Participatory Investment Learning Hub

What is Participatory Investment?

Participatory Investment (PI), which we have also referred to as Grassroots Community Engaged Investment (GCEI), is the process of investing with meaningful input, decision-making power, and/or ownership from grassroots stakeholders. What sets these investment projects apart from traditional community development and mission-aligned endeavors is that investments happen “with” communities, not “to” them.

These grassroots-led projects build power for their communities in several ways that differ them from typical community investments. They spur new conversations that grassroots leaders are otherwise excluded from, forge productive connections between grassroots and institutional stakeholders, build community knowledge around local finance and economic development ecosystems, and fund projects that are more aligned with existing movements in the community.

In all, they fortify solidarity movements and put power back in the hands of BIPOC and working class communities. Participatory Investment can be found in many, if not all, types of projects in community development and community investment contexts. 

about the learning hub

This Learning Hub is a one-stop resource for learning about Participatory Investment. You’ll find our flagship report titled Grassroots Community Engaged Investment, deep dive videos from our 2021 Discussion Series, case studies and an incomplete list of Participatory Investment projects towards the bottom, and several other resources.

Participatory Investment Across Sectors

Participatory Investment is not one thing, it's a lens that can be applied across many types of investment. Below are some of the ways we see Participatory Investment happening in the U.S. To see more examples of projects, scroll to the bottom of the page.


There are several funds projects that seek to pool money from various capital sources and have grassroots stakeholders – like residents or key community organizations – steward those resources towards approved businesses. The goal of such projects is to fill capital gaps for enterprises that the community decides are important, and to build the capacity of residents and key community organizations to decide their economic destiny.

The Boston Ujima Project is a core example of such a capital fund, which practices direct democracy by its member-investors at a one investment, one vote ratio.


Many communities seek to gain control over land and stave off predatory housing market investors through PI. This can be done through pools of capital dedicated to purchasing land and taking it off the market, like the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative.

Like enterprise financing funds, these projects establish community governance in how the capital is deployed, including residents, tenants, grassroots organizations, and other nontraditional stakeholders.

Commercial Real Estate

Several different types of PI projects turn real estate development into opportunities for long term wealth preservation and community autonomy. Trust-based models, like the Kensington Corridor Trust, preserve land for the long term by taking buildings or entire blocks off the speculative market, placing the rights to its use in the hands of community leaders, and serving as a capital vehicle that can reinvest rental revenue into adding new properties to the trust.

Single-project development models, like Market Creek Plaza, establish community working groups to determine the use and goal of the development (and often provide ownership stakes through community investment shares).

Other Community Development Projects

Traditional community development vehicles like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Community Development Corporations (CDCs) can utilize governance models that constitute GCEI.

For example, Thunder Valley CDC represents a Native-led development organization serving the Oglala Lakota Tribe’s Pine Ridge Reservation, capitalizing housing and commercial developments as well as a wide range of community projects. The governance structure is based on its community-led board and its founding by activists in the community.

Within each of those types of investments, there is a range of depth and complexity of the actual community engagement; in other words, not all community engagement is the same or will have the same outcomes in terms of shifting power. Surveys and investor-led input sessions may be used to gather some community say in how a project deploys capital, but longstanding working groups, community boards, and community assemblies can provide more ownership over important decisions in a project. 

While it builds on a deep history of democratizing finance, Participatory Investment is still an emerging form of investment. Many projects are new within the past 5 years and are demonstrating new models as they work. At this stage, it’s critical for each stakeholder type to understand what role they have to help existing projects, replicate them, and build off of their learnings.

Key Participatory Investment Resources

Featured Participatory Investment Projects

In our report on Participatory Investment, we feature several projects that are demonstrating PI in practice. This list doesn't capture every instance of PI we've seen, but covers an amazing range of investment! Check out the websites of the following projects, and case studies for several from our report.