Rewards and Consequences of Breaking Up
Posted on 02/15/2011 @ 07:46 AM
Guest Blogger Patricia Johnson uses popular songs and culture to teach young people about economic decision making. She is founder of Game Theory Academy in Oakland, CA and a CFED Innovative Idea Champion. Look for yourself in the vivid words of her students that she shares in this commentary.
Game Theory Academy (GTA) teaches young people ages 16-22 about the economy. Our mission is to use money to engage young people in conversations that lead them to think deeply about their best self interest when it comes to money, education, jobs and recreation.
Typically GTA teaches in out-of-school settings, but each winter I have a very special opportunity: to bring the GTA curriculum to seniors at Met West High School in Oakland, CA for credit and graduation prerequisite. It’s a great lab for me to test myself. Do my students graduate with a solid understanding of economics? Are the GTA lessons tangible and memorable? When I read their homework assignments and grade exams, I see my own successes and failures as a teacher in their answers. Then I go back and revise my methods. Met West is a great ally in GTA’s quest to make economic education more relevant for young adults.
Met West is a very special high school. Founded as part of the ‘big picture,’ small school movement, Met West has students in class Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they are in internships at businesses and nonprofits in the community, getting job skills, testing out their various career interests and applying what they learn in school in a real-world environment. Because of Met West’s experimental and innovative approach to educating urban youth, it’s a great partnership for GTA.
Last week, for homework, I asked students to listen to the lyrics of the songs they love and write an essay about how they relate to economics. “Does the song have to be about money?” they asked me. No. The way we teach at GTA, economics applies to any decision that has consequences – whether that’s sleeping in rather than getting to class on time, majoring in computer science instead of art, running up your credit card or breaking up with your girlfriend. Any decision can be boiled down to economic concepts: best self interest, willingness to pay, risk tolerance, constraints and tradeoffs.
In his essay about rapper 50 Cent’s song, “I Get Money,” Jovan writes, “Some constraints Curtis Jackson faced before becoming a successful rapper were his economic status and location.” Jovan recognizes that growing up poor, in a poor neighborhood, are factors that hold many young people back from success. In class I ask students what their own constraints are, and challenge them to develop a strategy for overcoming those constraints.
Along a similar vein, Umar shows that he understands the concept of equal access to perfect information – one of the tenets of an efficient market. He cites the song “Money on My Mind” by Lil’ Wayne, who sings, “All we know is rocks and presidents like Mount Rushmore.” Umar writes that Lil’ Wayne, “is passively saying that he does not have access to perfect information because he was not educated well…He doesn’t know much about money or work.” His options are limited because he doesn’t have a good education, and is surrounded by a drug economy, and this puts him at a disadvantage.
Doraius builds on Umar’s point, in his essay about the Birdman song “Money to Blow.” The song is about getting everything you want when you have a lot of money. Doraius warns, “This makes people desire what the artist has. Unfortunately this song is not giving people perfect information. It creates an unrealistic image of how to obtain wealth.”
Doraius also connects the song to the core concept we teach at Game Theory Academy: “It might not be in your best self interest to blow all of your money on unnecessary things, even if you are able to.” At GTA, we make a clear distinction between best self interest and preferences. When it comes to making decisions, it’s easy to decide what to do when your preference and best self interest are the same. When they differ, deciding which course to take can be very stressful.
In her essay about the song “Fireworks” by Katy Perry, Marissa reflects that “it takes time to realize what your best self interest is at a young age.” Even some of you professionals reading this blog on the CFED web site probably struggle with making decisions in your best self interest all time. When is the last time you skipped a workout, wasted time on Facebook or hit the snooze button a few times on a dark winter morning?
Marissa writes, “You just need help getting steps to help you figure out what is best for you.” That’s what Game Theory Academy is all about. We give students what every MBA student gets: basic tools to make value-driven decisions for yourself. Every high school should use the same lens to introduce young people to their role in our complex, competitive economy.
A Ticket to Work Gives a Smoother Ride
Posted on 02/09/2011 @ 04:11 PM
Guest Blogger Joyce Armstrong is Project Director for Connecticut’s Connect to Work Center Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Project, working with persons with disabilities. Joyce and her colleague, Nora Bishop, are 2010 CFED Innovative Idea Champions. You may have met Joyce at the 2010 Assets Learning Conference’s Innovation Marketplace.
