Month: June 2016

IMG_0132Todo es sobre ser auténticos. Al crecer y evolucionar, aprendemos que interactuar con personas auténticas será fundamental para obtener una retroalimentación que mejore e informe los programas y productos. Con esto en mente, decidimos a principios de este año crear el primer Consejo Consultivo de Miembros (MAC por sus siglas en inglés).

¿Cuál es nuestra meta? Fomentar el diálogo entre los clientes que usan nuestros programas para así conocer más de cerca sus experiencias. El MAC brindará sugerencias y consejos sobre nuevos programas así como la experiencia del cliente, ayudando a dar forma a nuestras metas estratégicas.

El mes pasado se reunió por primera vez el Consejo Consultivo de Miembros, compuesto por 8 de nuestros clientes (miembros), representando la diversidad de nuestra comunidad. Nos reuniones con Santos, uno de los miembros, para saber qué significa para el MAC para él.IMG_0423

Cuéntanos un poco sobre ti:

Yo crecí en el centro del Distrito 9, comúnmente conocido como “La Mission”, en las calles 26 y Valencia, donde la intersección me vio crecer y convertirme en la persona que soy. Al crecer en La Mission, pude obtener una perspectiva que no se obtiene o experimenta en otros Distritos en San Francisco. La Mission está repleta de culturas de todas partes del mundo. Tenemos personas que son muy extrovertidas, que no tienen miedo de hablar en contra de la injusticia.

¿En qué trabajas?

Al crecer con los ideales de La Mission, yo quería hacer algo por mi comunidad, algo que pudiera enseñar o, como decimos aquí, “Speak some game” (Llevar con la realidad), a las generaciones más jóvenes. Así que comencé a trabajar en la Bay Area Urban Debate League. Como coordinador regional para San Francisco, estoy a cargo de todos los programas de la Liga aquí en San Francisco. Yo trabajo principalmente con escuelas como Mission High School, Wallenberg High School, Downtown High School, June Jordan School for Equity y la Ida B. Wells High School.

¿Por qué te uniste al programa de Lending Circles?

Yo me uní a Lending Circle porque mi madre pensó que sería una buena manera de comenzar a generar un historial crediticio. Al principio estaba un tanto escéptico, pues sabía lo que era una Tanda y cómo en ocasiones eran un tanto sospechosas y no siempre funcionaban como debían. Ahora yo ya he participado en 3 o 4 Lending Circles.

Una de las cosas que más disfruto sobre Lending Circles es la clase de finanzas que hay que tomar. Es obligatorio tomar la clase para poder unirse a un Lending Circle. El constante refuerzo de educación financiera es fundamental. Yo he aprendido mucho gracias a ese constante recordatorio. Yo siempre estoy tratando de lograr que más personas se unan al programa. Usualmente les muestro el sitio web y les cuento un poco sobre mi historia.

¿Cuál fue tu reaccIMG_0418ión al conocer sobre MAC?

Cuando recibí la llamada, yo no sabía cómo reaccionar. Yo estaba en el techo de mi edificio cuando recibí la llamada. La llamada llegó como una brisa de aire – fue como deja vu. Cuando hablé con Karla sobre convertirme en parte del primer grupo de miembros MAC, no lo dude y de inmediato dije que sí.

 

¿Qué parte de MAC te emociona más?

Una de las cosas que me parecen muy interesantes es que puedo representar a la comunidad. Hablas por las personas que no pueden ser escuchadas. Ese es un poder que no todos pueden sentir. Las decisiones de los miembros MAC afectarán a la comunidad y eso es lo que en verdad llamó mi atención.

El que pueda experimentar y tomar decisiones para la comunidad es algo maravilloso. Con la ayuda de los otros 7 miembros podemos lograr que nuestra comunidad sea mejor. La primera generación de miembros MAC establecerá los estándares para las siguientes generaciones, por lo que construiremos un grupo cuya prioridad sea la comunidad.

 

La siguiente reunión del MAC está programada para el 3 de agosto, fecha en que el grupo espera poder hablar sobre sus metas para el próximo año.

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IMG_0132It’s about keeping it real. As we grow and evolve, we know that engaging real people will be key to gathering feedback that improves and informs programs and products. With this in mind, we set out to form our very first Member Advisory Council (MAC) earlier this year.

The goal? To encourage dialogue among clients who use our programs and take a closer look at their experiences. The Member Advisory Council will provide advice on new programs, the client experience, and will help shape our strategic goals.

Last month the Member Advisory Council, made up of 8 of our clients (a.k.a. members) representing the diversity of our community met for the first time. We sat down to get to know one of those members, Santos, and to hear what MAC means to him.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:IMG_0423

I grew up in the heart of District 9, most commonly known as “La Mission”, at 26th and Valencia Streets, where the intersections saw me grow and become who I am now. Growing up in La Mission, it gave me perspectives that you don’t get to see or experience in other Districts in San Francisco. La Mission is full of cultures from every corner of the world. We have locals that are very outspoken, that are not afraid to speak against injustice.

