Approximately 10,000 people move to Colorado every month. They move here for myriad reasons, such as our 300 days of sunshine a year, our commitment to the outdoors and healthy lifestyles, and a magnificent geography that is second to none. And, of course, they come because of our robust economy.[1] But this level of growth has also brought some serious issues to the state. Among the greatest challenges are the displacement of low-income residents and communities of color, especially in historic neighborhoods in Denver’s core; urban sprawl that has run amok; the demise of rural economies; and environmental issues that threaten the very foundation of our resplendent state. Addressing these issues while making the most of the abundance of riches that we experience in Colorado is a complex task. It is up to the whole community — including private industry, nonprofits and philanthropy, and government — to ensure that the opportunities we face are not squandered and that the positive benefits are felt by all of Colorado’s communities, not only its more affluent residents.

Establishing a New Paradigm

In the prevailing social and economic paradigm, companies and individuals often behave as though there is an impenetrable divide between profit generation and community change. Companies make profits for shareholders, while government and nonprofits go about the business of improving communities. Even within philanthropic institutions, programs and grant-making are most often treated separately from the way the endowment is invested. This way of thinking has led to some of the most significant environmental and social challenges we face, including climate change on an international scale and deep inequality of income and opportunity on a national and local scale.

In a new paradigm, we can begin to see a whole new ecosystem of opportunities and actors.  In this emerging model, there is an identifiable set of overlapping needs: Investors need new investable opportunities; social enterprises that operate with stakeholder interests in mind need investors who share their values; nonprofits that want to create new systems and structures need new leadership and sources of funding; governments that create policies to help support new systems need constituents who support these new systems; and communities who stand to benefit the most from a new way of thinking need to be engaged in determining how change can and should happen. In short, we need a new web of actors across the spectrum who are committed to fundamentally changing and improving how things are done.

Here in Colorado, we think we have this set of actors and we believe we are uniquely positioned to establish a new paradigm for investing and community wealth building that is inclusive, equitable and replicable.

About the Colorado Impact Report

KP Advisors and Cornerstone Capital Group developed this report to highlight companies and organizations that are attempting to recalibrate the opportunity scale to protect our natural environment and ensure that the benefits of our growth are experienced throughout the state.  We also know that there are many others in the state who are doing incredible work.

Throughout this report you will hear from people who are actively working to deploy place-based impact capital that will provide more opportunities for low-income communities, small businesses, women-owned businesses, and more. You will also hear from groups that are developing instruments for investments at or below market-rate, for example, by uncovering investment opportunities that are helping re-create the local food economy, provide more affordable housing stock, and pilot new solutions to homelessness in the state. And, finally, you will hear from amazing visionaries who are helping to fundamentally influence how we understand the relationship between place-based investing, social enterprises, nonprofits, government, foundations, and others.

Together, these visionary actors are creating something that is deeply inspiring: a web of investors, foundations, nonprofits, for-profits, and field building leaders who understand the interplay between financial capital and social change. They not only understand it; they also are working to do something about it. We hope you are inspired by their stories and participate in the movement to create a more inclusive and equitable Colorado in whatever ways you are able. There is an abundance of need for more human capital, financial capital, and great ideas, all focused on helping Colorado realize its limitless potential.

[1] Colorado had an unemployment rate of 2.3% in April 2017, as compared to a national unemployment rate of 4.4%. (Source: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.) Colorado’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2% in 2016 as compared to 1.5% nationally. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016).

Katherine Pease is Director of Impact Investing for Cornerstone Capital Investment Advisory. Katherine has worked with foundations, investors and nonprofit organizations for more than 20 years. She co-edited this report while serving as the President of KP Advisors, a Colorado-based philanthropic and impact investment advisory firm. Katherine previously served as the executive director of the Gill Foundation and as Senior Vice President for Philanthropic Investments and Policy at Gary Community Investments/Piton Foundation.