Category: Partners

Carla’s first experience with a lending circle came long before she began working with Brown Boi Project, and long before she’d heard of MAF.

She knew them as “cundinas,” and she first encountered them at the Los Angeles clothing factory where she started working as a teenager.

She and her coworkers formed the cundina to support each other in saving money. They each agreed to make a weekly contribution of $100.

It wasn’t an easy amount to save. Carla worked overtime to ensure she could make each payment. Eventually, she saved enough money through the cundina to finance a trip to Mexico, where much of her family was living.

Carla had taken the factory job knowing that her ultimate goal was to continue her education, and soon she enrolled in night classes at a local community college.

Money was tight, and the classes were expensive, so she took on heavy debt to finance her studies. She didn’t realize that she could have qualified for financial aid.

Shortly after beginning her studies, Carla suffered a back injury at work. Her employers stopped giving her hours, and she eventually went on disability and became a full-time student. She transferred to UC Santa Cruz, and a professor assisted her in applying for financial aid. Carla loved her coursework in Feminist Studies and Sociology, but the burden of her growing debt lurked in the background. She began skirting calls from debt collectors. She scraped by this way for years.

She spiraled deeper into debt. Her strong credit score of 720 plummeted, dipping below 500.

maf-day-1-049From Cundinas to Lending Circles

Shortly after graduating from college, Carla came across an job opening announcement with Brown Boi Project, an Oakland nonprofit that brings together masculine-of-center womyn, men, two-spirit people, transmen and allies to change the ways communities of color talk about gender.

She knew right away – this job was for her. Brown Boi’s mission and values echoed her own identity and experience. She applied without hesitation. Competition was steep, with over 80 applicants vying for the position. But Carla was right about her fit for the role. As she tells it, she and the staff at Brown Boi “just kicked it off well.”

She’d landed her dream job. But her debt and damaged credit continued to limit her.

She struggled to find housing in Oakland that would accept her low credit score. Fortunately, Carla had a friend who helped her find an apartment. But without a credit card, she couldn’t afford to furnish her new home.

“All of those things are so emotionally draining and stressful. I was feeling depressed. Your credit score can almost feel attached to your own worth.”

It was at Brown Boi that Carla learned about the Lending Circles program that MAF manages. She was familiar with the concept from her earlier experience with the cundinas. The promise of improving her credit score through participation lifted her spirit – she began to imagine the relief she would feel if her life were no longer controlled by debt, her options no longer curtailed by her credit score. After so many years of financial exclusion, Carla appreciated that Lending Circles were open to her regardless of her credit score.

Carla brought the same discipline and dedication to her Lending Circle that she had brought to the cundina years before. After Brown Boi became an official Lending Circles provider, Carla seized the opportunity to become the lead staff organizer for the program.

Carla finished her Lending Circle with 100% on-time payments. She paid down her debt and even managed to build up savings.

But despite her perfect track record, she was nervous to check her credit score. She had come to equate a credit score with feeling disheartened, discouraged, and stuck.

For almost a month after the Lending Circle ended, Carla delayed checking her credit. The same month Carla completed her Lending Circle, she was invited to attend a summit for innovators of color at the White House. She took herself suit shopping, comforted by the fact that she now had enough savings to cover the costs.

Carla found the perfect outfit: a grey suit with a red tie. At the register, the cashier offered her an application for the store credit card. Carla was accustomed to declining these offers, knowing she would likely not qualify. But this time, she applied.

And to her shock, she qualified.

“I qualified at a $500 limit! I was super surprised. I said, wait… What? I qualify?!”

Buoyed by this news, Carla finally pushed herself to check her credit score. She checked: it had risen 100 points to 650.

She paid off the store credit card and applied for a different card that offered airline miles. Again, she was approved – this time for a $5000 limit. Her next goal is save enough money to fly her mother to Europe next year.

What the Future Holds

Financial stability has transformed Carla’s outlook on life.

“I’m gonna be real,” she says. “I feel good. I have a credit card in case of emergency. I’m less stressed knowing that when I need the money, it’s there.” She adds, “I feel more grounded, like my life is coming back together.”

Carla feels passionate about starting more Lending Circles and encouraging more open conversations about financial exclusion with people of color in the LGBTQ community:

“There’s a lot of shame. It’s often taboo to talk about financial struggles in our community… Sometimes we think we don’t have these types of problems, but we do.”

She now keeps her spending under 25% of her credit limit and pays off the full balance of her cards each month. These skills are practical, but they have a larger significance to Carla. She sees financial education as a powerful way of mastering an economic system that so often excludes and disadvantages people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.

“No one has taught us how to play this game,” Carla explains. “But with financial education modules, we learn the rules.”

