Jeremy Nowak
Executive Director, The Reinvestment Fund

Interviewed by Lynn Adler and Jim Mayer
Producers of Faith, Hope and Capital

A former community organizer, Jeremy Nowak has built The Reinvestment Fund into one of the largest loan funds in the country. With the motto: "Organized money for organized people," the Fund has focused on helping grassroots community organizations build political strength as well as new housing and new businesses.

Read a portion below of our interview or go to a printer-friendly page of the full interview

Q: How did The Reinvestment Fund get started?

JN: In the mid 1980's, actually around 1984, there was a lot of interest in social investment in this area. I think it was spurred in part by some efforts to rebuild inner-city neighborhoods that needed capital. But, it was also spurred in part by the politics around anti-apartheid work. At that time, when people were thinking about getting corporations to disinvest resources in South Africa, one of the logical questions was, if you're going to take money out of some place, where are you going to put money in? So, the effort to create The Reinvestment Fund came out of interest by three different kinds of constituencies.

One group was potential investors, people who were looking for vehicles to put their money in places that fit their values. A second group was people who were working in the inner-city and trying to figure out how to get accessible and flexible capital to do development projects, housing and economic development projects. Finally, there were a lot of people with technical skills in banking and real estate development and accounting and law, who were looking for an institutional medium in which to both express their values and use their skills.

Those three constituencies, the investors, the borrowers, and the technicians, really were the organizing focus around 1984 and 1985. They came together and got a small grant from a local Philadelphia foundation to hire someone to put the organization together. That was me. It took off from there. Prior to that I had been working as a community organizer in a neighborhood called Logan, which is in the upper part of North Philadelphia. I had worked for a few years as a block organizer, organizing blocks around housing and crime and safety issues, things like that.

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