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Social Movement Investing

One of CED’s core beliefs is that those “closest to the pain must be the closest to the solutions.” Applied to the world of impact investing, we believe that deep, sustainable change can only occur when oppressed communities themselves can design, own and govern the systemic solutions to their problems.

In partnership with aligned investors, wealth managers, community organizers and others, CED advocates an evolution from impact investing to social movement investing to accelerate the democratization of wealth from the gated hands of the 1% to the workers and communities who created it.

What is Social Movement Investing?


One of CED’s core beliefs is that those “closest to the pain must be the closest to the solutions.” Deep, sustainable change can only occur when oppressed communities themselves can design, own and govern the systemic solutions to their problems. To realize this vision, communities must be involved in stewarding the capital necessary to build those solutions.

While the impact investment field has grown considerably in the past decade, most capital stewards seeking social impact remain siloed from the community leaders and social movements that are directly driving structural and transformative change. Social Movement Investing is about the promise and the practice of investing capital in coordinated alignment with social movements to amplify, augment and strengthen community power building.  

Drawing on frameworks from both social justice organizing and impact investing fields, Social Movement Investing (SMI) explores and proposes movement-aligned capital strategies that help build the power necessary to address our many challenges -- from economic and racial injustice to climate and migration crises. In addition to offering guidance for transition from impact investing to Social Movement Investing, the paper also includes innovative capital stewardship tools that investors of all types can utilize in the service of a just, equitable and sustainable future.

Read the rest of our executive summary here.

Social Movement Investing, formerly Movement Portfolio Theory, is an investment framework and portfolio management strategy that centers coordination with social movement leaders and alignment with social movement goals. We have explored SMI in the report linked below and plan to publish articles, frameworks, tools and curriculum throughout 2022 that further explore and develop SMI tools and approaches. We also plan to host webinars and workshops to learn together with social movement partners, philanthropic staff members, financial advisors, and wealth holders. If you’re interested in contacting us about Social Movement Investing or receiving updates about SMI, please fill out the form below.

The Report

Social Movement Investing: A Guide to Capital Strategies for Community Power report explores Social Movement Investing in five parts, each section building on the concepts introduced in the previous sections. 

1. Movement Alignment (SMI Differentiation) 

Distinct from conventional impact investing, Social Movement Investing (SMI) strategies are co-created and coordinated with grassroots movements. In Movement Alignment, we explore the process of building relationships between investors and social movements; ways that investors can leverage power as they deepen social movement relationships; structures for investor-movement  coordination; and we introduce a typology for assessing how investments are (or aren’t) aligned  with social movement strategies. 

2. Community Power (SMI Arenas for Activity)

Social Movement Investors leverage capital to grow Community Power through investment strategies that advance Community Governance, Community Ownership, and Community Action. In this section, we explore the role of capital strategies in building community power and offer more than a dozen examples of SMI investments that are building Community Power in partnership with social movements.

3. Movement Finance Matrix (SMI Vehicles)

After screening for movement-aligned investment strategies that build Community Power, Social Movement Investors map these strategies across asset classes to identify gaps and opportunities. In this section, we draw together the concepts of Movement Alignment and Community Power to propose a framework for visualizing and distinguishing Social Movement investments from other kinds of impact investments. 

4. From Impact Investing to Social Movement Investing (SMI Staging and Sequence)

Over time, Social Movement Investors exit extractive secondary markets to invest directly in regenerative, community controlled economies. In this section, we identify and address a range of obstacles to this transition both within financial institutions and across the field of impact investing more broadly. 

5. Movement Portfolio Theory (SMI Economic Logic)

In the final section, we introduce a numerical rubric and set of mathematical tools to aid investors in applying the concepts explored in the previous chapters in order to construct and assess an SMI portfolio. By assigning an Expected Power Rating to possible investment products, investors can construct multi-asset SMI portfolios and optimize for differing levels of risk, return and Community Power.

Read the full paper here:

Social Movement Investing report by the Center for Economic Democracy

From the Social Movement Investing Toolkit: Movement Alignment Map

To illustrate how these SMI lenses might be applied in portfolio construction, our Movement Alignment Map plots a variety of capital strategies against two axis: Movement Coordination, in which investment strategies can range from Accountable to Symbolic to Non-existent; and Just Transition Investor Posture, in which we draw from the Just Transition framework to differentiate among the many ways investors can leverage asset management to advance social justice aims, from divestment to shareholder activism to direct investing. See our report to learn more about this tool.

Movement Alignment Map_edited.png

Our Long Term Vision

There’s much work to be done to shift the field of capital stewardship. From where we are today, we might imagine a time when more impact investors, foundations and institutional investors begin to see the potential of investing to build Community Power. With support from aligned social movement investors, we can imagine the field of Solidarity Economy enterprises and funds growing to include a greater diversity of investment vehicles, including infrastructural projects and mature enterprises able to receive larger investments. 


If Social Movement Investing and the broader field of Movement Finance were to mature, the implications for the progressive movements could be profound. For grassroots organizers, standing alliances with movement investors would encourage the integration of capital strategies as a new but essential dimension of campaign planning. Asset owners and managers would become visible on a “power map,” not only for the resources they could deploy but for the positional power they also could wield. For social justice enterprises and Solidarity Economy practitioners, the expansion of investors willing to make non-extractive loans could be the difference between succeeding as a “high road business” or failing in a “race to the bottom” economy. 


Several years down the road, we can imagine a time when the majority of foundations, and a broad swath of the growing impact investing field are invested in the Solidarity Economy and leveraging their remaining investments to buttress and strengthen campaigns led by grassroots and frontline partners. And perhaps, at the farther reaches of our imaginations, we can see a horizon where we have successfully built the Just Transition we need, and where the capitalist economy is eclipsed by a thriving regenerative economy grounded in ecological and social well-being, owned and stewarded by communities.

For those who are compelled by this vision, and ready to explore a Social Movement Investing approach with their own portfolios, we look forward to collaborating with you and bringing this vision into reality. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the form below.

Our Partners

Advisors: The Social Movement Investing “Brain Trust” 

Amrita Wassan, Center for Economic Democracy

Andrea Armeni and Curt Lyon, Transform Finance

Bill Dempsey, Independent Consultant

Eli Kasargod-Staub, Majority Action

Jed Emerson, Blended Value Group

Jennifer Near,  Independent Consultant

Johnny Charles, Boston Ujima Project

Kate Poole and Tiffany Brown, Chordata Capital 

Nwamaka Agbo, Kataly Foundation 

Yuki Kidokoro, Climate Justice Alliance



Brent Kessel - Abacus Wealth Partners

Catherine Dun Rappaport - BlueHub Capital

Dana Kawaoka-Chen - Justice Funders

Deborah Frieze - Boston Impact Initiative

Denise Hearn - Co-Author, The Myth of Capitalism

Karim Harij - Evalysis

Mike McCreless - Impact Frontiers

Morgan Simon - Candide Group

Contact Us


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