Co-opportunity and the Connect to Work Center have continued to work on the IDA pilot that we presented information on at the 2010 Assets Learning Conference’s Innovation Marketplace in Washington, DC. One major step that had to be completed was for Co-opportunity to become an Employment Network (EN) under Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program. They applied, were initially asked for some additional information and finally, a few weeks ago, they were accepted as an EN. This now allows us to move forward with recruiting people who are receiving Social Security benefits due to a disability who are interested in going off of their Social Security benefits, saving in a traditional IDA and participating in Financial Literacy Training.
Co-opportunity will be paid for each month that these individuals who assign their ‘tickets’ to them have earnings above the Ticket Payment Guidelines. ‘Ticket’ payments have “no strings attached” and can be used in any way that the program chooses. In our case, the payments will be used to support future ‘alternative’ IDAs that will better meet the needs of those with disabilities. Unlike traditional IDAs, the savings will not be restricted to homeownership, education or business ownership, but can be more versatility used for such purposes as vehicle modification or computers designed for persons with a particular disability. Through ‘Ticket’ payments, over a period of two to three years, we expect to have enough money to make this IDA program self sustaining.
Co-opportunity has decided that by utilizing distance learning and individual financial coaching over the phone, they will be able to serve our whole state. That will make it easier for us to find candidates for the IDAs. It’s also good because it involves all of the Connect to Work Center’s Community Work Incentive Coordinators/Benefits Counselors. Because they can all potentially refer people, we can discuss issues involving this in staff, talks about potential candidates and collectively, we’ll have an energy to move this project forward that wouldn’t be as strong if it only involved one area of our state and one or two of our Benefits Counselors.
We are starting now to look for potential candidates for the traditional IDAs (funded through the Assets for Independence Act). There are 3 slots that have been set aside for us. This will allow us to at least get started and to start getting ‘ticket’ payments.
Our search for “seed” money to offer ‘alternative’ IDAs is still ongoing, but things are looking up. Co-opportunity recently applied for a State of Connecticut Department of Labor Grant that would provide the seed money we need. We have all the relationships established that the grant proposal was looking for. The agency I work for, State of Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) is talked about as a place to find appropriate candidates for the target population, people with disabilities. No other community IDA program approached BRS for a letter of support and/or to talk about partnering with us.
The Connecticut Dept. of Labor grant would allow for purchase of a car, which is the savings goal that we expect most people who are on Social Security Disability to want. Although Connecticut is a small state, public transportation is very limited, and some areas have none. Even in more densely populated areas, it can be impossible or very time consuming to go from one city to another. I’ve seen people take jobs less than 10 miles from home and then have to spend almost 2 hours on 3 different buses to get to work. Most people aren’t going to do this for very long. It’s tiring and people with children probably aren’t going to be able to do this at all. We also have issues with limited hours of service even where there are bus routes. Often, the bus doesn’t run as late as needed for someone to get home from work; and holidays and weekends have very limited bus service.
We will hear about our eligibility for the Dept. of Labor grant in March. They will be awarding more than one grant and we’re confident that one of those will be ours. We can’t wait for March and the announcement. Next time I bring you up to date, I expect to be able to give you good news on our funding status. Also, I hope that we will have at least one person started in a traditional IDA.
Savings Bonds are a Smart Move
Posted on 02/07/2011 @ 08:49 AM
Guest Blogger Diane Browning heads the rural retirement Project of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) from Lewisburg, West Virginia. She is a 2010 CFED Innovative Idea Champion. This post first appeared as an Op-Ed Commentaries section of the Charleston Gazette:
The parties are over, the holiday lights are coming down and the long slog to spring has begun -- made all the drearier by having to account for last year's income and file taxes.
However, there is a new bright spot in this annual ritual -- the opportunity to build savings at tax time.
The federal policy to facilitate the purchase of a savings bond via a refund was set in place last tax season and has been streamlined for 2011 filings, along with the addition of the option to buy savings bonds as gifts.
In our society, we get a barrage of offers to spend our refund, but how often do you get asked to save it? Yet savings is a key indicator of upward mobility. The Pew Charitable Trust's Economic Mobility Project found that 71 percent of children born to high saving, low-income parents advance economically.
