One of our favorite parts of the Lending Circles Summit was hearing from wise members of our community on what Lending Circles mean to them. Here are a few highlights.
Frederick Wherry is a Professor of Sociology at Yale University.
He studies how immigrant and minority households become more equitably integrated into the financial mainstream. In partnership with MAF, he’s interviewed hundreds of Lending Circles clients to understand their experience of Lending Circles and the significance of credit in their lives. His research has led him to broaden the concept of financial inclusion and propose a framework of financial citizenship. His book is forthcoming in 2017.
In his keynote address, he emphasized the importance of practicing deep empathy so that we can not just hear, but genuinely listen to what our clients need and value – rather than prioritizing our own assumptions.
He told us, “When we hear but don’t listen, we risk obstructing justice rather than advancing it.”
Leisa Boswell is the Financial Services Specialist at the San Francisco LGBT Center, one of the earliest Lending Circles partners.
She is dedicated to empowering the community through financial education.
In her remarks, she spoke to the particular value of Lending Circles for the LGBTQ community:
“The LGBT community has always been one of chosen family. We have had to take care of each other when our given families would not. Mission Asset Fund has understood this concept from the beginning. They know that communities take care of their own.”
And she shared this story of one of her earliest Lending Circles clients:
“One particular story I recall is that of a woman who has worked her entire life as a musician and in that industry money is unpredictable and often on a cash basis. Her dream of becoming a homeowner seemed impossible due to her lack of access to credit. The lending circle gave her the opportunity to build credit rapidly and qualify for a mortgage and I’m happy to report she is now the proud owner of a below market rate condo in NOPA.”
“All of this happened in less than a year. That is how powerful the lending circle is.”
Daniel Lee is the Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation in San Francisco, CA.
MAF and The Levi Strauss Foundation share a long history: MAF was lucky to have the Levi Strauss Foundation as its very first supporter. Daniel, a self-proclaimed history nerd, graced us with his own telling of MAF’s origin story.
It went like this:
“Levi Strauss & Co. had a factory that was in continuous operation for 96 years at 250 Valencia Street. When that building was sold, a $1 million seed grant from its proceeds went to MAF.”
Daniel closed his remarks with a memorable toast to Lending Circles providers all over the nation:
“For your remarkable bias toward action as leaders and your insistence that solutions sprout organically from the community (not airlifted in GMO form);
for bringing your full selves to this path-breaking work;
for using every tool at our disposal and embracing unlikely allies and bedfellows.”
These remarks were delivered at the Lending Circles Summit, which took place from October 26-29, 2016, in San Francisco, CA.