Making the Case for Community Engagement, Grassroots Participation, Democratization, and Shared Governance in Capital Interventions
Access to housing, fair and secure jobs, clean environments, community-oriented businesses, and political empowerment, among other indicators of healthy and equitable communities, are distributed unevenly and contribute to the continued marginalization of low-income communities and communities of color.
Investment capital is a fundamental factor in these disparities in its presence, its absence, its terms, and its intention. Importantly, the process, voice, and agency around its control are an integral part of what leads to equitable outcomes for communities.
New approaches to capital deployment are emerging that prominently feature grassroots and community-engaged processes, from resident-established funds with complete democratic governance, to CDFIs adopting community-developed investment screens, to community foundations with an investment committee with majority seats for grassroots organizations.
While these efforts span a range of community engagement in their design, governance, and participation, they all offer building blocks for alternative to the historic top-down nature of capital interventions. Given their promise, we need to understand what makes grassroots and community-engaged processes work, what is missing, and how they can best be supported and strengthened to flourish.
This project aims to document the landscape of community-engaged capital interventions both in terms of types of capital being deployed and the structure and depth of community-led processes. It will also provide action-oriented guidance to three main stakeholder groups – grassroots community organizations, philanthropic actors, and financial intermediaries. Our goals are to:
Shed additional light on the intersection of capital flows with the conditions for equitable communities, in particular at the systemic level. This includes a review of initiatives, funding streams, types of capital deployed, investment practices, and governance mechanisms.
Make the case for the role of community-engaged processes around capital deployment to more deeply align capital with equitable outcomes. We aim to substantiate the hypothesis that such processes (both at the single-project level and systemically across projects) lead to positive outcomes by aligning the goals of both capital deployers and communities while creating agency, power, and knowledge for the community stakeholders.
Showcase the landscape of successful grassroots and community-engaged processes and document their characteristics via a taxonomy. Our review will include varying degrees of such processes, such as community investment roundtables (SPARCC), community capital funds (Boston Ujima Project), funding consortiums (Appalachia Community Capital), cooperative loan funds housed in existing nonprofits (Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy), partnerships between anchor institutions and philanthropic investors (The Cleveland Model), and more. The taxonomy will consider demographic and geographic focus, size of initiative, amount of capital leveraged, community engagement strategy, governance mechanisms, and coordination with other grassroots practitioner actions. It will provide the basis for an analysis of which elements are most needed or helpful in fostering equitable communities.
Explore the potential for capital products to complement more traditional philanthropic and debt financing. We will assess which capital products are synergistic with grassroots and community-engaged processes and are currently underutilized.
Provide actionable recommendations for grassroots community organizations, philanthropic actors, and financial intermediaries by analyzing obstacles and identifying what kind of additional support, including technical assistance, is needed for systemic change.
The principal output of the project will be a core report with an overview of our findings, complemented by a set of auxiliary action guides that provide recommendations for each stakeholder type.
Invitation to Participate
We invite grassroots community-based leaders, philanthropic actors, and financial experts who believe in deep and systemic community control over investments to join us in this project.
We are especially keen to hear about examples of ways in which community-based leaders or technical assistance providers have (or have wanted to) engaged with capital deployment initiatives and how philanthropic supporters and financial intermediaries have sought to deploy capital in conjunction with grassroots and community-engaged processes.
Capital and Equitable Communities Advisory Board
Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you’d like to participate or learn more.