We at Transform Finance have just completed a 7-part Discussion Series on Grassroots Community Engaged Investment (GCEI), building on our 2021 report and presenting the experiences of organizers, practitioners, and funders. While we will miss having that space for deep learning and discussion, we were thrilled to learn so much from speakers and participants and want to share back with you some of what came out of the series and what we’re doing going forward.
First, we want to give such a huge thank you to the speakers who joined us on our calls and shared their experience, particularly the community leaders who are building new projects from the bottom up. Your work – building funds, organizing investors, designing new bottom-up models for the economy – is what makes capital flow transformatively and demonstrates to investors and funders how to rethink concepts of risk, power, and return.
We organized the Discussion Series expressly to lift up the work of these projects, to explore together with funders and investors their roadblocks and how to overcome them, and to collectively develop next steps that inform all stakeholders in furthering the field of GCEI. The DiscussionSeries, like the seminal GCEI report, sought to help put control over capital in the hands of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, working class communities, and other communities who have been negatively affected by unaccountable investments.
Our sessions covered a lot of ground to account for the fact that there are so many stakeholders involved in making GCEI projects possible, and the projects themselves range greatly in terms of focus (from real estate developments to funds for entrepreneurs of color), scale (from local to regional to national), and governance structures (from multi-stakeholder cooperatives to massive community assemblies to leadership by a few grassroots organizations). We continue to think about and digest all of the guidance and insight from our speakers and presenters -- and we encourage you also to revisit the recordings.
We also felt new doors open and new questions emerge, and there is still so much more to learn and explore.
The following are some of the questions that remain key areas of inquiry for Transform Finance and the field as a whole.
- Many mission-driven investors are still hesitant to invest in GCEI projects - what narratives are they most responsive to that can help them redefine their internal definitions of risk and their willingness to engage with communities?
- Is there enough absorption capacity among GCEI projects for the potential interest from investors?
- Can community participation take on market rate capital without risking extraction? What types of projects would be able to take it on?
- In what ways can we determine the holistic impacts of GCEI projects without recreating some of the issues of output-oriented impact measurement commonly used in philanthropy and community development?
- How can we move larger philanthropic actors towards incorporating GCEI into their funding strategies, rather than funders who are already bought into community power and economic democracy?
- What tools and support do community leaders need to best determine what kind of governance model will meet their goals?
- Some projects have had difficulty getting participation from a wide range of community members – what supports do organizers need to do this more easily?
- What kinds of policies at the city, state, and federal level can support GCEI projects?
- How can technical assistance providers coordinate to develop a support system for fledgling GCEI projects?
Join Us in Supporting Grassroots Community Engaged Investment
We are tackling these questions going forward together with grassroots actors, funders, investors, technical assistance providers, and other stakeholders. Here are a few ways you can join us in this journey:
- Build a GCEI investment and/or funding strategy with us. We are partnering with investors and philanthropic actors like foundations who are seeking to deploy capital towards GCEI. Using our research, relationships, and advisory work experience, we’re planning to support the development of innovative investment strategies that increase the flow of capital to GCEI projects and build best practices for the sector.
- Join workshops, convenings, and other events. The Discussion Series is over, but we’re planning more convenings and workshops with key stakeholders who can help build out this field. We are currently developing a short program for funders and other philanthropic actors – if that is of interest, please reach out!
- Keep an eye out for more learning materials and educational content on GCEI. We have lots of ideas on how to tell the story of GCEI and give our audience ways to learn about the projects that are building these projects. We’re also planning on participating in partner events, like the Housing Solutions Summit and Climate Action Pursuit, to bring more institutions into the conversation. Sign up to be on our GCEI mailing list!
- Reach out to chat! Whether you’re a funder, investor, grassroots organization, or field builder, we’d love to hear about your work and provide whatever support we can. We’re always learning and hope to build connections so that all of us working on GCEI can make the field flourish and drive more capital towards power-shifting projects. Talk to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And most importantly, please stay engaged with the folks who are doing the real work of building projects, shifting norms and practices, and moving capital. You can see all of the GCEI projects we featured in our report here, and we hope to continue adding to this page over time.
We are so thankful again for all of the support for this initiative, and we hope to engage with you soon.
Curt Lyon and the Transform Finance team