This is refactored from an email discussion taking place herehttp://groups.google.com/group/entreco/browse_thread/thread/1cf1a0290805...
We are considering creating a system that encourages people with surplus income to spread risk via local investment There is definitely some leeway in http://sec.gov/investor/pubs/invclub.htm
for investing clubs there could also be a legal framework for information and rating, that has nothing to do with the actual exchange, which could be facilitated by the businesses themselves, until formal frameworks are produced. I don't think there is any requirements for registration or regulation on people discussing businesses, mentoring, performing due dilligence, and rating businesses on multiple factors, with the hope that this will lead towards individuals deciding to invest in an enterprise.
I have argued in many places in the past that we should not just explore peer to peer loans, but also *investment*. This is something that we are going to explore in depth with http://localfoodsystems.org in the coming months.
The flip side of the coin is that, instead of investment, or loans, when an enterprise is working within existing commons, like open license content, open source software, and open license hardware/product design, that people might pool resources around ventures as *donations* instead of loans or investments. See http://openfarmtech.org/weblog for an example. I think this can work best when an enterprise is based on a commons. The enterprise does snot have to be organized as not for profit formally. Mine is not, and I work extensively with the development of open source software and open license content, and am entering the realm of open source hardware/product design. If you can find stakeholders who recognize that you are working towards contributing to a common pool resource, they could be willing to pool money, time or other resources with you towards creating commons-based building blocks that can be re-used for both for-profit and not-for-profit ventures in the future. Some enterprises (like mine) may be compelled to continually contribute to a resource pool in order to help sustain or accelerate the development of open licensed "stuff"
Consider building commons-based building blocks for independents and social enterprises, or contributing towards their development. These building blocks can exist as knolwedge, software, designs, or actual physical artifacts. This type of activity takes place on a widespread basis in the realm of software development, but the same basic principles and practices can be extended towards any group activity.