Saving isn't easy, though, no matter what your income bracket. It doesn't seem as difficult when you have extra cash, which many people do at tax time. After paying their payroll taxes, many low-wage workers receive earned income tax credits or child tax credits. Directing some of that refund into a savings bond is smart.
And the U.S. I Bond is a smart savings product. It is purchased at face value for as little as $50, is guaranteed, has an interest rate tied to inflation, a rate competitive with bank CDs (but without the high minimums) and is portable. Most all banks and credit unions redeem them. For people who operate without a checking or bank account, you don't need one to buy a savings bond.
A national pilot program testing the sale of bonds at tax time found that the overwhelming reason people bought bonds was for their children or grandchildren. It is a simple truth that no matter what our station in life, we want our children to prosper. This year, the IRS tax form 8888 allows you to direct part of your refund to
The bonds will be mailed to you about three weeks after you file.
Our economic turmoil in these past few years has had a few upsides. One is being thrifty and saving is "cool" again. By offering a universal and safe savings product at an opportune time to save, it has also become easy. So, as you get ready to see your tax preparer or bravely do your taxes yourself, plan to buy a bond -- and tell your friends and family to buy a bond, too. In the end, it is improving our individual balance sheet with increased assets at the household level that will make our economy sustainable over the long haul.
A New Mayor and an Experienced Mayor Trade Thoughts
By Anne Li on 02/02/2011 @ 09:12 AM
Hello! My name is Anne Li and I am CFED’s program director for innovation. I will be blogging pretty regularly from now on, and also inviting you and others to be Guest Bloggers.
I’d like to share some observations from a standing-room only event on January 20th at the St. Regis Hotel. It featured a number of mayors and others who are leading cities into the forefront of asset innovation. CFED’s new report, Building Economic Security in America’s Cities: New Municipal Strategies for Asset Building and Financial Empowerment was the centerpiece of the event. Generous funders Living Cities and the Surdna Foundation were represented by Ben Hecht and Jasmine Thomas, respectively. The Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition, whose members inspired and provided much of the information in the report, were represented by (among others) Jonathan Mintz of New York City and Jose Cisneros of San Francisco.
Many in the audience, including myself, were struck by the observations of a new mayor and an experienced mayor. Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence RI had been in office only 17 days! Himself raised by a single mom and attending Head Start, Mayor Taveras went on to Harvard University and Georgetown Law School before being elected mayor last fall. He said, “A child is poor because the parents are poor. Lift the parent out of poverty, and you’ve lifted out the child, and broken the cycle of poverty.”
Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, MN has more time in grade than Mayor Tavares. He had recently been re-elected to a second term. He said, “Cities are uniquely qualified to have an impact on citizens’ financial security. Cities can use their schools, their libraries, their parks, and so many other places and ways in which they touch people where they live.”
Mayor Coleman asked Mayor Taveras: “You’ve been in office 17 days. How many calls about snow removal have you already received?” He went on to use snow removal (a touchy subject for so many of us, this winter) as an example of the way cities have unique types of interactions with residents that affect their financial security. When a city declares a snow emergency, the Mayor said, it is very often lower-income residents who don’t move their cars from the snow emergency routes. Why? Sometimes because they’re not tuned in well enough to hear about the snow emergency declaration. Sometimes their car won’t start and they can’t afford to buy a new battery.
And then what happens? The Mayor asked and answered. Their car is ticketed and towed. And the $75 for a ticket plus the $350 for towing, while a nuisance for more affluent residents, may become a financial catastrophe for a low-income household. It may be enough to push that household into crisis.
With that very graphic and compelling story, Mayor Coleman sounded the theme echoed by the other speakers and by the report: cities can leverage municipal power and politics to advance a diverse financial empowerment agenda. The report describes a variety of innovative municipal approaches – not only New York and San Francisco, but also Seattle-King County, Newark and San Antonio among many others. It’s a user-friendly catalogue of innovative strategies and policies that localities across the country can adapt to the needs of their citizens to help them build and preserve financial security.
Interested in what else was discussed during the January 20th event? Watch the recorded briefing and panel discussion here.
