RDF Congratulates Sima Thakkar on Selection to Prestigious Fellowship

RDF Congratulates Sima Thakkar on Selection to Prestigious Fellowship

The Raza Development Fund is proud to have exceptional leaders and expertise in its Familia. For example, Sima Thakkar, RDF’s Senior Investment Associate, was recently accepted to the Caren S. Franzini Fellowship established by the Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) to recognize outstanding women in development finance and provide them with an opportunity to further excel as leaders in the industry.

The program was established in 2017 to recognize the leadership of Caren Franzini, who dedicated her career to the advancement of development finance. Each year, four women work with CDFA through a six-month program (May – November) collaborating on a project showcase.

This year, Sima joins the third class of Franzini Fellows representing the best and brightest upcoming development finance industry talent. As she begins to start the program, Sima shares her thoughts on what the fellowship means for her and the type of work she looks forward to diving into in these coming months in the following Q&A.

How did you feel when you were first accepted into the program?

It was shock followed with pride and joy. I don’t know if there’s a better way to honor someone’s legacy, like Caren Franzini, than to create opportunities for new leaders in development finance and help them fuel their passion for helping communities, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

This program requires support from your institution because it does require rigorous work on top of our day-to-day responsibilities. Before I applied, I reached out to Melissa McDonald, Chief Operating Officer, David Clower, Chief Investment Officer, and Catherine Kes, Director of Specialty Finance, and was blown away by their support. They did not hesitate and I’m so grateful for RDF’s continued support.

For those who don’t know, what is the importance of community development finance?

For me community development finance is about using the power of capital to create wealth building opportunities for families and their communities. Access to capital can help businesses grow, create affordable housing opportunities, and help nonprofits expand their critical facilities. Capital is such a powerful tool, but we’re still facing a situation where access to affordable and flexible capital is not equal, and it creates disparities for so many communities of color which is unjust. Community development finance can be a tool in addressing barriers to capital.

What type of projects will you work on?

Our cohort will work on a capstone project together and right now we are looking at ways development finance organizations can increase access to predevelopment tools by taking a closer look at underrepresented borrowers. We are just getting started at exploring what this looks like but we are interested in how concepts of equity and equality play out in the development finance space and how we can elevate those conversations.

I’m also working on an individual component to our Fellowship where I’ll take a deeper dive into public health financing and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Part of this work includes assessing the current landscape and look for ways RDF can use our expertise, capital, passion and resources to help elevate and strengthen our existing FQHC infrastructure.

In addition to these projects, we will also take part in CDFA’s virtual summer school in August for more training and education.

What do you hope to gain from this program personally?

I feel like it’s a privilege to work in this field and I love what I do so, a large part of this is really just the fun that comes with learning more, being part of different projects, and being part of this cohort of fantastic women with different perspectives who are doing amazing things and are committed to community development. And I’m really hoping I can use this opportunity to bring new voices and community partners to development finance field.

What do you hope to bring to RDF? 

I’m really excited about this program creating opportunities for RDF to explore new partnerships and initiatives. I’m also hoping it gives us a chance to magnify RDF’s history and impact as well as our our strong relationship with UnidosUS and the critical work their affiliates do every day in communities throughout the country.

Rachel Jimenez serves as Raza Development Fund's Communications Department Manager. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Rachel has extensive experience supporting content marketing efforts for national and state non-profits, as well as small businesses.