A Toolkit for Participatory Investing

A new tool from Common Future offers a playbook for how foundations can shift power in investing

September 2023
  |  
Meg Massey
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Common Future, a nonprofit working to close the wealth gap, recently launched a Participatory Investing Toolkit to help foundation and other institution leaders take tangible action to shift power over investment decisions and incorporate community voice.

"Philanthropic funders are well-positioned to reimagine their practices, policies, and praxis to center community, voice, visibility, and virtuous autonomy," says Kathryn Witt, Director of Funder Learning at Common Future. "Funders hold the vast majority of the decision-making power when it comes to closing the gap on compounding systemic inequities. That’s no small task, and it can’t be done well without the expertise of those most affected by systemic challenges. That’s why so many folks at decision-making tables are beginning to rethink who is at the table, and how those decisions are made."

The toolkit aims to offer a playbook for operationalizing power-shifting within philanthropic investment. It has several "chapters" that guide the reader through their journey. The first chapter asks the reader to define the population that they serve: "Before diving into Participatory Investing work, it's critical to have a clear definition of who you are talking about when you talk about your community."

The toolkit proceeds to offer a "readiness quiz" that helps leaders assess how ready their institution is to begin the intensive process of reforming their investing process. The toolkit ultimately provides a number of tailored, tactical steps that the reader and their organization can take.

The toolkit is a product of Common Future's "action lab" for participatory investing, which they launched last March in partnership with the World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund. It's a collaborative that involves 16 leaders from eight different institutions.

"We learned about, experimented with, and applied participatory strategies and principles through institutional projects and a collaborative fund," says Witt. "This toolkit is the culmination of that work."

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