Investments in communities, or place-based investments, often target specific problems but do not build long term power for communities. We support investment efforts that share decision making with communities and capitalize projects that communities want.
Investment into communities is one of the most dominant forces in shaping lives, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and working class communities. When we think about issues relevant to place-based investment, we often think about how real estate investment leads to rising rents and displacement, how finance favors large corporations over Main Streets, and the lack of investment for positive projects like affordable housing and small businesses. But even mission-aligned capital can often contribute to those issues.
A major issue with place-based investments is that they are largely out of the control of those whom it affects. Investment efforts should not happen “to” communities, but “with” them; they should respond to, address, and be accountable to the visions, needs, and aspirations of the community itself.
There are many initiatives around the U.S. that are charting a new way for how to place communities at the center of investments. We call this practice Participatory Investment (previously referred to as Grassroots Community Engaged Investment, or GCEI), or the process of investing with meaningful input, decision-making power, and/or ownership from grassroots stakeholders. Participatory Investment projects are building power for their communities, demonstrating an alternative to business as usual that bakes in ownership and democracy into place-based investment.
Participatory Investment is the north star for our support for capital providers who are investing in place – we hope to make all capital accountable to and governed by the communities it serves. However, given the many needs to make PI happen, including pipeline availability, investor readiness, and the right combinations of grant, investment, and organizing support, not all capital that flows into communities can be made through a PI lens. As we work to overcome those constraints, we coordinate place-based investments that are not community-governed but still bake in equity and power building lenses.
We are spreading the narrative around the need for rethinking power dynamics in investment. So far, we’ve released a report on Participatory Investment, launched a multi stakeholder Discussion Series, and created a Learning Hub that describes what PI is and what each stakeholder can do to support the ecosystem. We're continuing our research and talking to projects and their supporters to learn more about emerging projects, so we can continue creating materials and educational experiences.
We are preparing a discussion series that features Participatory Investment projects – both those featured in our report and not – and presents opportunities to our broad audience to support them. In doing so, we will learn from key projects and support projects through connections to capital and service providers.
The series will also be used to gather interest from our audience in a more permanent community of practice around Participatory Investment – if that idea sounds good to you, please reach out!
For organizations (like foundations, lenders, or government agencies) who want to dig deeper into supporting Participatory Investment approaches, we have developed a modular curriculum to introduce Participatory Investing and develop recommendations for action. Recent examples of such educational engagements include a three-part training for funders that we delivered with the Center for Cultural Innovation, and a three-part workshop for the Beneficial State Foundation on how the banking sector can adopt Participatory Investment as a strategy for wealth and power building in the communities they serve.
We're actively seeking partners who are interested in bringing a Participatory Investment workshop to their organization or team.
We support collaboratives that are moving capital in alignment with Participatory Investment. We're able to leverage our knowledge on Participatory Investment to support grassroots leaders develop investment strategies, connect and convene relevant actors, and ensure that institutional support is done in appropriate and thoughtful ways. Currently, we are working with Colorado’s Office of the Just Transition, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Harvard Initiative for Responsible Investment, and other partners to develop community-led investments in post-coal communities in Colorado, and are exploring more opportunities.
Learn all about Participatory Investment and specific GCEI projects that are developing innovative ways to involve community members in investment decision making.The Participatory Investment Learning Hub