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How One Canadian City is Responding to COVID-19 With Community Investment

Nikky Manfredi

Nikky Manfredi

Communications & Content Specialist

Last Fall, the City of Kingston reached out to our Social Innovation Specialist, Jo Reynolds, asking them if they would lead a process exploring community investment in response to the crises brought on by COVID-19. Having called Kingston home for the last four years, Jo didn’t blink. 

“Municipalities are under so much strain from the economic and social impact of COVID-19. There’s an openness and a leaning-in happening right now.” Jo explains. “Regions and municipalities are coming together in a new way to learn from one another, and in that process we start to surface social innovation. We find ways in which we can scale solutions for systems change.”

Kingston Community Investment Brief What does leading a community process and surfacing social innovation look like exactly? Kingston Community Investment has your answers here. This brief outlines their work so far, including key insights from community leaders about the impacts of COVID-19 on homelessness, housing affordability, and food insecurity.

Our favourite part? The Comparative Community Investment Models section, of course! Jo, alongside the City’s Innovation Analyst, Lakshay Raheja, and a team from Queen’s Social Investment Initiative, are bringing community investment to Kingston by drawing from examples happening across Canada. They know innovation happens when we choose to work across sectors and beyond silos. 

Kingston Community Investment is our network in action and as Jo reflects, the opportunity is far-reaching: “In small towns and regions, we can learn from one another to be able to adopt and adapt community-based solutions for long-standing issues that are intersectional and threaten the wellbeing of many vulnerable community members.”

What is Community Investment? 

To Jo, community investment means “we’re coming together with different perspectives, including people who are impacted by the issues, policymakers, and investors to design something that meets everyone’s needs.”

From the brief: 

“Community investment uses repayable financing and investment to support the start up or growth of a community-based project or social enterprise. Community investment models are created in response to an articulated need. Each community takes its own approach to develop a fund or a financial product that serves a shared goal. For example, some communities create partnerships to build new affordable housing, start a community food initiative, or support local social-economic development. Terms such as ‘social finance’ and ‘place-based investing’ are often used interchangeably to describe the practice of using financing and investment to achieve a specific community outcome.”

What’s Next? 

Community Investment Kingston is hosting a learning session online on March 25 for all community members. If you live in Kingston, lean in!

The learning session will break down the ins-and-outs of community investment, including different examples happening across Ontario. From there, if there is interest from Kingstonians in this kind of approach, the community will start exploring what types of community investment solutions they want to adopt and adapt for their local context. 

If You Don’t Live in Kingston, Why Should You Care?

The brief is a great reference guide for anyone trying to understand what community investment is and what a community-based approach to creating city-wide solutions can look like. 

When we talk about a community coming together to create change, we don’t always talk about how. This brief showcases that “how”, specifically: 

  • How someone can facilitate a community-based process through discovery, learning, and design phases 
  • How small municipalities and regions are exploring community investment, including different models from across Canada 
  • How municipalities are mitigating social and economic strain due to COVID-19 by reaching out and leaning in to social innovation 

As Jo emphasizes, this brief reflects an initiative in its early “learning stages.” With that in mind, have at it. We believe being part of the solution means sharing our work.

Want to learn more about community investment in action? Read about The CSI Community Bond. For more on how we are centring community-driven economies, check out our Community Wealth Programs & Projects.

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