What do you do for a living?

Growing up with some of the La Mission ideals, I wanted to do something for my community, something that could teach – or how we say it here in the Bay, “Speak some game” – to the younger generations. So I started working for the Bay Area Urban Debate League. As the regional coordinator for San Francisco, I am in charge of all the programs that the League has here in San Francisco. I work primarily with the High Schools such as Mission High School, Wallenberg High School, Downtown High School, June Jordan School for Equity, and Ida B. Wells High School.

Why did you join the Lending Circles program?

I joined a Lending Circle because my mother thought it would be a good way to start generating some credit. At first I was skeptical. I knew what a Tanda was but those were sometimes sketchy and didn’t always work out. Fast forward to 2016 and I have done 3 or 4 Lending Circles.

One of the things that I enjoy the most about the Lending Circles is the finance class you have to take. It is a requirement to take the class every time you join a Lending Circle. The constant reinforcement of financial education is key. I’ve learned so much from that constant reminder. I’m constantly trying to get people to join the program. I usually just show them the website and tell them a bit of my story.

IMG_0418What was your reaction when you learned about MAC?

When I got the call, I didn’t know how to react. I happened to be on the roof of my building when I got the call. The call came in as a breeze of air, it was like deja vu. When I spoke to Karla about becoming part of the first group of MAC members, it was a no brainer and I immediately said yes.

What part of MAC is most exciting to you?

One of the things that Is really interesting to me is that you get to represent a community. You get to speak for the people that cannot be heard. That’s a power that not everyone gets to feel. The decisions that MAC members will make, will affect the community and that’s what’s really got my attention.

The fact that I get to experience and be a direct decision maker for the community is beyond my dreams. With the help of the seven other members we can make our community better. The first generation of MAC members will set the standards for the next generation and so on we will build a group that prioritizes the community.

 

MAC’s next meeting is scheduled for August 3rd where the group looks forward to discussing their goals for the coming year.

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1200x300 Blog BannerFrom our early years serving families in the Mission District, we believed that Lending Circles could benefit communities far beyond our San Francisco neighborhood. Knowing that organizations with deep ties to their communities are best equipped to serve local clients, we set out to partner with fellow nonprofits, first in the Bay Area, then across California and — eventually — the country. Looking back today, it’s hard to believe just how quickly this vision was realized: the Lending Circles Network now has 50 partners and counting.

We know that with growth comes big opportunities. As a means to strengthen and deepen the experience of being a Lending Circles provider, we are proud to announce that we have formed a Partner Advisory Council.

The members of this Partner Advisory Council (or, as we like to call it, PAC) will offer their insight, smarts, and on-the-ground experience of being a Lending Circles provider. They will provide advice and strategic thinking, all in an effort to elevate and strengthen the Lending Circles Network. They will also play an instrumental role in planning and hosting the Lending Circles Summit, a national convening of Lending Circles providers and other experts
in related fields.

So, who did we select? Eight outstanding staff members at partner organizations that provide Lending Circles. These eight PAC members represent the diversity of the Lending Circles Network — in regard to geographic location in the U.S., communities served, organizational size, and experience.

  • Jorge Blandón, Vice President, FII-National at Family Independence Initiative in Oakland, CA
  • Leisa Boswell, Financial Services Specialist at SF LGBT Community Center in San Francisco, CA
  • Madeline Cruz, Senior Financial Coach at The Resurrection Project in Chicago, IL
  • Rob LaJoie, Director, Financial Empowerment Program at Peninsula Family Services in San Mateo, CA
  • Gricelda Montes, Asset Building Programs Coordinator at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle, WA
  • Judy Elling Pryzbilla, Community Coordinator at Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership in Slayton, MN
  • Paola Torres, Small Business Program Coordinator at Northern Virginia Family Services in Falls Church, VA

    leisa headshot
    PAC Co-Chair, Leisa Bowell
  • Alejandro Valenzuela Jr, Financial Empowerment Services Manager at CLUES – Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio in Minneapolis, MN

Here’s what co-chair, Leisa Bowell, has to say about joining PAC:

“In my work at the SF LGBT Center one of our focuses is on creating a more equitable world which is why the Lending Circle program is so important to us. I am invested in seeing that program grow, not only at the Center but also throughout the various LGBTQ communities across the nation. I think joining the Partner Advisory Council will allow me to help that growth come to fruition.”

The first PAC meeting took place on April 29th and allowed PAC members to get to know each other, and get to know the group they just joined. We learned fun facts about PAC members and discovered we have quite the talented group! Madeline knows some Arabic, Jorge was part of a poetry duo that performed in New York subways, and Paola loves dancing and has been part of a musical group. The group offered up some insightful feedback on MAF’s upcoming Lending Circles Summit, and engaged with our tech team to learn more about the new tech developments on the horizon.

