The 2011 RSF Borrower Gathering and Community Supported Transformation

Sep 27, 2011 7:14 PM ET

RSF Social Finance held its Third Annual Borrower Gathering, where leaders from innovative social enterprises met to connect and share best practices.


by Reed Mayfield

In July, over twenty RSF borrowers convened at the San Francisco Waldorf School for our third annual RSF Borrower Gathering. One would be inclined to describe the energy of the group as “engaged and enthused.” The feeling is mutual amongst the many people with whom there exists a direct relationship based on reciprocity and common values – RSF staff & board, investors, donors, partners, and friends. We fondly refer to this group as the RSF Community. This community is united by the impact we collectively bring forth into the world, the transformation we seek. The impact is evidenced in a number of ways: supporting Fair Trade practices, organic alternatives to store bought foods, Waldorf Education, environmental stewardship, food security, social finance, and much more. Among all this activity, progress is made with the creation of innovative and transformative ideas, through co-creative conversations. The RSF Borrower Gathering is an excellent representation of one of these conversations.

Over the course of one and a half days, the RSF Borrower Gathering brought together a variety of RSF borrowers, all with extensive hands-on experience in building successful non-profit and for-profit social enterprises. Borrowers shared insight into their respective industries from many different geographic areas and across all three of RSF’s Focus Areas (Food and Agriculture, Education and the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship).  During a session titled “Engaging Your Local Economic Community,” moderated by Raphael Bemporad of BBMG, a panel of RSF borrowers discussed the many innovative ways they engage with their communities. Jessica Rolph of HappyBaby, Jason Graham-Nye of gDiapers, and Denise Hamler of Green America shared the thought processes and methods that have contributed to the stellar communities grown around their organizations.  Denise said that to advance your mission, “know what you do well, and find out who is good at what you need.” Jason spoke about how gDiapers corporate culture extends beyond the walls of their offices and also about their use of social media to communicate with customers. Jessica discussed the importance of utilizing community engagement in their decision-making process and how the business truly took off when they “really began to listen” to the HappyBaby community.

Other highlights to the gathering included:

  • A presentation on Co-Creation from Raphael Bemporad of BBMG, a “brand innovation studio” focusing on “sustainability, technology, and social purpose.” Click here to read more.

  • “Managing an Intelligent Organization” with Dale Rodrigues from Mary’s Gone Crackers.

  • Break-out sessions with RSF’s senior management team and industry sector experts.

  • Updates about RSF, including the Social Impact Assessment Project, new initiatives, and the future of the organization.

  • An evening reception held at the CompoClay Showroom and Resource Center with RSF investors and staff.

The gathering was held at the San Francisco Waldorf High School. The school is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council as a LEED Project, and is currently working on its Gold Level Certification. RSF is deeply appreciative to the school and staff who allowed us to use their beautiful facilities.

Each member of the RSF community is a cornerstone in our organization. If there were no value-aligned investors how could social enterprises maintain their values when seeking financing? Without the high-impact borrowers, would capital be channeled to organizations our investors would not be proud to support?   The Annual Borrower Gathering is an example of how RSF utilizes community, transparency, and direct personal relationships to achieve our mission of transforming the way the world works with money. This event continues to grow in both size and content each year, bringing new borrowers, investors, and staff together to generate valuable learning experiences and to build stronger relationships. Thank you to RSF Community for contributing to the success of the 2011 RSF Borrower Gathering.

Reed Mayfield is Lending Assistant at RSF Social Finance.


Jillian McCoy, Communications Associate
RSF Social Finance