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When MAF was founded in the Mission District of San Francisco in 2007, the vision was always to grow. MAF’s leadership and supporters saw the potential of taking Lending Circles to communities across the country, to make affordable, safe loans and credit-building opportunities available to as many people as possible.

And oh, how we’ve grown! Since 2007, MAF has grown into a national network of over 50 Lending Circles providers in 17 states (and Washington, D.C.) across the country.

The Lending Circles Summit that took place in October was an opportunity to learn, to share strategies, and, of course, to celebrate. And celebrate we did. Lunchtime on the second day of the Summit was a formal affair: Elena and Mohan, Directors of Partners & Programs, gave out 12 awards to exceptional Lending Circles partners. The prizes: custom-made action figures.

Here are the winners.


The Squad Award: For outstanding commitment to PAC

Some squads are legendary, like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Squad Award goes to the 7 outstanding members of MAF’s newly formed Partner Advisory Council (PAC) who have pooled their talents and strengths to form an unbeatable squad.

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Jorge Blandón (FII), Leisa Boswell (SF LGBT Center), Madeline Cruz (The Resurrection Project), Rob Lajoie (Peninsula Family Services), Gricelda Montes (El Centro De La Raza), Judy Elling Przybilla (Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership)  & Alejandro Valenzuela Jr. (CLUES)


The Little Giant Award: For creating huge results with a small team

This partner has proven that big things can come in small packages. This award goes to a partner with a small staff that has worked together exceptionally well to create big results.

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Center for Changing Lives (Chicago, IL)


The Wacky Races Award: For creating a culture of fun and humor

This is a partner that understands that the prescription for vibrant relationships is a good laugh. From movie nights to scavenger hunts, this organization remembers to keep it fun. We recognize this partner for cultivating a meaningful culture with roots in humor.

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Game Theory Academy (Oakland, CA)


The Batman Award: For soaring high with a 0% default rate

One of the most known and recognized, this partner continues to “spread its wings” with Lending Circles and soar very high with a 0% default rate and over $125k in loan volume.

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Fremont Family Resource Center (Fremont, CA)


The Force Awakens Award: For being a force to reckon with

This partner is newer on the scene, but has already proven itself as an adept user of The Force like Finn and Rey. They advocate for their community, ask great questions, and continue taking on new challenges in the spirit of serving their clients.

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Hacienda CDC (Portland, OR)


The Thor Award: For demonstrating enduring strength

This provider has flexed its Lending Circles muscles by running three different programs: Lending Circles, Lending Circles for Citizenship, and Lending Circles for Deferred Action.

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Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) (Los Angeles, CA)


The Wonder Woman Award: For exceptional support for women

This heroic provider works with many immigrant women who are establishing economic independence in the US for the first time.

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Chinese Community Center (Houston, TX)


The Falcon Award: For elevating the conversation

The Falcon Award goes to a Lending Circles provider that really knows how to speak up and “Tweet!” This award goes to an organization who is actively sharing creative, informative (and bilingual!) content, both about their programs & about relevant news and current events.

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Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) (Washington, D.C.)


The Flash Award: For remarkable implementation speed

This relatively new provider has hit the ground running so fast that if you blink, you might miss them! They formed four Lending Circles within their first five months. We’re blown away by this world record for speed and excited to see what more is in store.

koreatownyouthcommunitycenter

Korean Youth + Community Center (Los Angeles, CA)


The Spiderman Award: For casting extensive webs of support

This “friendly, neighborhood” superhero uses all tools at their disposal – social media, press opportunities, referrals, and creative events like Lending Circles brunches – to cast extensive webs of relationships. They even describe Lending Circles outreach as “a breeze”!

theresurrectionproject

The Resurrection Project (Chicago, IL)


The Yoda Award: For sharing a wealth of wisdom

This learned and wise partner was one of the first to join the Lending Circles network. Since then, they’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge. But what’s even more amazing is how generous they are with their expertise. Just like Yoda, they are a mentor and coach, and they spread their wisdom across the galaxy.

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The San Francisco LGBT Community Center (San Francisco, CA)


The Iron Man Award: For leveraging technology for good

Check out this tech-savvy superhero! They’ve really figured out how to combine technology and social justice. In addition to offering Lending Circles, this organization regularly partners with FinTech startups to offer their community members new apps to meet their clients where they are and help them reach their financial goals.

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Catalyst Miami (Miami, FL)


Congratulations, #LCHeroes!

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LC Summit 16: Top 16 Moments

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Call me biased, but here are 16 reasons why the LC Summit was not only beautiful but hands-down one of the most exciting conferences of 2016:

1. This amazingly smart team built a prototype of a “Document Drone” to make sure that forgetting your bank statement at home wouldn’t cause unnecessary delays for hardworking clients at the Go Go Gadget Arm: Build an App with Design Thinking Workshop hosted by Catapult Design.

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2. You gotta love this high-flying #LCHero sneakily enlisting the help of her friend to make her cape fly! First glance at this, and I didn’t even realize there was a hand there.

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3. When the Yoda Award (for “Sharing a Wealth of Wisdom”) was awarded to the SF LGBT Center. Yes! Leisa Boswell said it best at the opening night reception: “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. Communities take care of their own.” Speak, Leisa, Speak.

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4. When we realized that Pedro Diaz from The Resurrection Project is in fact a doppleganger of Gustavo, a famous DREAMer client who used Lending Circles to apply for DACA. Here they are, side-by-side. Right? Even Pedro agreed. He was all like “yeah – I can totally see it.”

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5. Hearing Fred Wherry speak is like food for your brain and your soul. He said “When we hear but don’t listen, we risk obstructing justice rather than advancing it.”

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6. When Holly Minch from Lightbox Collaborative was literally jumping during her True Heroes: Engaging Clients in a Digital Age panel. This woman loves a good GAME Plan! There’s nothing like that kind of energy.

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7. When you got to demo the Lending Circles App! Right? You might have been confused – was this a nonprofit or tech conference? Sidenote: We also got to hear Santos (his lovely mug is in the App banner) speak on the How to be a Hero of Your Own Story panel, and be upfront about how his mom made him do Lending Circles. Listen to your mother, folks.

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8. When Mohan enthusiastically wore the “predatory lender shark hat” at the MAFterParty. It was weird. It was funny. But it also made for a very fun raffle experience. Here he is with Rob Lajoie from Peninsula Family Services winning the raffle to see a show at BATS Improv.

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9. When the Lords of Print set up their screen printing station for t-shirts. It was seriously like watching Bumblebee transform back into a car.

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10. José’s keynote address included an unexpected twist: he led the group in a brief guided meditation to launch us into the conference with open hearts and minds.

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11. Oh the Pins, oh the Flair! These amazing pins designed by Raul Barrera took off. Attendees won them for collecting business cards, speaking up and asking interesting questions, playing games, and completing challenges.

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12. When Isabel from El Buen Comer shared tasty delights and an amazing story about food, family and love. Foodie tip: She has arguably the best Chilaquiles Verdes in all of SF.

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13. Lending-Circles Fueled Chocolate Tres-Leches Cupcakes? Yes please. Missed out on this action? You can visit Elvia at La Luna Cupcakes in Crocker Galleria in SF.

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14. #FutureisFemale all-woman panel Using Tech for Good at the Federal Reserve featured dynamos Mae Watson Grote, Megan McTiernan, Alexandra Bernadotte and Karina Moreno. Go, ladies!

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15. When Judy from Fremont Family Resource Center responded responded to the question “Why is the lending circle program important to you?” with “It works!” Simple, yet persuasive.

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16. When we saw six lightening fast tech demos in The Flash: ‘Super Speed’ Demos Showcasing Tech for Good workshop – from saving with EARN, coaching with Beyond 12, fighting payday lenders with Nerdwallet (pictured below), getting organized with Box.org, fundraising for good with Classy, and even using SMS to send a billion messages for good with Twilio.

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Ready for the next one in 2018!?

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Words from the Wise #LCSummit16

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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.

fredFrederick 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.

leisaShe 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.”

danielDaniel 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.

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Jasmine and Pasha’s friendship began during childhood, when the two girls were elementary school classmates. Eventually they were assigned to different middle schools, and they lost touch. But the two young women shared a deep commitment to their educations and their futures. It was this quality that would reunite them and that would ultimately lead them to join Game Theory Academy’s first Lending Circle.

Their reunion was unexpected and unplanned. In 2015, when Jasmine and Pasha were in their senior years at two different Oakland high schools, they both enrolled in “Make Your Decisions Count,” a class on financial decision-making with the Oakland nonprofit Game Theory Academy (GTA). They resumed their friendship as if no time had passed and began parallel learning journeys that would prepare them for lifelong financial security.

jasmine3GTA’s mission is to equip young people with the decision-making skills and economic opportunities needed to achieve financial stability in adulthood. In “Make Your Decisions Count,” Jasmine and Pasha practiced slowing down their decision-making process and carefully considering the pros and cons of each step. They cultivated the habit of pausing before acting and considering the questions, “What’s in my best interest? And what do I need to know before I decide?”

Jasmine and Pasha knew these skills would aid them tremendously in important future decisions, such as selecting the best bank or making a plan to pay for college.

But a key to Jasmine and Pasha’s success – and their ongoing engagement with GTA – was the opportunity to put their newly acquired financial skills into practice.

They did this first through GTA’s internship program, and eventually through Lending Circles.

Job Skills: A step toward financial independence

After completing Make Your Decisions Count, both Jasmine and Pasha became interns with WOW Farm, GTA’s urban farming and business program. They were eager for the chance to apply their new skills to a real business. And on a practical level, they both needed the job experience.gta_pasha1

Pasha spoke to the value of learning and doing:

“By getting the GTA paychecks, we experience how to save it, budget it, take out $40 each time you get a check. You can talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Jasmine and Pasha successfully completed their internships and graduated from high school. But their learning wasn’t over: they both immediately enrolled in GTA’s “Crash Course in Job Readiness.” While many young adults who do not go directly to college get caught in a chaotic web of disconnected or stagnant activities, these two impressive young women refused to lose focus. They remained committed to their goals and took advantage of all GTA had to offer.

Lending Circles: Safe credit-building as the missing link

Jasmine and Pasha were skeptical of Lending Circles when the program first began at GTA.

Jasmine, for example, was uneasy with the emphasis on credit. The only way she knew to build credit was with a credit card, and she wisely thought of credit cards as risky for young people without steady incomes.

But Lending Circles provided her with a way to build credit that she trusted. She described her comfort with the program: “You don’t have to worry about going over your credit limit since it’s always a set amount.”

Pasha was similarly wary of credit cards. But at the same time, she recognized that not having a credit score would prove to be a barrier:

“You need a credit score to get a car, to do a lot of things. When you turn 18 and you’re about to go to college, all the banks send you credit card offers and sometimes the APR is really high and that can you mess up.”

For many young adults without much experience with formal financial transactions, the Lending Circles commitment can seem intimidating (a regular monthly payment!) and its value abstract (credit score, what?). But Pasha and Jasmine drew on their strong foundation in financial education to consider the benefits of the program. And more importantly, they had built a trusting relationship with GTA over the course of their participation in programs. So they took a chance and joined a Lending Circle.

The program was a success. Both Jasmine and Pasha began with no credit history at all — not uncommon for 18-year-olds. Now they each have a credit score over 650, which is 30 points higher than the average Millennial.

But a Lending Circle is more than a credit-building tool — it’s akin to a crash course in money management: participants have to save for a goal, repay a loan, plan ahead, and manage auto-pay transactions.

Thanks to Lending Circles, Jasmine and Pasha do not have to learn about credit the common way– by making mistakes that are hard to reverse. They’ve been able to build their credit safely, and with it, to build the foundations for a future of financial security.

Aligning participants’ and GTA’s goals

Game Theory Academy’s ultimate goal is to equip young people with the knowledge and confidence they need to navigate what are often mystifying and high-stakes financial decisions.

jasmine2Lending Circles are still gaining traction with GTA’s youth. But in a short time, the program has already gone a long way to deepen the organization’s financial capability services. GTA’s existing financial education modules expose young people to topics they don’t learn in school, and Lending Circles provide the opportunity to put what they learn into practice.

Jasmine now studies Mathematics at Chabot College, works
at a popular restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown, and interns with a bookkeeper. Pasha has a role in community affairs with a construction company and studies at Merritt College. They are graduating from Game Theory Academy with what every young adult needs and deserves: strong skills in financial and strategic decision-making, extensive job readiness training, solid work experience, and a fantastic credit score.

Like most of us, they don’t know exactly what’s next. But they are well-prepared for whatever it may be.

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jd2-1Jasmin Dial, the author of this post, ran student engagement at Game Theory Academy from 2014-2016, including the launch and implementation of Lending Circles. She holds a B.A. from University of California at Berkeley and currently studies Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

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La amistad de Jasmine y Pasha empezó durante su infancia, cuando ambas chicas eran compañeras del colegio. Con el tiempo fueron asignadas a diferentes escuelas secundarias y perdieron el contacto. Pero las dos jóvenes compartían un profundo compromiso con sus educaciones y su futuro. Fue esta cualidad lo que las reuniría y lo que finalmente las llevaría a unirse al primer Lending Circle de la Game Theory Academy.

Su reunión fue inesperada y no planificada. En 2015, cuando Jasmine y Pasha estaban en sus últimos años en dos diferentes escuelas de educación media superior de Oakland, ambas se inscribieron en “Haz que tus decisiones valgan,” una clase sobre toma de decisiones financieras en una organización sin fines de lucro de Oakland, la Game Theory Academy (GTA). Reiniciaron su amistad como si no hubiera pasado el tiempo e iniciaron un viaje de aprendizaje paralelo que las prepararía para la seguridad financiera de por vida.

jasmine3La misión de la GTA es equipar a los jóvenes con habilidades de toma de decisiones y oportunidades económicas necesarias para conseguir estabilidad financiera en la vida adulta. En “Haz que tus decisiones valgan,” Jasmine y Pasha practicaron el hacer más lento su proceso de toma de decisiones y considerar con cuidado los pros y contras de cada paso. Cultivaron el hábito de detenerse antes de actuar y pensar en preguntas como “¿Qué es lo que me conviene más?” y “¿Qué necesito saber antes de decidir?”

Jasmine y Pasha sabían que estas habilidades les ayudarían de gran manera en importantes decisiones futuras, tales como seleccionar el mejor banco o al desarrollar un plan para pagar la universidad.

Pero algo clave en el éxito de Jasmine y Pasha – y su compromiso constante con la GTA – fue la oportunidad de poner sus recién adquiridas habilidades financieras en práctica.

Esto lo hicieron primeramente mediante el programa de interinato de la GTA y eventualmente a través de Lending Circles.

Habilidades de trabajo: Un paso hacia la independencia financiera

gta_pasha1Al terminar “Haz que tus decisiones valgan,” tanto Jasmine como Pasha se convirtieron en pasantes en la Granja WOW, el programa de agricultura y negocios urbanos de GTA. Ambas estaban deseosas de poner en práctica sus nuevas habilidades en un negocio real. Y en un nivel práctico, ambas necesitaban la experiencia laboral.gta_pasha1

Pasha habló sobre el valor de aprender y practicar:

“Al obtener un salario en la GTA, practicamos cómo ahorrarlo, presupuestarlo, y tomar $40 cada vez que recibíamos un cheque. No solo se trata de palabras sino también de acciones.”

Jasmine y Pasha terminaron con éxito sus interinatos y se graduaron de la escuela media superior. Pero su aprendizaje no había terminado: ambas inmediatamente se inscribieron en el  “Curso Intensivo de Preparación para el Trabajo” de la GTA. Mientras muchos jóvenes adultos que no van directamente a la universidad quedan atrapados en una caótica red de actividades desconectadas o estancadas, estas dos jóvenes emprendedoras se negaron a perder el enfoque. Mantuvieron el compromiso con sus metas y tomaron ventaja de todo lo que la GTA tenía para ofrecer.

Lending Circles: El eslabón perdido del desarrollo de crédito seguro

Jasmine y Pasha eran escépticas de Lending Circles cuando el programa empezó por primera vez en la GTA.

Jasmine, por ejemplo, se sentía incómoda con el énfasis en el crédito. La única forma que ella conocía para desarrollar crédito era mediante una tarjeta de crédito, y ella pensaba sabiamente que las tarjetas de crédito eran muy riesgosas para los jóvenes sin ingresos estables.

Pero Lending Circles le ofreció una forma de desarrollar crédito en el que ella podía confiar. Describió así su comodidad con el programa: “No tienes que preocuparte de sobrepasar tu límite de crédito, ya que siempre es una cantidad establecida.”

Pasha tenía una desconfianza similar hacia las tarjetas de crédito. Pero al mismo tiempo reconoció que no tener una puntuación de crédito llegaría a ser una barrera:

“Necesitas tener una puntuación de crédito para obtener un auto y para hacer muchas cosas. Cuando cumples 18 y estás a punto de ir a la universidad, todos los bancos te envían ofertas de tarjetas de crédito y a veces la TAE es muy alta y eso te puede complicar las cosas.”

Para muchos jóvenes adultos que no tienen mucha experiencia con transacciones financieras formales, el compromiso en Lending Circles puede parecer intimidante (¡un pago mensual constante!) y su valor abstracto (puntuación de crédito… ¿qué?). Pero Pasha y Jasmine recordaron sus fundamentos fuertes en educación financiera y consideraron los beneficios del programa. Y más importante, habían desarrollado una relación de confianza con la GTA durante su participación en otros programas. Así que le dieron una oportunidad y se unieron a un Lending Circle.

El programa fue un éxito. Tanto Jasmine como Pasha empezaron sin ningún historial crediticio; algo que no es raro para los jóvenes de 18 años. Ahora ambas tienen una puntuación de crédito de más de 650, que es 30 puntos más alta que el promedio de la generación del milenio.

Pero un Lending Circle es más que una herramienta de desarrollo de crédito; es similar a un curso intensivo de manejo de dinero: los participantes tienen que ahorrar para una meta, pagar un préstamo, planificar con anticipación, y gestionar transacciones de pago automático.

Gracias a Lending Circles, Jasmine y Pasha no tienen que aprender sobre el crédito de la manera común; cometiendo errores que son difíciles de arreglar. Han logrado desarrollar su crédito de forma segura, y con esto, han sentado la base para un futuro de seguridad financiera.

Coincidiendo las metas de los participantes y de la GTA

El objetivo final de la Game Theory Academy es equipar a los jóvenes con el conocimiento y la confianza que necesitan para navegar lo que a menudo son decisiones desconcertantes y de alto riesgo financiero.

jasmine2Lending Circles sigue ganando terreno con los jóvenes de la GTA. Pero en poco tiempo, el programa ya ha logrado bastante en profundizar los servicios de capacitación financiera de la organización. Los módulos de educación financiera actuales de la GTA presentan a los jóvenes con temas que no aprenden en la escuela, y Lending Circles les da la oportunidad de poner en práctica lo que aprenden.

Jasmine ahora estudia matemáticas en Chabot College, Trabaja en un restaurante popular en el Uptown de Oakland, y tiene una pasantía con un contador. Pasha tiene un puesto en actividades comunitarias con una compañía de construcción y estudia en el Merritt College. Se están graduando de la Game Theory Academy con lo que todo joven adulto necesita y merece: fuertes habilidades en toma de decisiones financieras y estratégicas, amplio entrenamiento de preparación para el trabajo, experiencia laborar sólida, y una fantástica puntuación de crédito.

Como la mayoría de nosotros, no saben exactamente qué viene después. Pero están bien preparadas para lo que sea que se presente.

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jd2-1Jasmin Dial, la autora de esta publicación, se encargó del compromiso estudiantil en la Game Theory Academy en el período 2014-2016, incluyendo el lanzamiento e implementación de Lending Circles. Ella tiene una licenciatura de la Universidad de California en Berkeley y actualmente estudia Política Pública en la Universidad de Chicago.

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Sonia: A Future Chicago Homeowner

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Sonia arrived in Chicago from Puerto Rico one year ago with hopes to turn over a new leaf. As a result of a difficult divorce, her credit report was dotted with blemishes.

A low credit score and considerable debt were keeping Sonia from accessing affordable loan options and achieving an important personal goal: purchasing a home.

In her search for a solution, Sonia discovered my organization, The Resurrection Project (TRP), in a local newspaper.  She learned that TRP provided Lending Circles and became interested in this opportunity to re-establish her credit—so much so that she didn’t mind taking a 45-minute bus drive from the north side of Chicago to our south side neighborhood to meet with me.

Like all Lending Circles participants that come to TRP, Sonia began by meeting with me one-on-one for an initial financial coaching session. Together, we reviewed her monthly income, budget and credit history, and we discovered several discrepancies on her credit report. While we completed her Lending Circles application, she reached out to the credit bureaus to address and resolve these inconsistencies.img_8302

At her Lending Circles formation in April, Sonia became a member of Los Ganadores—“The Victors.” As the name implies, Sonia has since won several small victories, leading her closer to her ultimate goal of rebuilding her credit and becoming a homeowner.

Since participating in Lending Circles at TRP, Sonia has increased her credit score by 65 points, decreased her debt by nearly $7,000, and increased her savings by $1,000.

Since joining Los Ganadores, Sonia has not only made significant strides in her personal finances, but she has also gained a new friend. Sonia and Alicia, another participant, connected at their Lending Circles formation and established a beautiful friendship. One wonderful aspect of the TRP Lending Circles program is the sense of community that participants form, both at the start of a circle and beyond. Alicia and Sonia formed a close bond through their Lending Circle. Alicia now volunteers at Sonia’s church food pantry and even joined Sonia at her wedding last May.

Sonia has embarked on the journey to make a new life for herself in Chicago, and we are so happy to support her in reaching her goal. Sonia will be telling her story in her own words at TRP’s next Lending Circles Brunch, where all of our participants come together to share their experiences and celebrate their accomplishments.

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About the Author:
 Madeline Cruz is a Senior Financial Coach at The Resurrection Project (TRP), which offers financial coaching, homeowner education, entrepreneurship support, and immigration services in Chicago, IL. She’s a featured speaker on the panel “True Heroes: Engaging Clients in the Digital Age” at the 2016 Lending Circles Summit.

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National CAPACD AAPI Lending Circles MAF

At their core, Lending Circles are about community.

When you bring together families, friends, and neighbors to help each other achieve their shared financial dreams, you’re leveraging the power of community. This practice of lending and borrowing money in family or social groups — a practice that inspired the the Lending Circles program — is common in communities around the world. Today, we’re highlighting one in particular: a unique group of partners providing Lending Circles to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrants across the US.

In many parts of Asia, Lending Circles are an age-old tradition.