New SBA Advantage Programs for Capitalizing Underserved Small Businesses
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/27/2011 @ 03:43 PM
This year the Small Business Administration (SBA) is launching two new programs, Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage, to expand access to capital for underserved small businesses. Such businesses often experience difficulty in securing loans from mainstream financial institutions which typically do not offer small loans because of their low profitability. The SBA’s Advantage Programs are designed to fuel economic growth in underserved communities by increasing access to small loans for these businesses.
The Small Loan Advantage Program encourages larger SBA lenders to offer small loans through streamlined paperwork, quick approval times (minutes for Small Advantage Loans submitted through the e-Tran system and one business day for all other loans), a $250,000 loan amount maximum and a higher guarantee for loans below $150,000 (85% compared to 75% for loans over $150,000).
The Community Advantage Program is a three-year pilot to increase the number of SBA 7(a) lenders in underserved communities. The pilot is focusing on mission-driven financial institutions (e.g., CDFIs, CDCs) that previously have not been able to offer SBA loans. As with the Small Advantage Loan Program, the required paperwork is streamlined and the maximum loan amount is $250,000 with a higher guarantee for loans under $150,000. The approval time for Community Advantage loans however is 5 – 10 business days.
Both programs are scheduled to be implemented beginning March 15, 2011. Applications from mission-driven financial institutions for the Community Advantage Program are being accepted starting on or before February 15. For more information, check out the SBA press announcement.
Fostering Green Entrepreneurship
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/26/2011 @ 03:20 PM
ACE, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, is a SBA microloan intermediary, USDA intermediary re-lender and a certified CDFI that provides loans to underserved small businesses unable to access traditional lines of credit. ACE serves small businesses in 68 counties throughout northern Georgia and since its founding in 1999, has loaned more than $5 million to disadvantaged small businesses. ACE loans range from $500 to $50,000.
In 2009, ACE established Georgia Green Loans, a program that provides loans to small businesses that produce eco-friendly products or want to “green” their operations. ACE administers the program and works with two other Georgia small business lenders – Small Business Assistance Corporation and Albany Community Together, Inc. – to provide these loans throughout the state.
With the creation of Georgia Green Loans, ACE gained national attention as a leader in developing green and sustainable entrepreneurship and subsequently received $700,000 grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to create Save and Sustain, a program that provides subsidized audits and low interest loans to small businesses seeking to reduce energy costs.
ACE was also awarded an SBA PRIME grant to create the Academy for Green Micro-enterprise Development, which helps other organizations with green business development programs. Already organizations in Spokane, WA, New Orleans and Detroit have been assisted through the Academy. In addition to these federal and state government awards, ACE received the 2010 Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT award for the category of industry innovation.
For over 10 years ACE has been investing in underserved communities through small business development and is now pioneering the way to further invest in them through environmental sustainability.
Making Entrepreneurship Accessible
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/20/2011 @ 03:41 PM
People with disabilities face disproportionately high rates of unemployment. In order to address this and develop self-employment as a viable option for people with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) funded the Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources, & Training or START-UP USA, a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Griffin-Hammis and Associates, LLC. START-UP USA provides technical assistance and disseminates a range of resources to people with disabilities that want to pursue self-employment. START-UP USA also provides technical assistance to three START-UP demonstration projects in New York, Alaska, and Florida.
The New York demonstration, START-UP NY, has been particularly successful in creating a model of “inclusive entrepreneurship” that can serve as a model for replication – one the overall goals of the START-UP initiative. START-UP NY, a partnership between the Syracuse University Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), the University’s Whitman School of Management (through its South Side Innovation Center) and Onondaga County, has worked with 204 individuals with disabilities since 2007 to assist them in exploring self-employment options, of which 48 have started their own businesses. The “Inclusive Entrepreneurship” model entails working with partners to leverage financial resources, access financial literacy services and train college students to work with entrepreneurs with disabilities as business development consultants, a component of a new jointly-taught Whitman School and BBI course. BBI, on behalf of the Onondaga County Department of Social Services, managed the design and implementation of the START-UP NY program. The Whitman School’s South Side Innovation Center houses the program which enables access to other related services offered by the Center. Through this model, START-UP NY provides participants with assistance in business plan development and review, benefits planning and financing as well as other resources.
