At F4DC, we work toward a time when the wealth produced by laboring people from the earth’s resources is available to them as a means of enhancing their lives and communities, rather than accumulated to enhance the power and privilege of the few. To get there, we’ll need new infrastructure for finance, one that’s based in our values.
To advance this work we have partnered with regional and national organizations to put together some of the components of that infrastructure. In particular, we have developed the Southern Reparations Loan Fund regionally and linked it with the Financial Cooperative nationally, which is growing with the support and guidance of The Working World.
SRLF grew from the work of the Southern Grassroots Economies Project and its board and staff are mostly African Americans from the South. In our conception and development we made an effort to learn from the work of both the Southern Cooperative Loan Fund and the Land Assistance Fund of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, paying attention to their vision and mission on the one hand and the lessons from their actual histories on the other. We wanted to embrace the task of providing loan assistance to cooperative businesses within the most marginalized communities and still retain a sustainable loan fund. In keeping with the scope of our network, we conceived of our work as covering the entire 14 state “South” region.
We soon met with other progressive leaders in the field of cooperative finance. The Working World had an impressive history of supporting the worker cooperatives that developed in the recovered factory movement of Argentina where the workers from closed and shuttered factories organized to reopen their places of employment as worker owners of worker cooperatives.
The Southern Reparations Loan Fund makes loans to community-based businesses anchored in the most marginalized Southern Communities. SRLF focuses its lending to startups and expansions of democratically-governed enterprises that meet the needs and elevate the quality of life in the communities of African Americans, immigrants, poor whites and others who have been systematically damaged by exploitation and oppression. Our aim is to nurture the development of businesses that maximize community benefit, rather than maximize profit.
The concept of reparations is at the heart of SRLF’s mission as it moves capital taken from an economy rooted in extraction, land theft, slavery and exploitation and uses this capital to build Southern enterprises that are owned and democratically controlled by the communities from which the wealth was stolen in the first place. The core values of SRLF are:
- Radical inclusivity for communities that have historically been denied access to finance,
- Non-extractive finance, which means investing based on the potential profit and benefit of projects rather than being based on the borrower’s credit rating or collateral. SRLF only expects payment derived from the benefit derived from the loan. Because of this SRLF works closely with businesses to insure the success of the enterprise.
- Maximizing community benefit, which means that we are not just concerned with the business bottom line, but more concerned with how the business serves the community.
Although our initial effort was to service the entire south (an area of nearly a million square miles) with a single loan fund, we have found through our experience that the necessary technical assistance work requires more people on the ground in close contact with the communities where they are lending to and supporting cooperative businesses. Only by being local can we have the kind of contextual understanding, relationship building, and timely technical assistance that new and growing enterprises need. Because of this we are seeking to build a network of Southern place based loan funds that are each deeply rooted in their communities. There are potential partners who have expressed interest in the Mississippi Delta, Western North Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.
SRLF exists as a member of the Financial Cooperative where we work with other similar lending groups across the country who share capital, back office services and peer training. As SRLF grows into its own network of southern loan funds, each participating fund will be a part of the Financial Cooperative as a part of being a member of SRLF.