Croatan Institute is an independent, nonprofit research and action institute whose mission is to build social equity and ecological resilience by leveraging finance to create pathways to a just economy.
We envision an equitable world where finance supports flourishing communities, vibrant places, and resilient economies.
Rigorous – Interdisciplinary – Inclusive – Independent – Trusted
Croatan Institute is an independent, nonprofit research and action institute whose mission is to build social equity and ecological resilience by leveraging finance to create pathways to a just economy. Since our launch on Earth Day in 2014, we have worked collaboratively with more than 100 organizations, including environmental nonprofits, community development organizations, farmers and land stewards, impact investors, foundations, and government agencies, on complex problems at the intersection of finance, social equity, and ecological resilience. Our team has prioritized equity and inclusion, building relationships of trust with practitioners in the field and with movements for social and environmental change to expand the footprint and impact of our work.
The Institute’s team includes a group of committed, interdisciplinary scholars, scientists, financial activists, advocates, and analysts has developed a reputation for delivering rigorous research and actionable insight working on issues at the intersection of finance and social equity and inclusion, climate change solutions, farming and forestry, food systems, institutional accountability, business and human rights, and resilient communities, as well as by developing useful frameworks and data analytics for sustainable and impact investing.
Headquartered in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Croatan Institute has a networked team based in Boston, Wisconsin, Maine, New York, Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Geneva, Switzerland. Croatan Institute was initially incubated at Tellus Institute, the Boston-based sustainability think tank where several of the founding team members and advisers began their collaboration. The Institute is governed by a board of concerned citizens and environmental entrepreneurs and counseled by a Board of Advisers drawn from a diverse cross-section of leaders from civil society, business, social finance, and academia.
Croatan Institute’s name draws inspiration from the Native American Croatan people associated with the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke, the first effort at English settlement in the Americas. In the late sixteenth century, families of more than 100 English-speaking colonists settled on an island nestled between the Outer Banks and the inland coast of present-day North Carolina. Within the space of less than three years, the colonists had mysteriously vanished. When the colony’s governor returned to rejoin the settlers, his crew found an abandoned settlement with the word “Croatoan” carved in a gate post and the letters “CRO” on the trunk of a tree.
EQUITY AND INCLUSION STATEMENT
To solve some of the greatest challenges facing our world today, Croatan Institute recognizes that diverse stakeholders offer distinct perspectives that must be integrated into our collective efforts to build social equity and ecological resilience.
We acknowledge that racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and other systemic forms of prejudice reinforce not only the power and privilege of America’s White majority but also the influence of post-colonial empires on emerging economies. This global understanding of the imperatives of equity and inclusion, rooted in our interdisciplinary approaches to research and problem-solving, pushes us to embrace a wide array of life journeys and perspectives. While identity may begin with what we see, we recognize that diversity is often far more complex than what public conversations about race might lead us to believe. A person’s life story is collectively shaped by their identities in complex ways. Our commitment is consequently to honor the complexities of individuals and communities while we partner to build bridges to a more just economy.
As a nonprofit research and action institute, we are on a journey to embed equity and inclusion across our organization—into our governance, operations, and partnerships. We have been fortunate to have thoughtful advisers on this journey from the outset, and we continue to create policies, practices, and platforms that reflect the need for.
Since its founding, Croatan Institute has been committed to the principles of equity and inclusion in its actions:
- When the Institute publicly launched in 2014, our multi-racial founding team was advised by a Board of Advisers reflecting racial, gender, and LGBTQ+ diversity.
- In 2014 we convened an internal brain trust of fellows and advisers to explore the lack of diversity in finance. The seed planted by this group blossomed into our Racial Equity, Economics, Finance, and Sustainability (REEFS) program in 2018.
- In 2015 we released a major collaborative study on “Investing for Positive Impact on Women.”
- In 2016 we released “Investing in LGBTQ+ Equality,” a pathbreaking paper, and simultaneously organized investors with more than $2 trillion in assets t o oppose North Carolina’s
transphobic “Bathroom Bill.”
- In 2018 we created an organizational policy to formalize our practice of embedding equity in vendor selection.
- In 2020 we created an honorarium compensation policy for speakers and interviewees from low-resource communities and organizations led by people of color.
- We’ve assembled a team of staff, affiliated fellows, and Board members that bring together a diverse range of racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, socio-economic, and immigrant identities.
Learn more about our future plans for continuing to embed equity and justice across our work in our Strategic Plan 2021-2023.
In 2020, Croatan Institute embarked on its first formal strategic planning process, released in June 2021, and covering a three year period from 2021 – 2023. During this process, we took stock of our accomplishments and the lessons learned in our first seven years of development and worked to assess and articulate the Institute’s values, vision, mission, as well as develop a more unified theory of change to guide our work over the next three years. The process included a series of focus groups with staff and fellows, a public stakeholder survey, and a set of individual interviews with key external stakeholders. We also developed a concrete 24-month work plan with enhanced governance, communications, and development strategies.
Our 2021-2023 Strategic Plan includes five strategic priorities that will guide our efforts to deepen our capacity and manage our growth in a sustainable way:
- Streamline Our Programs and Communications
- Fully Integrate Equity and Justice across Programs and Operations
- Diversify Revenue Streams and Build Development Capacity
- Enhance Operational Capacity
- Strengthen Organizational Governance
Our full Strategic Plan provides an overview of the outcomes of this process and a foundation for the Institute’s next phase of development.
How We Work
Croatan Institute works toward change by redirecting finance to support social equity and ecological resilience, making finance more accessible for place-based practitioners and frontline communities, and fostering what we call the “magic in the middle” by working in unique ways between these two pathways.
Who We Work With
Learn more about how we Consult, Convene and Collaborate with a wide and growing array of partners, including
- nonprofits, cooperatives, and community-based organizations mission-aligned sustainable, impact, and community investment firms, and major investor networks
- philanthropic and corporate foundations
- government funders, primarily the US Department of Agriculture
To learn more about all of the clients we work with, follow the “Hire Us” button below.
Partners, Sponsors & Funders
To learn more about all of the partners, sponsors and funders we work with, follow the “Collaborate with Us” button below.
In 2015 – 2019, Croatan Institute launched an ambitious five-year founding campaign inviting donors and organizations seeking to play a highly engaged role in the early stages of our work to join the Institute’s Founders Circle. By pledging to support Croatan Institute with major gifts, Founders Circle members helped seed the Institute with unrestricted anchor funding during this critical phase of our growth, helping us to maintain our independence, deepen our impact, and achieve our vision. We are grateful to our Founders Circle members for their generous support: