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The Inclusive Economy

Looking Back at a Year of Successful Financial Inclusion Policy Advocacy in the Northwest

By Arohi Pathak on 07/09/2015 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Economic Inclusion, News

Participants in the Financial Inclusion Policy Action Initiative at their gathering in Minneapolis.

This month marks the end of the first year of the Financial Inclusion Policy Action Initiative, a three-year project supported by the Northwest Area Foundation to help build the capacity of organizations to advocate for state and Tribal policies that improve financial access for financially vulnerable families. On June 18 and 19, CFED held a Capstone Convening at the Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota, along with our partner organizations and team of technical experts and coaches, to celebrate the success of the first year of the initiative and hone our strategies for the year ahead.

Much of the first year of this initiative was focused on learning. Technical experts, coaches and peers helped partner organizations better understand their policy and political environments, as well as their organizational capacity to effectively advocate for state or Tribal policy change. For example, some partners learned about which advocacy strategies (legislative or administrative) might be more effective in resulting in a policy change. Other partners learned that stories from clients (and therefore, constituents) are a compelling way to reach policymakers, while also bringing diverse voices together in support of a policy change. And others learned that coalition building is hard work, but the right set of coalition partners, including non-traditional allies, can propel a campaign forward effectively.

In addition, some partner organizations advocated for important policy changes even as they were building their skills and honing their approach. Specifically:

  • In Montana, the Native CDFI Network, in conjunction with the Native American Development Corporation, worked with allies in the Governor’s office to advance and win passage of a bill to create a $500,000 loan pool to subsidize Native-owned small business loans that have inadequate collateral.
  • In Oregon, Neighborhood Partnerships, an Assets & Opportunity Network Leader, reauthorized and expanded their Individual Development Account (IDA) tax credit, which is one of the largest in the nation. The newly expanded tax credit allows low-income individuals to use the savings for additional purposes, such as hiring employees for a small business, vehicle purchase and retirement.
  • In Washington State, the Statewide Poverty Action Network (SPAN), in partnership with the Washington Asset Building Coalition (also a Network Leader) and One America, defeated five anti-consumer protection bills. SPAN also worked with key policy champions to introduce three bills that, if passed, would have reined in the debt settlement industry. While those bills did not become law, the progress made in the face of intractable committee politics was a victory in and of itself.
  • In Minnesota, the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition (another Assets & Opportunity Network Leader) won passage of a bill to fund nonprofit organizations that offer low-interest vehicle loans, affordable car repairs or donated vehicles to families who need a car to get to work. An unfortunate last-minute legislative action dropped funding for this bill, but the Coalition will continue its advocacy in the next legislative session.

CFED congratulates our partners on their advocacy successes and their steadfast leadership of their communities! We look forward to continuing to work with our partners and the team of coaches and experts to strategically build and implement advocacy campaigns over the next two years. Stay tuned to the Assets & Opportunity Network to hear more about the effective practices, lessons and tools created through the Initiative. For more information, please contact Arohi Pathak.

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