Skip to main content

Participatory Investing Toolkit

A Playbook for Power-Shifting in Philanthropic Investment

Authors: Katheryn Witt, Joi Edwards, Manager of Storytelling and Insights, Smitha Das

Rethinking Who’s at the Table

Philanthropy has the power and the resources to help build an economy where all people—no matter their race or class—can thrive. Power, ownership, and choice over where and how capital is used—to build a representative economy—should be shared. If we want investments to have the most impact, we need to deconstruct unjust systems, and trust communities to know what they need.  

Philanthropic funders are well-positioned to reimagine their practices, policies, and praxis to center community, voice, visibility, and virtuous autonomy. Funders hold trillions of dollars in their endowment, invest billions to drive impact every year, and they 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. 

Why a Toolkit?

With this in mind, we launched the Action Lab—a partnership between Common Future and the World Education Services: Mariam Assefa Fund—with the goal of incubating, defining, and catalyzing the nascent field of Participatory Investing within the context of philanthropic institutions. The Action Lab offered a unique, safe space to learn, experiment, and co-create new models and strategies for participatory investing within individual institutions and through a collaborative fund.

In community with the funders in the Action Lab cohort and a wide range of advisors, we’ve co-developed a Participatory Investing Toolkit designed to support philanthropic leaders who recognize the importance of shifting power and harnessing equitable practices, but are missing the mechanisms and tools to support their journey. Its content has been informed by the institutional work of Action Lab participants, the knowledge and experience of advisors, and collective doing through the allocation of a collaborative fund through participatory processes. 

Just the Beginning

This Toolkit is intended to be a starting point for the field; it is incomplete and we are excited to iterate on it with your feedback and experiences. We encourage you to dig in, learn about participatory strategies and practices, talk to your peers, and explore what shifts might be possible within your institution. 

We’re excited to be on this journey with you all to redesign the systems in which power and capital are held. 


Other Topics That May Interest You