Richard Taub's book Doing Development in Arkansas describes the first, troubled decade of work by Southern Bancorp ("Southern") to revitalize a rural area after the example and instruction of ShoreBank, Chicago.
It was Southern's task to make credit accessible to African American entrepreneurs in Arkansas. Greater accessibility would encourage entrepreneurship, build local economies, and kick-start the regional economy. But program evaluation was measured by volume of loan activity, not by its economic impact. Expectations were set far too high, and the time horizons far too low, especially for such a large target area. Southern sought few institutional, corporate, and social agency partners with whom to share the burden and expertise. Critically, Southern also made credit for under-serviced entrepreneurs the lynchpin of a development strategy. This vastly underestimated the complex of social and economic problems that burdens deteriorating communities.
This may not be the "success story" that so many of us love to hear. But the ability of Canadian practitioners to learn from it is of the greatest importance to our efforts to create a federal program in community development finance.