The Southern Reparations Loan Fund (SRLF), a project of the Southern Grassroots Economies Project (SGEP), makes business loans to cooperatively owned businesses anchored in the most marginalized Southern communities. We especially focus our lending toward start-ups and expansions of democratically-governed enterprises that meet the needs and elevate the quality of life of African Americans, immigrants, and poor whites. Our goal is to nurture the development of businesses that maximize community benefit, rather than the narrow concept of maximizing profit.
The concept of reparations is at the heart of SRLF’s mission: SRLF moves capital stemming from an economy rooted in extraction, exploitation, slavery, and land grabs to build Southern enterprises that are owned and democratically controlled by the very communities from which the wealth was stolen in the first place.
The core values of our work are:
- Radical inclusivity: we focus our work on communities that have historically been denied access to finance.
- Non-extractive finance: we invest based on the potential profit and benefit of projects, not based on how many assets borrowers already have. Also, unlike a traditional lender, we do not expect repayment until the business shows a profit from the investment we made. We work closely with businesses to ensure a greater likelihood of success.
- Maximizing community benefit: we are looking not just at the business’ financial bottom line but also at the larger purpose it serves in its community.
SRLF is a cooperative partner within a larger, developing Financial Cooperative. We share learning, services, and capital with other place-based loan funds that emphasize social justice, radical inclusivity, non-extractive finance, and community benefit. The Working World, the oldest loan fund in The Financial Cooperative, plays the administrative and coordinating role in the Cooperative. The Working World is a 501(c)3 loan fund that has pioneered non-extractive financing in the United States, making more than 1,000 successful loans to over 200 worker and community owned businesses.
As The Financial Cooperative and SRLF grow in their capacity to make productive investments in the communities and projects that need them most, they will become self-sustaining, needing no further charitable support. Our goal is to reach that self-sustaining point within 5 years.