The success of START-UP NY has led to efforts to replicate the program in Manhattan and is informing other similar initiatives throughout the state. Furthermore, a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, as part of the Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative referred to as Enitiative, initiated a pilot IDA program for disabled entrepreneurs through the Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union. In addition, the Gifford Foundation’s (also in Syracuse) Matched Savings Program provided matching funds for another 35 IDA accounts for disabled entrepreneurs.
For more information on START-UP/USA and other state and federal self-employment initiatives for people with disabilities, check out ODEP’s self-employment page.
This Thursday! Building Economic Security in America's Cities Release Event
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/18/2011 @ 02:23 PM
CFED's latest report, Building Economic Security in America’s Cities: New Municipal Strategies for Asset Building and Financial Empowerment, highlights the work cities across the country are doing to educate, empower and protect residents in the financial marketplace. This report represents a comprehensive effort to document the range of municipal policies and programs that are being used to enhance the financial security of low-income families during a time of deep recession. Join us this Thursday, January 20 from 9 - 10:30am ET for a briefing and panel discussion on the new policies cities are adopting to help their residents achieve economic security.
The discussion will be moderated by Bill Purcell, Special Advisor on Allston and former mayor of Nashville, TN, and featured speakers will include:
Andrea Levere, President, CFED
Billy Kenoi, Mayor, Hawaii County
Ben Hecht, President and CEO, Living Cities
Jasmine Thomas, Program Officer, The Surdna Foundation
Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner, New York City Department of Consumer Affairs
Jose Cisneros, Treasurer, City and County of San Francisco
Chris Coleman, Mayor, St. Paul
The event will be held in the Carlton Ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel at 16 and K Streets, NW. RSVP by emailing email@example.com.
SSIR Webinar Collective Impact: Creating Large-Scale Social Change
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/14/2011 @ 02:46 PM
On Wednesday, January 19 at 2pm ET, Stanford Social Innovation Review will host a webinar on collective impact, a strategy for collaboration and partnership that differs from most in that involves a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants. The webinar discussion is a follow up to the December SSIR article “Collective Impact” by John Kania and Mark Kramer of FSG Social Impact Advisors that features the Strive Partnership in Cincinatti, OH as a premier example of collective impact and how it has been effective in significantly improving student achievement in the area’s public schools. Webinar speakers will include the article authors, Jeff Edmondson, Executive Director of the Strive Partnership, and Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Moderating will be Eric Nee, Managing Editor of Stanford Social Innovation Review and there will be a Q&A session.
Registration to view the webinar is $49 and includes an unlimited number of accesses to the archived webinar for 12 months. For more information and to register, click here.
2011 Social Innovation Fund Competition
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/11/2011 @ 01:43 PM
Just before the start of the new year, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released a draft Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the 2011 Social Innovation Fund. Right now, CNCS is currently accepting comments and feedback on application and program guidelines for the Fund in 2011, specifically four changes CNCS have made to this year’s competition:
- Clear articulation of CNCS requirements for transparency
- A decrease in the maximum dollar amount for which intermediaries can apply from $10 million to $7 million
- Elimination of the provision allowing applicants to “pre-select” subgrantees
- General streamlining and clarification of the overall content of the NOFO
Native Community Development Financial Institutions Network Launched
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/07/2011 @ 11:45 AM
A new year brings new and exciting beginnings. As 2010 came to a close, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a leading Native Community Financial Development Institution (CDFI) intermediary, announced the launch of the Native CDFI Network. With the mission of supporting the growing field of Native CDFIs and economic development in Native communities, the Native CDFI Network was formed with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Over the next year, the Network will seek strengthen the voice of Native communities and native CDFIs at the national policy level and organize networking opportunities to better connect leaders and practitioners of the Native CDFI industry.
First Nations Oweesta will serve as a partner of the Native CDFI Network as it moves forward and becomes more established. Click here to read the press release about the launch of the Native CDFI network.
Plaza Adelante: An All-in-One Model for Service Delivery and Community Development
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/04/2011 @ 09:41 AM
Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), a community-based organization in San Francisco that provides asset development services for low- and moderate-income Latino families, unveiled in March of 2010 Plaza Adelante, a “one-stop” center housing several community-based nonprofits, an in-house café, exhibits of work from local artists and a market that serves as a business incubator. The nonprofits housed in Plaza Adelante provide a wide range of services including technical assistance for microenterprises, homeownership counseling and foreclosure intervention, financial education, technology education and training, affordable financial products and services and tenant counseling.
