Five years ago, Michigan Good Food Fund launched as a first-of-its-kind healthy food financing initiative that broke new ground in its commitment to support businesses from farm-to-fork. Since 2015, partners have deployed nearly $17 million in loans and grants, and the 300+ enterprises we’ve supported have in turn created or supported 1,000+ jobs.
To chart our next chapter of work and impact, we brought together community stakeholders for three “working groups” focused on different key topics. One is focused on our vision including redefining entrepreneur mission-alignment and success metrics. Another is discussing community engagement and accountability and what a reimagined advisory board could look like. The third is exploring our capital and technical assistance products, processes, and providers. All groups are grounded in a commitment to chart a path forward that is most additive to the local ecosystem, our partners who make this work possible, and, most importantly, the entrepreneurs we serve.
Thank you to everyone who has participated thus far for your time, engagement, and thoughtful perspectives. While we’re still synthesizing feedback to chart the next blueprint of work, we wanted to report back what we’ve heard so far and provide a chance for our broader community feedback. See below for topline take-aways and click here for a quick, 5-minute survey to share your thoughts.
Mission & Success: This group explored mission alignment eligibility for the entrepreneurs we support as well as broader questions of what success looks like for this initiative and impact metrics. Topline take-aways include:
- Expand understanding of “healthy:” Expand definition of “healthy” to include broader social determinants of health including public health, environmental sustainability, and local economic development.
- Deepen social justice commitment: Incorporate success metrics with specific goals around race and gender, asset ownership, and measurable contributions to communities.
- Focus on relationships over transactions: Measure progress over time, delivering multiple forms and rounds of capital and technical assistance to entrepreneurs, and embedding additional social impact practices as businesses grow.
Community Voice: This group explored how our work could be accountable to community-identified needs and voice including the creation of an Advisory Board composed of community-stakeholders. Topline take-aways include:
- Community Voice: Recruit various stakeholders representative of the diversity of our state and food ecosystem as an Advisory Board to review, potentially modify, and ultimately approve initiative design, priorities, and impact metrics.
- Community Accountability: Empower this new Advisory Board to regularly review work, progress toward impact metrics, and initiative evaluation holding partners accountable over time. (The board is neither fundraising nor making investment decisions.)
- Community Engagement: Engage this Board to increase initiative connectivity to local food entrepreneurs and communities seeking resources and support.
Capital & Technical Assistance: This group explored how best to recalibrate our capital and technical assistance products, processes, and partners with the goal to deliver integrated support in ways that are more internally coordinated and externally additive. Topline take-aways include:
- Early-Stage Financing: Address early-stage financing gaps, using new products, credit enhancements, or credit-building tools to better bridge food enterprises to the existing CDFI/bankable credit box.
- Coordinate Support: Help businesses better navigate and coordinate capital and technical assistance offerings and support.
- Cohort Model: Consider launching a high-touch cohort program of food enterprises that provides support over time, layering capital and sector-specific technical assistance.