Deeper than Partnership: A Story for Social Impact Investors

February 26, 2018

When the social impact investment movement took the philanthropy world by storm, we did not have much literature or many teaching tools for those venturing into these conversations. Experimentation, laboratories, and startups dotted across the landscape, but concrete lessons and illustrations were lacking.

Now, we are proud to release the Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project (CFFP) case study. The report documents a regional collaboration that started in 2014, and takes us on a journey of how different investment players began to align visions and outcomes; how they struggled and ultimately started speaking the same language; and how they arrived at more aligned strategies – to hone in financing change in food systems.

More than ever, it is important to understand how the foundation sector can deepen collaboration and dialogue with for-profit investors. This particular investor network focused on financing healthy, delicious, locally sourced, and affordable food to our region for wholesale markets. What they have learned is pertinent to other sectors. Here is a preview of some critical findings from the case study for our social impact community-in-practice:

1)    Valuable mini-lessons on initial public and private investments in food

2)    Valuable research on bringing public and private partners together to help change food systems

3)    Initial steps to develop a viable financing vehicle to target investments in food systems

This case study is a important and intimate look into the continuing working relationship between foundations and private investors.

Finally, it was the transformative potential of the CFFP collaboration that propelled the Philanthropy Northwest team to begin incubating the project in 2015. Through our consulting arm, the Giving Practice, we gave CFFP partners the space and stability needed to grow without having to launch a new social enterprise. We are proud to have gained an action-oriented learning model for Philanthropy Northwest members and generated great lessons for the entire field.

Download the Case Study.


The Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project is a Philanthropy Northwest-sponsored collaboration of foundation and individual impact investors seeking to use market-based strategies to grow the Northwest's regional food economy. Tim Crosby, CFFP Coordinator, can be reached at tim@threadfund.org. Anjana Pandey, Vice President for Strategy and Operations at Philanthropy Northwest, can be reached at apandey@philanthropynw.org.