Tim Crosby, Project Coordinator
The Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project (CFFP) is pleased to share its innovative research with other investors, government agencies, and interested enterprises. The research includes a production cost analysis by Ecotrust of six food categories to show where investors can help catalyze a strong, thriving food economy in the Pacific Northwest. It also includes an independent lender analysis of Ecotrust’s work, focusing on near-term enterprise investments suggested by the research. Both efforts are part of CFFP’s multi-year effort to understand how and where to invest philanthropic, impact, and financial capital into sustainable food enterprises located in the Pacific Northwest. For this research we define Pacific Northwest as Washington and Oregon.
Other activities in the food system and impact investing sectors compliment CFFP’s research and suggest directions for next steps. In June, the Toniic Institute recently released “ Venture Philanthropists & Impact Investors: sharing collaboration successes and challenges.” This report defines complimentary interests between venture grantmakers and impact investors. It suggests that philanthropists play an important role when they are willing to take high risk positions in food system loans, using structures that are a hybrid of the loan and the grant. A workshop at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders June 2016 annual forum entitled Bridging the Finance Gap illuminated the same role and similar opportunities.
Tim Crosby is Coordinator of the Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project, Principal for the Thread Fund, Member of Seattle Impact Investing Group, and a Social Venture Partner.
Since CFFP works with both foundations and investors, we work to advance both perspectives. Using a broad definition of investment that can include grants, our foundation partners support systems change efforts. Using a traditional financial definition of investment that is normally limited to loans or equity, our investors have sought successful enterprises within the sustainable food systems sector. This research is helping CFFP bring these two realms together.
The question for us now is whether we can achieve both sets of goals by asking ourselves: How can we advance system change by supporting success at the enterprise level? We want to achieve system change to increase more sustainable food production and to build resiliency in rural communities. We want to support enterprise success so that rural communities can generate livable wage jobs, and so that investors can at least preserve capital. We now know where we can do each. We now seek the opportunity to do both.
This brings CFFP to Step 3 of the four priority steps in our strategic plan - Identify or develop a financing vehicle that uses the research and supports the strategy. CFFP will now explore whether a fund can be built to finance the food systems change and enterprise-level opportunities emerging from this body of research. We do not yet know how this fund is structured. It seems clear that it will combine return-oriented investing with “venture philanthropy” vehicles like those being promoted by the Toniic Institute.
We will be exploring how to best support enterprises as they move from proof of concept into revenue-generation, then work with other capital partners to help achieve system and enterprise success. As CFFP moves forward we seek feedback and engagement from interested parties who want to help us advance the work. We want to know how this research informs other investors who experience the creative tension between systems change and enterprise success. We would like to know who else is interested in our strategies and goals, and which enterprises can benefit from this research. We want to know who would participate in a fund. If you are interested please fill out the form on the right or contact me directly.
Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project
How to engage
CFFP will begin outreach to see how this research aligns with other investment interests. Please fill out the form below if you would like to engage in the next steps regarding fund determination, or have questions about this research.