In the Philippines, the practice is referred to as paluwagan; in some parts of China, it’s called hui. With traditions like these to draw from, many AAPI immigrants are familiar with Lending Circles as a source of savings and credit. What’s often unfamiliar is the complicated financial marketplace discovered upon arriving to the US.

This comes at a real price: 10% of AAPIs do not have bank accounts and many more are “underbanked,” meaning they must turn to fringe financial services like payday lenders and check cashers. According to the FDIC’s 2013 Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, 19% of Asian Americans and 27% of Pacific Islanders turn to fringe services to meet their financial needs.

To bridge the gap between the modern financial marketplace and cultural traditions like paluwagan and hui, we can tailor Lending Circles to meet the unique needs of AAPI communities.

AEDA Lending Circles AAPI MAFWe can start by meeting AAPI immigrants where they are, on their terms.

In this spirit, we offer loan agreements into seven Asian languages: Chinese, Burmese, Nepali, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, and Hmong. But this is only a beginning. We can also open-source solutions — so that other nonprofits can build on the lessons we’ve learned in San Francisco and bring them to cities all over the country.

No two communities are alike. And local organizations know best how to handcraft their services to meet their clients’ needs.

That’s why nonprofits across the nation are custom-fitting Lending Circles to their local communities.

Take Asian Services In Action (ASIA), for example. This Lending Circles provider in Cleveland, OH, provides culturally relevant social services to Nepali and Burmese immigrants and refugees, many of whom don’t encounter the concept of a credit score until they’re ready to buy a car, rent a home, or start a business.

Through Lending Circles, these clients are able to build credit with people who speak their native language — oftentimes their friends and neighbors. This system of mutual support provides a sense of security that sets Lending Circles apart from other loan models. It can even help refugees build a new community in the U.S. after leaving their home countries.

“I love seeing our clients’ eyes light up as I explain the Lending Circle model,” says Lucy Pyeatt of the Chinese Community Center (CCC).

“‘Yes, we know that!’ they often reply.” Many of Lucy’s clients are intimately familiar with the concept of Lending Circles: “They’ve participated in them informally with family and friends for years, and they feel so relieved to have a product that they already trust. They feel that their heritage, and their models of financial security, are being respected. It’s a great bridge for them.”

By drawing on their traditions and adapting to their needs, Lending Circles put the power in the hands of the communities themselves. Our partnerships with organizations like ASIA and CCC are the real engine that powers the success of Lending Circles, so that local leaders can create local solutions.

It all started with a collaboration between MAF and National CAPACD.

National CAPACD is an advocacy group on a mission to improve the quality of life for low-income AAPIs. Two years ago, MAF joined forces with National CAPACD to launch a financial capability project with eight AAPI-serving organizations:

Together, we set out to answer a question: Can we boost the financial capability of new immigrants by incorporating Lending Circles and financial education into the existing immigration resources that community organizations are providing? Our new partners started to marry traditional services like language classes, citizenship education, and workforce training with our innovative Lending Circles program and financial coaching.

In just two years, the National CAPACD cohort has formed 56 Lending Circles, with 344 participants.CAPACD Lending Circles AAPI Community

It’s amazing to think that these participants have generated well over $150,000 in loan volume, all from lending and borrowing with their peers. And the repayment rate is astonishingly high — over 99%. This means that participants are opening checking accounts, establishing credit scores, and entering the financial mainstream for the first time.

Some have been able to rent apartments. Others have used Lending Circles has a source of peer support in a new country. And for many women who moved to the U.S. to join their husbands, Lending Circles offer a chance to exercise their financial independence.

After two years of successes, we’re excited to continue working with this impressive group of AAPI-serving organizations.

Our partners have ambitious plans to deepen their Lending Circles programs and bring them to even more hardworking immigrants across the country. And we have plans of our own to strengthen our network by forging new relationships and improving our tools for partner collaboration, like our online “Lending Circles Communities” knowledge-sharing platform.

We know that the key to success lies in the power of community. That’s why we’re working together with our partners to build even stronger resources for our Lending Circles clients — who, in turn, work together to support each other’s growth.

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Build a Better LA Banner MAF

 

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) today announces the Build a Better Los Angeles initiative to expand Lending Circles in Los Angeles. Dynamic nonprofit organizations are invited to to apply to join MAF’s national network of 50+ Lending Circles providers through a special application process. This initiative is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation.

MAF’s award-winning Lending Circles are a fresh take on social lending, helping participants safely build credit while increasing assets and improving financial health. The average credit score increase for participants is 168 points.

“We are proud to partner with MAF to help more Los Angeles households improve their financial health,” said Colleen Briggs, Executive Director of Financial Capability, JPMorgan Chase. “Lending Circles help families achieve their financial goals through regular savings and affordable credit building. Families are using lending circles to start businesses, save for college, and buy a home. The benefits do not stop with them but extend to their communities and the broader economy.”