Not only does Plaza Adelante provide a central location for low-income Latino and immigrant individuals and families to access critical services, it also offers a solid model for integrated service delivery and cost savings by pooling administrative resources and sharing space. This enables each organization to devote more resources to their programs and services. This method of collaboration also supports greater efficiency of nonprofit operations and maximizes benefits received by community residents in need of financial security.
El Mercadito, Plaza Adelante’s market and Mission Street retail business incubator is part of a larger program to develop businesses owned by low-income, Latino entrepreneurs. Although Plaza Adelante has been open since March, the grand opening of El Mercadito took place in late October. Entrepreneurs that secure a space in El Mercadito are contracted to operate in the space for up to five years, with the goal of growing enough in a minimum of three years to be able to secure their own space. MEDA assists businesses in this process by providing legal assistance and counseling.
The process for selecting the businesses for El Mercadito starts by participating in free business development classes on marketing, financing, management, and operations. Students in these classes are provided with one-on-one support in developing their business plans. Upon completing the classes and the business plans, participants engage in selling their plans to a panel of judges that selects occupants for El Mercadito.
Plaza Adelante is a great example of how merging nonprofit operations can go well beyond reducing administrative costs for organizations and also produce a bounty of benefits for communities served. innovation@cfed is particularly excited to highlight MEDA’s success in launching Plaza Adelante and El Mercadito as MEDA's Executive Director is innovation@cfed Strategic Advisor Luis Granados. In addition, one of the nonprofits housed in Plaza Adelante is Mission Asset Fund, which is directed by Innovative Idea Champion José Quiñonez.
To watch a video on El Mercadito’s grand opening, at which San Francisco City and County Treasurer Jose Cisneros was in attendance, click here.
Seeing is Believing
By Lauren Stebbins on 12/22/2010 @ 11:29 AM
At CFED’s 2010 Assets Learning Conference, Innovator-in-Residence Hilary Abell presented during the Worker-Owned Cooperatives conference session where she spoke about her work in leading the expansion of WAGES’ green housecleaning cooperatives in San Francisco and the East Bay, and the creation of a Co-op Network to support growth and sustainability of mature cooperatives.
WAGES celebrated its 15th anniversary in late October 2010 with a reception and dinner that featured testimonials from members of WAGES cooperatives, who are mostly Latina immigrant women. A brief video produced for one of these testimonials tells the story of Bertha Naranjo, a founder of and worker-owner in the Eco Care Professional Housecleaning Cooperative. The Levi Strauss Foundation also produced a short video on the work that WAGES does in developing and supporting green housecleaning, worker-owned cooperatives.
These videos highlight the drastic difference in income, benefits and assets earned by the worker-owners in the cooperatives compared to that earned through their previous jobs. They also show how the cooperatives enable members to develop valuable business management skills. The stories of the women featured in the videos are a powerful testament to the efficacy of the WAGES model and, more broadly, how economic opportunity and financial security pave the way for healthy lives and futures.
Happy holidays to all! The innovation@cfed blog is taking a brief hiatus and will be back the first week of the new year.
Unleashing Youth Entrepreneurship
By Lauren Stebbins on 12/16/2010 @ 01:53 PM
It’s never too early to develop an entrepreneurial interest and spirit. When we talk about entrepreneurs we often subconsciously refer to adults, but youth are more than capable of creating and sustaining businesses as well. Two organizations that help support and develop youth entrepreneurs, Ogallala Commons and YESCarolina, focus on tapping the energy and potential that lies in youth to transform their interests and values into successful enterprises.
Ogallala Commons, a nonprofit that works to foster a holistic approach to community socio-economic development in the rural Great Plains region centered over the High Plains-Ogallala Aquifer, views youth engagement as critical in helping the region’s overall development and vitality. Last month, the organization held its 4th Annual Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Fair. The purpose of the Fair is to encourage youth to pursue business ventures in their hometowns and connect them with an adult support system. Thirty-four teens presented their ideas with the teens associated with the three top-rated ideas receiving cash prizes.
Also last month, one week after the Fair, Ogallala Commons sponsored Campo Youth Engagement Day, a conference geared toward youth in Baca County, CO to promote youth leadership and community service as a means for being proactive in planning for the future. Ogallala Commons' executive director, Dr. Darryl Birkenfeld, gave a keynote speech through which he informed students about skill-building internships offered by Ogallala Commons and encouraged them to consider building their futures in their rural hometowns after completing their education.
YESCarolina, a nonprofit that focuses on developing youth entrepreneurs in South Carolina, trains educators from across the state to teach young people entrepreneurship skills. The only organization of its kind in the state, YESCarolina views youth entrepreneurship as essential to the future of South Carolina'sbusiness development.
YEScarolina has trained and certified over 500 South Carolina teachers on the subject of entrepreneurship. Through the training of these teachers and its Summer Business Camps, YESCarolina has helped thousands of students learn business development skills and start their own enterprises. YESCarolina recently released a new book, The Spirit of Outreach, which is a compilation of 20 stories of youth that have launched successful small businesses as a result of the knowledge and skills they gained through YESCarolina programs. The book is authored by the organization’s Founder and Executive Director Jimmy Bailey, who previously served three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1988 to 1994. The Spirit of Outreach is available to purchase through Amazon.com.
Registration Now Open for the 2011 Underbanked Financial Services Forum
By Lauren Stebbins on 12/10/2010 @ 12:57 PM
The 6th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum, presented by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, will be held from June 8-10, 2011 in New Orleans, LA. Pre-registration is now open and from now until December 31, you can receive a discount of $200 on the lowest conference rate.
The Underbanked Financial Services Forum brings together leaders and practitioners from financial institutions, government agencies and nonprofits to explore cutting-edge innovations in financial products and services designed for underbanked consumers and also new and emerging strategies for helping underbanked consumers improve their financial health and move further into the economic mainstream. For information on last year’s forum including highlights and the agenda and to register for the 2011 forum, click here.
Good News for Small Businesses
By Lauren Stebbins on 12/07/2010 @ 03:33 PM
Last week, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that M&T Bank has launched its Built for Business Program, which is targeted specifically to small businesses making less than $1 million in annual sales. The Built for Business Program includes discounts on financial services and products such as credit-card processing and business checking and (drum roll) an expanded microloan program that makes available no-fee lines of credit totaling between $25,000 and $250,000. M&T has instituted this program in Baltimore and its other mid-Atlantic markets.
The expansion of M&T’s microloan program is no doubt great news for small-business entrepreneurs that are struggling to obtain growth or start-up capital. The articles notes how that is increasingly difficult for these entrepreneurs in this tough economic climate where it is hard to obtain home equity loans because of falling property values and to use credit cards because of cuts in spending limits. With this being the context surrounding the availability of business growth or start-up capital for small businesses, the importance of additional affordable options to obtain credit cannot be understated given the crucial role these businesses often play in driving community economic development and employment.
As I read about the Built for Business Program, I couldn’t help but to be reminded of a post I wrote in early November about the success of a small dollar loan program in Baltimore. M&T’s program is not limited to Baltimore, but two things came to mind:
- The parallel between the significant positive impact low-income people and small businesses receive from affordable financial products and services better tailored to their needs
- That fact that programs offering these products and services have been established or brought to Baltimore, a city that had experienced a long period of economic decline and has sizable population of low-income residents and thus definitely can benefit from the availability of these programs
As these programs continue to be offered and hopefully grow, it will be exciting to see what I optimistically predict to be the positive effects and impacts they may have on more individuals and whole communities.
Don’t Miss This Opportunity!
By Lauren Stebbins on 12/03/2010 @ 02:51 PM
Next year’s Opportunity Collaboration, a four-day problem-solving, strategic retreat for nonprofit and for-profit leaders and social entrepreneurs working in the fields of poverty alleviation and economic justice, is scheduled to be held October 17-20, 2011 in Ixtapa, Mexico. Applications for Opportunity Collaboration delegates are now being accepted and there are fellowship spots available!
Specifically, Opportunity Collaboration offers the Cordes Fellowship to innovative and effective entrepreneurial nonprofit and for-profit executives with a demonstrated commitment to poverty alleviation and economic justice. In addition to participating in all parts of the Opportunity Collaboration retreat, Cordes Fellows attend a special networking breakfast on the first day of the retreat and participate in the University of the Pacific Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship training program.
The Fellowship covers all on-site costs of attending the Opportunity Collaboration. As such, financial need is a primary consideration when reviewing applications for the Cordes Fellowship. Applicants from both nonprofit and for-profit organizations with adequate resources are less likely to be selected for a Fellowship.
Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis and are being accepted only through January 30, 2011 so apply soon! For detailed information about eligibility requirements for the Cordes Fellowship, the retreat agenda, and other pertinent information regarding Opportunity Collaboration, click here.
A Glimpse into the Future
By Lauren Stebbins on 12/01/2010 @ 11:09 AM
On November 18, PBS aired a special “Fixing the Future,” which featured innovative initiatives happening across the United States that are achieving positive social and economic change and present viable solutions for creating a more economically and environmentally sustainable future for the country.
This special included two segments on worker-owned cooperatives, one of which was the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative in Cleveland, OH – a collaboration between the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center and the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland, which is led by Innovative Idea Champion Ted Howard. This segment featured portions of host David Banaccio’s interview with Howard and an inside look at one of the three Evergreen co-ops, Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, including an interview with the co-op’s Operations Manager, Mendrick Addison. The segment highlights the multi-faceted mission of the Evergreen initiative, which is that in addition to providing an opportunity for stable employment and asset-building for underserved residents of Cleveland, the co-ops are the core component of a broader economic development strategy for the whole city.
To watch the segment on the Evergreen initiative and other segments comprising the “Fixing the Future” special, click here.
Ride the Wave: Innovations in Native Financial Education and Entrepreneurship
By Lauren Stebbins on 11/24/2010 @ 10:36 AM
Four Bands Community Fund, one of the nation’s leading Native CDFIs, set out to challenge the entire Cheyenne River Indian Reservation community to engage in learning and promoting key tenets of financial literacy and entrepreneurship through the launch of its Making Waves Campaign. The campaign is a major initiative to create economic opportunity and spur business development for the current and future generations of the Lakota Tribe. Four Bands works with schools and community organizations on the reservation to actively promote and teach members of the Tribe, especially children and youth, the guiding principles, or the “ABCs,” of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. In its work with the schools, Four Bands created Making Waves Teacher Tool Kits for teachers of grades Kindergarten through 12 that contain lessons on financial literacy and entrepreneurship designed to build the teachers’ own financial literacy skills as well as complement the four core subjects of the school curriculum (math, science, language arts/reading, social studies).
Making Waves has delivered these tool kits to teachers throughout the reservation, and is now able to offer them to teachers in other communities. Adding to this success, Mark Peacock, a local entrepreneur and business and financial education trainer with Four Bands’ Making Waves Teacher Institutes and C.R.E.A.T.E. (Cheyenne River Entrepreneurial Assistance Training and Education) classes, will soon be releasing a new motivational book on effective approaches for teaching financial education.
In moving forward with the Making Waves Campaign, Four Bands is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead to make an even bigger impact on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation and other communities interested in their model.
For more information about the Making Waves Teacher Tool Kits or Mark Peacock’s upcoming book, contact Tanya Fiddler, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s Awards Season, Part 2…
By Lauren Stebbins on 11/23/2010 @ 09:32 AM
This past summer, Bank of the West launched its Philanthropy Awards to recognize nonprofit organizations in California that are achieving significant social and economic impact in their local communities, particularly underserved populations. Earlier this month, Innovative Idea Champion José Quiñonez’s organization, Mission Asset Fund (MAF), received the top award for the Innovation in Philanthropy category, which recognizes “an emerging nonprofit organization that is directly improving the quality of life for individuals and catalyzing greater systemic change.” MAF has developed innovative financial products and services that enable members of immigrant communities in the Bay Area to build assets and credit by tailoring these products and services to cultural traditions and practices.
In addition to a $15,000 cash grant, Bank of the West awarded MAF and the recipients of the Community Impact and Team Member Commitment award categories with a short video highlighting their outstanding work. To watch the video featuring the Mission Asset Fund, click here!
innovation@cfed congratulates José and MAF on this fantastic recognition!
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