Grassroots Finance

We want to live in a world where any project or enterprise can obtain financing from members of the local community, and where the majority of businesses in a community are locally owned and locally financed. 

The Sustainable Economies Law Center's Grassroots Finance Program develops legal resources and policies that allow local community financing and ownership of enterprises and assets, with a focus on securities laws and local investing. This program is growing to include research and analysis on regulation and industry practices in the realm of retirement savings accounts.


Why Grassroots Finance?

Traditional economic development models focus on attracting business and real estate investments from outside of a community. The unfortunate result is that the community becomes dependent on enterprises with distant and disconnected boards and shareholders, and wealth leaves the community, rather than remaining available for the community’s benefit. In a more sustainable economy, ordinary individuals would be able to raise capital from local community members’ equity investments or loans, crowdfunding, community-supported business models, and other creative means to start and grow community serving and community-supported enterprises. Community members would have a vast array of choices for investing their money locally, rather than choosing to invest primarily in stocks traded on Wall Street. Most enterprises would be controlled by their customers, workers, and other connected stakeholders. Through education and advocacy, the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) is working to develop pathways that overcome securities law barriers to local investing and related legal barriers.


Advocacy for a local investing law in California: Click here to learn more about the California Local Economies Securities Act (currently stalled but likely to come back in a future legislative session).

Redirecting Retirement Savings: We are beginning to research how ordinary individuals can use their retirement savings accounts, such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and etc., to invest directly in their local economy. Lots of legal and financial barriers currently exist but we hope to work with clients to pilot potential solutions in the near future. Check back at this webpage or sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in our Grassroots Finance Program for updates.

Advocacy for a Federal Crowdfunding Law: SELC was an early advocate for local investing laws, sometimes known as crowdfunding laws. Read about our involvement in the JOBS Act here.


Securities Law Basics: Click here to watch a video presentation about securities law basics, featuring squirrel cartoons!

Legal Resource Library: Check out our Legal Resource Library at for information on financing, local investing, business entities, employment, and land and housing. Also check out the Community Enterprise Blog!

California has a new securities law exemption for worker cooperatives! Click here to learn more about how worker cooperatives can raise capital using the new securities law exemption for community investors.

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