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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The Boston Ujima Project is a cooperative business, arts and investment ecosystem built by and for Boston's working class Black, Indigenous and communities of color.
A project initiated in 2012 by Incourage, a community foundation, to gather community input to preserve the historical and community-relevant Tribune building in Wisconsin Rapids.
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation makes investments by and for the Oglala Lakota tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
A national network of locally-rooted, non-extractive loan funds that brings the power of big finance under community control.
A national CDFI that helps facilitate conversions of manufactured home communities to resident ownership.
A community capital fund developed by grassroots organizations in California’s East Bay to provide equitable access to capital.
A fund that addresses the lack of access to capital for Black and Native communities by capitalizing lenders. Their community advisory board guides investments.
A community-engaged shopping plaza redevelopment that pioneered several methods of community design, governance, and investment.
A new multi-stakeholder real estate model for increasing neighborhood control and ownership over the commercial corridor in Kensington, Philadelphia.
A regional blended capital platform accelerating and expanding investment across Central Appalachia, working side by side with community partners.
Elevated Chicago is a multi-sector collaborative that promotes more equitable development of public spaces, buildings and vacant land around Chicago’s public transit infrastructure.
Mercy Corps NW founded this project, which represents an opportunity for community members to build wealth by investing in a commercial plaza.
EB PREC helps BIPOC and allied communities to cooperatively organize, finance, purchase, and steward mixed-use and residential property in the East Bay.
A historic effort to buy the Crenshaw Mall to redevelop it for the community, and by the community.
A lending program in New Mexico that uses relationships with community-facing organizations, like Native Women Lead, to source and vet borrowers from undercapitalized communities.