Civic Ventures Fund
This article was posted in 2000.
North Carolina's rural communities, which remained largely disconnected from the prosperity of the 1990s, now face even greater challenges as unemployment rates and layoffs continue to rise. In spite of these challenges, many rural communities are actively engaged in problem solving that builds on local assets and focuses on local solutions. The Civic Ventures Fund provides funding to support communities as they implement these strategies and address critical community needs.
The Civic Ventures Fund was born out of the efforts of the N.C. Rural Prosperity Task Force, formed in 1999 by Governor Jim Hunt. The Task Force was challenged to develop innovative strategies to bring economic opportunities to rural areas of the state experiencing persistent poverty and economic distress.
One of the major recommendations of the task force was the creation of the Sustainable Communities Initiative, a comprehensive capacity building program for rural communities. The Rural Center was charged with developing the Sustainable Communities Initiative to help rural communities increase local leadership capacity and improve their ability to identify, plan and implement sustainable community development projects.
In May 2000, the Rural Center began development of the Civic Ventures Fund, one of three program components within the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The Civic Ventures Fund provides a dedicated source of funding to support the implementation of community development projects. With funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Rural Center will test the Civic Ventures Fund model through a one-year demonstration in western North Carolina.
The Civic Ventures Fund uses an innovative approach to building sustainable communities. It supports community capacity building by funding projects that are an outcome of an inclusive community planning process. More specifically, the fund supports " sustainable enterprises" — activities, projects, programs, etc., that address multiple, integrated issues and result in positive, long-term impacts that reflect the collective vision of the community.
Unlike traditional venture funds that assess only economic impact, this project considers the civic, social, environmental and educational returns on investment. This may include a broader, more inclusive base of leadership, a stronger, diversified economy, improved educational performance and a sustainable natural resource base.
The goals of the Rural Ventures Fund are to assist rural North Carolina communities in:
- Building their capacity to plan and implement development projects. Promoting and developing activities that result in sustainable enterprises and communities;
- Implementing projects with clear civic, social, economic, environmental and educational returns on investment; and
- Sustaining ventures that support the community vision and positively impact quality of life.
The Civic Ventures Fund demonstration supports investments in community-driven strategies through two distinct categories of grants: Civic Ventures Development Grants and Civic Ventures Implementation Grants.
Civic Venture Development Grants The development grants provide funding to move a sustainable enterprise project from conception to implementation. Grantees will create a Civic Ventures Plan that details the implementation action steps, project budget and evaluation plan necessary to leverage financial resources and achieve project goals.
Civic Ventures Implementation Grants The implementation grants provide project funding. This grant category requires a match of both cash and in-kind contributions. With a focus on sustainability, grantees are required to not only implement their community project but also prepare a resource and evaluation strategy that defines long-term resource needs and project indicators that measure returns on investment.
The Civic Ventures Fund Demonstration will extend for a period of one year, beginning January 1, 2002, and ending December 31, 2002.
Progress to date
The deadline for proposal submission was November 2, 2001. Forty-two proposals were received from eligible applicants located in the 29 western North Carolina counties that are a part of the Appalachian Regional Commission service area.