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Pat Conaty

It was great to see Pat Conaty, one of the founders of the Community Development Finance movement in the UK, and Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART) in particular, scoop the UK CITI Foundation CDFI Hero Award at the Community Development Finance Association’s Annual Conference this year.

Many in the audience were unaware of the unstinting efforts that have been Pat’s hallmark over 20 years of working in research and development in not only the CDFI sector, but also in other areas of social need.  Pat was the original developer of the ART model of finance, designed to fill gaps left by the banks, after a lengthy period of research in the US and working cooperatively with others in the UK.

He was the co-author of ‘Small is Bankable’ in 1998, which pointed the way to substantial national government support for the sector.  He has championed the role of social enterprise and the need for increased social investment. He pioneered the voluntary-sector-led ESCO which explored, with Energy Savings Trust, the potential to ‘green up’ and save energy as well as cost for small businesses, the voluntary sector and housing – way ahead of its time.  Pat has established new financial housing-related support for improvements to properties through a number of CDFIs.

His acceptance speech showed he has lost none of the characteristic passion that has driven his career as he, together with Bob Annibale, Global Director from CITI Bank, called upon Government and other stakeholders to follow the example of the US and create a first loss fund to expand CDFI activity in the UK.  He is still keen to develop the sector, building on its current UK successes in supporting job creation and enterprise.

In an interview with Pioneers Post, after the CDFA Conference, Pat said he would describe his recipe for success as READ – Research, Education, Advocacy then Development: “First, you need to do your market research collaboratively on what the problem is that you are trying to solve.  Then you need to educate other people, power brokers and the media about the opportunities that you discover.  Advocacy is really important then if you want achieve national reach with your idea.  Then finally comes the development stage.  In a new social economy market, you can only ever get to this stage and find success if you have carefully gone through the rest of this process so that you are building on solid ground.  Investors will not support structures on sandy foundations.  You have to lead by walking the talk, not simply telling people what should be done.  Go and set up an Aston Reinvestment Trust – or better still work with a group of people and collaboratively set up several.  Lead by dogged example and show others that something is possible by doing it yourself first.”

Working in partnership, sharing knowledge and experience have always been important to ART, so I was particularly interested to read Pat’s answer to the question ‘What makes you laugh or cry?’:

“What makes me laugh and cry at the same time is when I see people continuing to compete with each other in our small sector or arrogant civil servants who do not listen and learn.  It is counter-productive not to collaborate.  Big organisations are so successful because they collaborate, and it’s a mug’s game to compete.  Having a spirit of mutuality is my message.  If you do that there’s nothing you can’t do and you will advance quicker.  For decades in the third sector I have seen organisations competing with each other, even more so than in the private sector, and I think that is particularly tragic.”

Now there’s food for thought!

You can read the full article in Pioneer’s Post.

March 5, 2014 11:09 am

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