In late 2019, People’s Economy Lab responded to a Request For Proposal and were hired to support a business planning process with three Seattle-based community development financial institutions (CDFI)—HomeSight, Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, and Ventures – who together sought out to address the need for greater access to affordable, relevant, locally-administered small business capital for low-income immigrants, refugees, people of color and women-owned in neighborhoods of south Seattle that are vulnerable to displacement: Othello, Rainier Beach, and South Park.

From our existing work and experience, the Lab plans to develop a business plan with the understanding that:

  • Lending is one strategy of a larger ecosystem. For south Seattle communities to thrive in place, we need to also work on ensuring these businesses are part of a transformation in our economy that involves systems and policy change to weather larger economic forces.
  • Access to capital is critical, and access alone is insufficient. Capital must be appropriate, affordable, and complemented with wrap-around support.
  • Who allocates capital matters. Historically, capital has been allocated by people and institutions that have accumulated capital, often at the expense of those without capital. To be an effective anti-displacement strategy, the community affected must have agency in capital allocation decisions. This includes:
    • Creating a diverse capital stack that includes participation from diverse participants with a stake in the communities of Othello, Rainier Beach, and South Park.
    • Engaging those communities in identifying and prioritizing investments to businesses that are serving communities’ interest.

We plan to leverage the experience of the community and partner organizations, research from Community Credit Lab, model programs such as Ujima and others, content generated by the original People’s Economy Lab leaders.

Update: While the initial project was to address anti-displacement in the Rainier Beach, Othello and South Park neighborhoods, each partner organization is now all hands-on deck responding to Covid-19 recovery. We imagine the project will pivot from focusing specifically on a 5-year anti-displacement strategy to short and medium-term economic recovery from Covid-19.

The People’s Economy Lab team is interviewing small business owners, community stakeholders and service providers to gather data, insights, and input for potential solutions to address economic recovery for affected small businesses in the surrounding South Seattle neighborhoods. To date, we are continuing to hear about the critical need for technical assistance for small business owners, including a long-term approach for capacity building support.

People’s Economy Lab and partner organizations have agreed that the findings that are of public value and non-confidential will be available for sharing to further the public interest. The  project is led by Shiho Fuyuki, Njuguna Gishuru, and Deric Gruen of the People’s Economy Lab.

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