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Common Themes

What do these examples from CEI tell us? Both programs highlight how credit can be more than an opportunity or transaction. Credit transforms a community, building both individual and community assets. Both programs show the importance of links among forms of capital or assets. If any one of the assets or capital had been developed or maintained in isolation, impact would have been less. For example, PACT'S strength was in developing human, social, and to some degree financial assets for businesses and agencies. Similarly, without recognizing and preserving the community asset inherent in working waterfront access, the partnership that enabled affordable financing of the waterfront for the two fishermen would not have taken place.

These links force us to think about the different roles that various assets play. Social capital has a related but functionally different role in transforming a community from that of financial assets. By articulating the different roles of and links among assets involved in developing any one community or individual, we can illuminate new ways to approach old problems.

Partnerships, a form of social capital, were crucial in both vignettes. For PACT, one of the key reasons for the project was to build partnerships between economic and workforce development agencies to leverage greater impact. The York fishermen partnered with the local Land Trust and CEI to preserve an important asset for fishermen and for the local community. Partnerships offer a way to make credit transformational and to build and preserve assets using financial resources more efficiently, while developing forms of social capital that transcend a specific project. These partnerships can and should be further leveraged by tapping into resources for community self-sufficiency. CDFIs can be part of this effort and will benefit as businesses and consumers become positioned to take out loans, thereby building CDFIs' transactional business model.

The partnership theme develops into a common theme of leveraging impact to a larger scale. In PACT, social capital developed in the Western Mountains region continued to develop after the project. Likewise with the York waterfront project: its success leveraged into a larger statewide initiative resulting in a Working Waterfront Loan Fund funded by the state and managed by CEI (Zezima 2007).

To assess the outcomes of these projects, CEI went beyond just counting the transaction. Knowing that the loan was made to the York fishermen does not allow measurement of the other processes and changes that occurred as a result. So a case study was conducted to capture the depth of the project (Lyman 2007). Similarly, in the PACT project, knowing the numbers of people employed and the numbers of loans made did not capture the rich transformations that took place in the social fabric of the region. An in-depth internal process evaluation took place throughout the duration of the project (Dickstein and Thomas 2006).

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