Key Points

Much of central Appalachia has experienced an outflow of people, skills, and capital and as a consequence has been one of the models for community failure going back for over a century. But there are growing numbers of people and organizations that do not accept this fate as inevitable.

Using a developmental approach called place-based funding, supported by national and regional foundations and led by community groups and innovative practitioners located in and near the region, the Appalachian Investment Ecosystem Initiative is helping communities build a new way forward. Designed to accelerate investments in rural communities, this joint venture by LOCUS Impact Investing and regional partners including Invest Appalachia, the Appalachian Funders Network, and the Central Appalachian Network identified gaps that were preventing successful business development in economically distressed communities. For example, many communities in the region had identified potential investment opportunities, but often did not know how to package and market the deals. That led to the creation of a training, support, and technical assistance program to fill the gaps.

This article presents an exploration by one person who spent over 40 years in philanthropy, much of it focused on rural places, on the role of place-based funding and reflections on how national and nonresident funders can be more supportive, using the experiences of the Appalachian Investment Ecosystem Initiative as the core story but including a few other examples.

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