Over the past several decades, the fields of community development, community investment, and impact investment have evolved in response to demands from activists and the communities they serve. These capital providers are addressing financing gaps that cause disparities in wealth, jobs, education, and health – especially within Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and working-class communities.

Efforts of mission-driven financial actors have made gains in addressing affordable housing stock, business capital access, and crumbling infrastructure. But the disparities still remain. While under-investment and lack of capital for community needs to be addressed, simply injecting more capital into communities will not ameliorate the existing inequities seen across racial and geographical lines. In order to resolve generational wealth extraction from BIPOC and working-class communities, there needs to be more accountability investors and funders, and more agency for these communities.

This is not a new concept, but one that is still gaining traction among community development practitioners. Investments that have historically fallen within the purview of community development have been detached from considerations around power and agency, such as outcome goals, performance goals and process goals of the project. In leaving out the direct involvement and leadership of grassroots stakeholders, investments risk failing to meet community needs. Furthermore, investment decisions that are made without grassroots input, feedback loops, or co-governance mechanisms fail to address fundamental gaps of agency and power in communities.

We need to centre the voices of people harmed by systems in changing those systems. 

There is a huge opportunity for funders and investors to drive equity through their capital by seeding and supporting projects that have community members and grassroots organisations designing and governing the investment process. We call this Grassroots Community Engaged Investment (GCEI). GCEI builds power by using the process of investment as an arena for grassroots stakeholders to advance their long-term agendas by:

  • Bringing in existing social justice movements into conversations around capital where they were previously excluded
  • Forging productive connections between grassroots and institutional stakeholders
  • Building community knowledge around local finance and economic development ecosystems
  • Funding projects that are supported by and reciprocally support existing movements in the community

Read the full article about equity and accountability by Shante Little and Curt Lyon at Alliance Magazine.