Investing in new businesses is typically a game for millionaires, which means businesses have to play by millionaire rules. We are creating the Colorado Solidarity Fund (CSF) to change that.
CSF is a cross-class, interracial and multilingual group of people pooling our money to help create a Colorado economy that works for more of us. Many of us never thought of ourselves as investors, until now.
Here’s how CSF works: members pool small investments, organizations approach us for support, and members decide together where to invest. If all goes well, members can make a modest return on what they invest. In our first few months of operation, by the start of 2019, we have raised $20,523. Our 41 members have pledged an average of $70 each month. The minimum monthly contribution is only $20.
This means investing in the Colorado Solidarity Fund is more than an investment. It is a way for us to learn from each other and to support our local economy.
We’re not interested in just any kind of business. We consider ourselves part of the solidarity economy, which means we support businesses that are socially just, democratically run, and environmentally sustainable. In particular, we prioritize cooperatives and community land trusts.
These kinds of enterprises have trouble accessing capital from the conventional rulebook. But we think they are really important in Colorado right now. In contrast to many of the businesses driving our state’s growth today, cooperatives exist to serve their workers, customers, and small businesses rather than wealthy investors, keeping profits local. And as the growing economy puts the cost of real estate out of many people’s reach, community land trusts can protect affordable housing and commercial space.
We aren’t the first wave of Coloradans to help catalyze a more inclusive economy in a big way. A century ago, farmers in Colorado and across the country organized cooperatives to counter the power of big banks and railroads. Thanks to them, 70 percent of the state’s landmass gets electricity from co-ops, and Colorado is home to a $130 billion co-op agricultural bank, which ensures that small farms have access to capital. It’s time for us to build on that legacy, with the kinds of community businesses we need most today.
There are several ways that people can support our work:
- Becoming a member. Our members are teachers, nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs, community organizers and tech workers. You don’t need special credentials to join. CSF members take part in deciding how we invest together. We admit new members every March and September.
- Proposing an investment. Do you know about a solidarity economy organization that could benefit from an investment from the Fund? Tell us about it here.
- Investing in solidarity with us. Are you connected to a foundation, family office, or impact investor interested in amplifying our investments? Let’s talk.
The Colorado Solidarity Fund is part of a growing movement for fundamental change. Solidarity investment clubs like ours across the United States are sharing legal templates, strategies, and investment opportunities.
While policymakers in Colorado and throughout the country are developing new tools to support solidarity economies, we know that the change we need won’t happen unless we participate in it and guide it—and invest.