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The Alternative Finance Ecosystem

This is a call to the entire mobility and transport sector to innovate faster towards sustainability
by enabling the power of alternative finance!

The alternative finance ecosystem can be used by any person or organisation to explore the funding landscape. The needs of those seeking financing are always the starting point. This ecosystem aims to better define what types of financing are suitable options.

To orientate yourself in this landscape there are two main starting points. First, familiarise yourself with the sources where funding may come from: institutions, crowds and communities. Then find out what financing models are out there to organise the investments: donating, reward seeking, investing and lending.

Financing sources: where can money come from?

When you travel up and down the funding sources, remember that you are on a scale. The three financing sources presented are archetypes that flow into each other. From socially connected communities at the center, to large scale anonymous investments made through institutional funds. Moving through the ecosystem from the center outwards, the level of involvement of the investors drops.


At the outer edge of the ecosystem we come across a familiar financing source: institutional funding. This includes venture capital and bank financing but also any other funds made available by companies, charities, governments and family offices.


Moving into the ecosystem we arrive at the crowd. In crowdfunding, small amounts of money are raised from large amounts of people for a specific project or company. Those who invest choose where they invest in by themselves and may feel more engaged with the impact or revenue generated by the investment. Normally a digital platform is utilised to realise the funding. Such platforms enable easy outreach and reduce transaction costs.


At the heart of the ecosystem we discover the physical or digital community. In community funding the investors know each other and share a common project, space, entity or goal. Depending on the size of the community and funding needed, a digital platform may be utilized to realise the funding. Depending on the characteristics of the community, there could be non-financial resources playing an important role. Most notably the time invested by community members. If this is the case it must be taken into consideration when the overall financing mix is considered.

Financing models: how can the investment(s) be organised?

Funding can come from a variety of sources, and be organised in a variety of ways. When funding happens, there is usually not only a mix of financing sources, as described above, but often also a mix of financing models. Since the financial crisis of 2008 the number of new digitally enabled financing schemes has grown rapidly. These have lowered the transaction costs and democratized access to investing. To fully understand the financing landscape it is important to get to know the four main financing models: donating, reward seeking, investing and lending.

When you travel full circle through the ecosystem you can notice how the models are shifting. Donating and reward seeking tend to be used for different types of investments then investing and lending. These are natural tendencies occuring within the financial ecosystem. As the ecosystem evolves, other combinations occur. Nothing is set in stone and any combination is worth exploring.


The act of giving money to support a cause. This could be a cause the contributor is directly related to (community funding), but also any other cause that is directly supported by a group of individuals (crowdfunding). Similarly, public funds and charities may donate in the form of grants (institutional funding).

CLICK HERE, to explore the ‘donating section’ of the ecosystem.

Die Plattform der Stuttgarter Klimaschutzinitiative wurde entwickelt, um Open Innovation für Bürgerinnen und Bürger mit Blick auf die Nachhaltigkeitsziele der Kommune im Jahr 2020 zu fördern und zu ermöglichen. Das Projekt wurde vom Stuttgarter und Innovationsprogramm im Rahmen der Finanzhilfevereinbarung Nr. 7865AD gefördert.


The act of investing money in exchange for equity, usually with the intention of achieving a profit. This could be an asset or venture the contributor is directly related to and willing to share ownership and decision making (community funding), but also any asset or venture that can be directly invested in by a group of individuals (equity crowdfunding). Public and private investment funds commonly invest money in exchange for equity (institutional funding). Apart from achieving a profit, making a positive social or environmental impact could be part of the investment goals.

CLICK HERE, to explore the ‘investing section’ of the ecosystem


The act of lending money, usually in exchange for interest. This could be an asset or venture the contributor is directly related to and willing to provide a low-interest loan (community funding). It can also be any venture or organisation looking for a loan from a group of individuals who want to receive a higher interest rate based on a more formalized risk-return evaluation (crowdfunding). Public and private investment funds commonly lend money in exchange for interest (institutional funding). Apart from achieving a profit, making a positive social or environmental impact could be part of the goals related to the loan.

CLICK HERE, to explore the ‘lending section’ of the ecosystem.

Co-financing: exploring the intersections

When funding happens, co-financing is key. Therefore the intersections between the sources of funding are worth exploring.

Crowdfunding X Institutional funding

Increasingly crowdfunding is combined with institutional funding. Often crowdfunding platforms allow institutional funding. New partnerships are occuring between the more traditional finance providers and the new digital based platforms. More recently public institutions are actively pursuing ways to connect the potential of those platforms to public funding schemes. Good examples of this are the 2021 reports on:

  • ‘Unlocking the crowdfunding potential for the European Structural and Investment Funds.’[1] It shows the potential to use Crowdfunding platforms by public authorities and provide (match) funding to projects through crowdfunding platforms.
  • ‘Scaling Up Partnerships: A Blueprint For the Implementation Of Match-Funding Schemes Between Public Authorities and Crowdfunding Platforms.’[2] It shows that match-funding practices in Europe have increased significantly and the potential of co-investing between governments and citizens can create measurable impacts.




Crowdfunding X Community Funding

The level of involvement is the dividing factor between crowdfunding and community funding. Communities create their story by creating something new and funding it with their own money and time. In crowdfunding people react to this story and may decide to invest in it, even if they are not directly involved in the community. Depending on the wider positive impact the crowd may accept a higher or lower return on their investment. Community based projects and businesses can benefit from adding crowdfunding into the mix. Doing so it is important to accept the different realities of those within, and those outside of the community. Both groups need to be satisfied with the outputs of their efforts.

Community Funding X Institutional Funding

Whenever a community creates something that fits with public priorities such as sustainability or affordable housing, there are opportunities for co-financing. Currently making this work is still a challenge and some form of subsidy is required to compensate for the effort of finding ways through the financing and regulatory landscape. Especially when communities require large amounts of funding it can be difficult to comply with assessments by financiers. Raising a portion of the total amount from the community itself is becoming a stronger factor that positively impacts the willingness of institutions to co-invest. In all cases a strong foundation based upon a proper legal entity and a long-term vision is vital. The defining factor is a sufficient degree of professionalism within the community that is looking for funding.

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