We’re tremendously grateful that these PAC members have stepped up to make the Lending Circles Network even better. Their insight into the on-the-ground experience of being a Lending Circles provider is invaluable to us, and will help guide MAF’s direction for years to come.

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MAF Behind the Scenes Innovations

 

The following excerpt was originally published in “Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization,” a journal published by MIT Press. Read the full essay here.

I was 20 years old when I realized that my mother had died because we were poor.

She passed away when I was nine, too young to understand the complex and dangerous nature of life in poverty. At that time, I had to muster everything inside of me just to survive the avalanche of sorrow and change in our family life.

It was only as an adult that I came to terms with my painful childhood. I see it now as the source of the deep empathy I have for people who suffer and struggle in the world.

Innovations Technology Governance Globalization MAFThat is why I’ve dedicated my life to working against poverty.

And it is how I became the founding CEO of Mission Asset Fund (MAF), a nonprofit organization that strives to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families. When I joined MAF in 2007, the organization was a nonprofit start-up with plans to help low-income immigrants in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Eight years later, MAF is nationally recognized for developing Lending Circles, a social loan program based on people coming together to lend and borrow money. With cutting-edge technology, we transformed this invisible practice into a force for good.

Program participants are freeing themselves from the grasp of predatory lenders by opening bank accounts, building credit histories, paying down high-cost debt, and increasing their savings. They are investing in businesses, buying homes, and saving for a better future.

Lending Circles brings to light what’s already good in people’s lives.

And within that light, participants are forging a sure path into the financial mainstream, unlocking their true economic potential every step of the way. The program’s success is serving as a model in the fight against poverty, demonstrating new and effective ways of helping low-income people without belittling them in the process.

This is the behind-the-scenes story of how we made this happen.

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New Board Members MAF

 

Earlier this year, MAF had the pleasure of welcoming three new members to our Board of Directors. Read on to find out who they are, where they’re from, and what inspired them to join the board — from the cutting-edge technology driving Lending Circles to our innovative model for building financial capability.

Meet DaveDave Krimm MAF Board

Dave Krimm is a seasoned financial services professional, with a passion for the “positive impact of microlending: the difference that a small loan can make in an individual’s or a family’s success.” His experience working as a financial product development consultant and leading fundraising and marketing at the San Francisco Foundation make the MAF Board a perfect match for Dave.

Dave is no stranger to nonprofit boards.

Most recently he served as Chair of the Opportunity Fund Board in San Jose, California, where he helped oversee an exciting period of growth for the organization. Now, he’s eager to bring his talents to a nonprofit rooted in his home of San Francisco. When asked what he’s most excited about in his new role, Dave shared that, “I’m looking forward to strengthening MAF’s ‘support team’ on the Board, to match the broadening impact of MAF’s programs locally and the expansion of our nationwide network.”

Meet Salvador Salvador Torres MAF Board

Salvador Torres is well acquainted with the informal lending and borrowing that happens on the margins, and he’s eager to uplift MAF’s work making the invisible, visible. Salvador shared that, “My family members have used lending circles to share resources, but they rarely went beyond close family ties and didn’t help build credit. Now with MAF’s Lending Circle products and partners, people around country are able to access capital and build the credit necessary to transition into the financial mainstream.”

He knows just how crucial financial health is for building strong, resilient communities.

Salvador spends his days working in Washington, D.C., as an investment banker and consultant at Penserra and 32Advisors, where he helps companies build growth strategies. He’s also served as an Advisory Board Member of the Posse Foundation, a college access organization, where he saw firsthand how close-knit social circles — “posses” — could transform the lives of students and their communities.

Stephan Waldstrom MAF Board - CopyMeet Stephan

Stephan Waldstrom hails from Belgium (via Denmark), and is the Director of Risk and Product Development at RPX Corporation, a risk management company based in San Francisco.

Stephan is passionate about all things product development.

And he’s ready to use that passion to give back to his community. Stephan believes that “MAF has found a simple yet powerful model that can significantly improve the financial security of its members and potentially countless people across the U.S.” A product guru at heart, Stephan is excited to get his hands dirty helping MAF develop the first-ever Lending Circles mobile app, a new tool that will connect clients with on-demand loan information. In addition to his Board seat, Stephan is lending his expertise as a member of MAF’s Technology Advisory Council — which helps guide the design of the technology that powers MAF’s programs.

We’re happy to welcome Dave, Salvador, and Stephan to MAF’s board.

And we’re grateful to them for sharing their collective skills and talents to as we chart new courses — from the mobile app, to our Lending Circles Summit, to new research shaping our understanding of financial health. Adelante!

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