According to a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 45 million adults in the U.S. are invisible to credit markets, making them unable to access affordable credit. Los Angeles has one of the highest unbanked rates in California at 17%, compared to 8% for the state overall. “Without credit scores, people must turn to payday lenders to start a business or get a small-dollar loan,” said Jose A. Quinonez, CEO of MAF. “Lending Circles give people the tools to build credit and enter the financial mainstream.”

“The Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation is proud to support Mission Asset Fund’s efforts to build vibrant, economically secure communities in the Los Angeles area through its innovative Lending Circles program. It’s with great pleasure that we support the Build a Better L.A. campaign, which will connect even more low-income Californians with pathways to the financial mainstream,” said Sylia Obagi, Executive Director.

To learn more about the Build a Better Los Angeles initiative or apply to become a Lending Circles provider today, please visit the Request for Proposals here. Selected organizations can gain access to subsidized training costs, training from MAF staff, and on-demand access to an exclusive social loan platform. Applications are due March 18th and new providers will be announced on April 29th. Applicants must be 501c(3) organizations located in the greater Los Angeles area including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Interested organizations are encouraged to register for an in-person information session on February 26th at 10:30am at the ImpactHub LA to learn more. Register today to reserve your spot.

Join Us for an Info Session
Date: February 26th
Time: 10:30 am
Location: ImpactHub LA

About Mission Asset Fund

MAF Blog LogoMission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to helping financially excluded communities – namely, low-income and immigrant families – gain access to mainstream financial services. Learn more at missionassetfund.org and lendingcircles.org.

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Detroit Skyline MAF

 

Southwest Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Mission Asset Fund (MAF) today announced the launch of Lending Circles, a new social loan program that will allow Detroit residents to safely build credit through zero-interest loans. Participants make monthly loan payments and take turns receiving zero-interest social loans, ranging from $300 to $2,500. All loan payments are reported to credit bureaus, enabling participants to build a credit history, raise credit scores and work towards greater financial stability.

MAF’s award-winning Lending Circles are a fresh take on social lending, helping participants build credit while increasing assets and improving financial health. The average credit score increase for participants is 168 points. “More than 30% of the people we’ve assisted with their financial situation in the last two years start with no credit history, and those with credit start with an average credit score of only 547,” said Hector Hernandez, executive director of Southwest Economic Solutions. “Lending Circles will enable our clients to build and enhance their credit so they can take advantage of opportunities to become homeowners, entrepreneurs and college graduates.”

Bringing Lending Circles to Detroit is the next step in JPMorgan Chase’s $ 100 million commitment to Detroit’s economic recovery. JPMorgan Chase recently awarded MAF a $1.5 million, three-year grant to expand Lending Circles to even more communities across the country and develop new technology to connect clients with on-demand loan information. Southwest Solutions is part of a growing network of 53 Lending Circles providers – and the first in the state of Michigan.

“We are proud to partner with Southwest Solutions and Mission Asset Fund to expand Lending Circles to Detroit,” said Colleen Briggs, Program Officer, Financial Capability Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase. “Building a solid credit score is the critical first step to managing daily financial lives and accessing affordable capital to achieve long-term financial goals, such as purchasing a home or starting a business.”

Of the 27 zip codes in the City of Detroit, the median credit score among residents is below 600 in all but one, according to Urban Institute tabulations of credit bureau data. Furthermore, a 2015 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that one in four Detroit households are “underbanked.” Without sufficient access to checking or savings accounts, Detroit residents often turn to payday lenders and check cashers to meet their basic financial needs.

“Without credit scores, there are no ‘good options’ when you want to start a business or get a small loan,” said Jose A. Quinonez, CEO, MAF. “Now, with the support of JPMorgan Chase and partners like Southwest Solutions, we are working together to provide innovative solutions to help Detroit residents succeed.”


About Southwest Solutions

Southwest Solutions Detroit Lending CirclesFor more than 40 years, Southwest Solutions has pursued its mission to help build a stronger and healthier community in southwest Detroit and beyond. The nonprofit organization provides more 50 programs and partnerships in the areas of human development, economic development and resident engagement. These three areas together form a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization effort that helps more than 20,000 a year. For more information, please visit www.swsol.org.

 

 


About JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase LogoJPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.4 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. The firm uses its global resources, expertise, insights and scale to address some of the most urgent challenges facing communities around the world including the need for increased economic opportunity. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.

 

About Mission Asset Fund

MAF Blog LogoMission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to helping financially excluded communities – namely, low-income and immigrant families – gain access to mainstream financial services. Learn more at missionassetfund.org and lendingcircles.org.

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