Research summary - Community impact investment organizations

Official title: Community Impact Investment Organizations

Author of report: Kootenay Employment Services

Why this study

Community Investment Organizations (CIOs) are a support system to help with economic growth in rural and urban communities. CIOs aim to bridge the gap between local investors and local companies in need of financing. This type of impact investment has the potential to:

  • become funds that are profitable and community owned
  • enable residents to become partners to develop local wealth
  • contribute to stronger and more robust economies

In other words, CIOs do not invest in stocks and mutual funds, but rather in local projects and people.

The main goals of this project were to:

  1. use existing knowledge and research to create resources to support CIOs’ development and management. These resources will allow communities across Canada to invest locally
  2. test a model that supports small social finance intermediaries (go-betweens) to determine its fit for future program and policy design

What we did

We led a study on the British Columbia (BC) Community Investment Co-op. This study compiled 5 years of research, resources and templates. We then used this information to develop the Community Impact Investment Co-op Start-Up and Operations Guide (Guide). Communities across Canada can now use this Guide to establish and manage their own CIO.

What we found

The Guide was the key product from this research. Its purpose is to inspire communities in BC, and across Canada, to launch their own CIOs. The Guide offers tools for social, economic and environmental development. The Guide:

  • has 320 pages
  • is free of charge and editable
  • is registered by Creative Commons
  • can be downloaded by users and documents can be revised on the needs of their community
  • prepares members with all the needed resources to start-up, integrate and operate a Community Investment Co-op within BC's current governing framework

The Guide will educate and empower communities to manage their socio-economic future by investing in projects that make local impacts.

What it means

The research based on the BC Community Investment Co-op experience finds that:

  • there is a need to support a coordinated approach to marketing the CIO sector in Canada. The sector needs to develop a community of practice of CIOs through:
    • shared resources
    • expert forums
    • partnerships
    • strategic operational agreements
  • the sector requires a formal advance tax ruling and/or opinion with accounting and legal counsel. The tax effects of filing wrongly can threaten the financial sustainability of CIOs
  • Kootenay Employment Services shared the Guide with the public. Further marketing actions will ensure that communities are aware of this important tool across BC and Canada
  • continued support efforts will improve Canadians’ opportunities to invest in the communities where they live, work and play. Provinces and federal supported programs that encourage local investment are key drivers in recirculating wealth in local economies
  • for a geographically fair roll-out of the Social Finance Fund, we should value small intermediaries such as CIOs as delivery agents. They have:
    • existing partnerships with other local investors
    • local investors trained to provide financial and business supports to investees
  • there is a need to develop a platform to automate administrative work and reduce the manual workload placed upon Board of Directors and staff. The shared platform would allow CIOs to:
    • update their profiles
    • set up safe and efficient payment processes
    • help CIOs meet the necessary regulations

Contact us

Income Security and Social Development Branch, Social Innovation and Community Development Directorate.


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