Spanning North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, The Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition is comprised of a group of Native-led community loan funds, also known as Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs), that create economic opportunities for tribal members. Organizations participating in the Coalition include Akiptan, Black Hills Community Loan Fund, Four Bands Community Fund, Montana Native Growth Fund, Wind River Development Fund, Native American Community Development Corporation, Plenty Doors Community Development Corporation, Native American Development Corporation, and People’s Partner for Community Development.
The Birth of a Coalition
In early March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Native community development financial institution (CDFI) executives everywhere began to connect to discuss economic impacts, provide each other with updates on federal relief programs, and explore additional solutions. In the middle of the country, weekly virtual meetings facilitated by a group of thought leaders provided a regional platform for Native CDFIs to discuss similar challenges, receive executive support, and share solutions during this novel crisis. Through these conversations, a grassroots movement of Native CDFIs emerged to harness their collective capacity and respond to the needs in the region. Consequently, the Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition, a group of Native CDFIs from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, convened for the first time on March 30, 2020 as a regional triage response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a frontline response, the Coalition immediately began working to share effective strategies and leverage shared resources and partnerships.
Examining COVID-19 Impacts
While the rest of America was focused on the East Coast and primarily urban impacts, this unique collective desired to gain a solid understanding of the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains region, and even more specifically in Native communities within this footprint. In early April, the federal government was launching its federal relief effort, the Paycheck Protection Program, which would be channeled through SBA-certified financial institutions. The choice to move federal relief funds through financial institutions, which have historically failed low-income and minority markets in the region, sharpened the Coalition’s ability to see the consequences and perpetuation of systemic racism. During this time, the Coalition launched a data collection initiative to study the region’s private economies and determine the proportion of Native American markets which would take the largest economic hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the heart of the data collection effort were two surveys administered to two distinct audiences – Native CDFIs and small businesses – across the four-state region of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Findings of these surveys were published in a report titled, “The State of the Region: COVID-19 Initial Impacts on Native Businesses, Economies & Native CDFIs.”Download Report
Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
Currently the Coalition is focused on strengthening their collective financial analysis and management capacity, while collaborating to build regional strategies. These strategies include re-aligning products and services to support business recovery and closing the systemic racial wealth gap, ultimately working to expand and diversify investor relationships and deepen collaborative funding. To achieve this, the Coalition is working to fortify institutions in the region, stabilize existing businesses, ignite innovation, and challenge racial inequities.Learn More
Blog: Regional Networks of Native CDFIs Are Filling the Void of Government Response to Crisis. Here’s How Funders Can Support Their Success.
In a blog post, the Northwest Area Foundation examined how, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Native CDFIs are relying on regional networks to best serve their communities’ immediate and long-term needs. The Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition was featured in this blog, along with many other groups who are working on resilient strategies.Learn More