate poverty and inequality by directing critical loan capital to microfinance, affordable housing, small businesses, social enterprises and non-profit facilities that serve struggling populations. When people have access to affordable credit and are able to lift themselves out of poverty, everyone wins—small farmers increase their savings, children are better educated, elderly and other vulnerable populations are protected from homelessness, neighborhoods recover from crime and degradation, and economies become healthier, safer and more stable for all.

Our Big Idea

For ten years, Calvert Foundation has been working to make community investment a safe, logical, high-social impact option for all investors. We’ve removed critical barriers in order to make community investment accessible to wider audiences, creating investment products that blend both financial and social returns. We focus on using investment capital, rather than conventional philanthropy, to create a sustainable, scaleable model that enables non-profits and social enterprises to address critical social problems.

To realize our “Big Idea” Calvert Foundation has adapted proven models from the financial services industry. The Community Investment Note—a unique financial product issued by Calvert Foundation—is sold through broker-dealers and financial professionals like most other securities, as well as directly through the foundation. Investors choose a low fixed interest rate and can target their investments to regions or areas of interest.

The modest financial return chosen by investors enables Calvert Foundation to place affordable capital with community-based enterprises that use this capital to finance affordable homes, small business loans, essential facilities like daycare centers and nursing homes, as well as fair-trade agriculture and micro finance overseas. Calvert Foundation has identified a need for flexible investment capital among non-profits and social enterprises, and has reached out to investors and financial professionals as a critical new audience to address poverty here in the US and around the globe.

Over the past 10 years, Calvert Foundation has recycled more than $250 million in investments that have helped to create more than 119,000 jobs for low income individuals, built or rehabilitated 6,600 affordable homes, and financed more than 6,900 nonprofit facilities, including daycare centers, community health clinics, and schools.

The Goal: For Every Investor to become a Community Investor

We believe that investment capital is integral to a new generation of market-based, sustainable strategies to alleviate poverty. What would happen if every investor made an investment allocation of this sort? We estimate that $100 billion of investment over a 10-year term would finance more than one billion microenterprise jobs, 160 million affordable housing units and 70 million cooperatives or nonprofit facilities. And each one of those new jobs, small businesses and homes would generate ripple effects creating additional benefits in towns and cities across the United States and around the globe. Amounting to just about one half of 1 percent of the roughly $19.2 trillion in investment assets in the US capital markets alone, this commitment would make a significant impact in the improving the lives of those in struggling communities, and create a healthier global economy for all.

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