Background

The conditions that contribute to equitable communities – opportunities to thrive, create wealth, and live healthy and fulfilling lives – are distributed unevenly. The systemic lack of conditions such as access to housing, fair and secure jobs, clean environments, community-oriented businesses, and political empowerment contribute to the continued marginalization of already disadvantaged communities, in particular communities of color.

The flow of capital and in and out of communities is one of the key systemic forces that can aggravate the disparity in access to these conditions. If wielded properly, however, it can counter these dynamics.

Across the country we see meaningful strides in organizing around the nefarious consequences of capital, centered on efforts to influence capital and to start controlling it through local capital aggregation and allocation tools, with inspiring examples around ecosystems of cooperative development, community-governed capital funds, and models of shared ownership over land. The evidence seems to indicate that the governance and the process over the capital decisions, and not just the capital flow itself, affects ultimate outcomes. That is to say, what makes an equitable community is not just the capital, but also the process, voice, and agency around its control.

To support these nascent efforts, we need to understand what works, and what is missing, from grassroots efforts to participate in capital interventions.

The Project

This project aims to document the landscape and provide guidance to three main stakeholder groups – grassroots community organizations developing strategies around capital and equity (e.g. Boston Ujima Project, Cooperation Jackson, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative), philanthropic actors, and financial intermediaries – on how to support and strengthen these efforts.

Project Goals

  1. Detail the intersection of capital with the creation of the conditions for equitable communities;

  2. Make the case for the role of grassroots and community-led efforts to strengthen capital’s positive effects;

  3. Showcase the landscape of successful grassroots projects and document their characteristics;

  4. Support all stakeholder groups in strengthening and expanding the field of grassroots projects

We aim to generate materials that help each player in the broader ecosystem accelerate the requisite knowledge and support for the work of grassroots economic organizing. Ultimately, the project’s outputs will support the broader ecosystem of democratized power and wealth such that communities of color and other marginalized communities have a say in the financial activities that affect them.

Current Stage of the Project

We are conducting a taxonomy of grassroots-led initiatives and want to gather the experiences of practitioners engaging in such projects. If you are involved with or know of models that place communities at the center of asset ownership (e.g. cooperatives, community land trusts), capital vehicles (e.g. community loan funds, committee that works with local banks), or other forms of economic development (e.g. technical assistance providers, community-oriented accelerators), we want to hear from you!

This collaborative project is an opportunity to share experiences, co-develop strategies that can onboard aligned philanthropic and investment capital, and help develop the national ecosystem of grassroots-led projects. We are ultimately seeking to lift up the work of those leveraging community assets for a more racially and economically just world, and make sure that it is properly scaled and replicated.


Do you work to democratize capital, decision-making around finance, and ownership of land, business, and other assets in your community? Are you a provider of capital looking to support grassroots projects that lead to equitable outcomes? Reach out at info@transformfinance.org to learn more about this project and get involved.