Reflection on Credit Builders Alliance Symposium 2019

Reflection on Credit Builders Alliance Symposium 2019

Credit Builders Alliance Symposium 2019

Guest blog by Mario Gutierrez. Reposted from the blog, More Outcomes.

The Value of Credit. We all know that credit is a make-or-break for many of our clients. Beyond the financing costs of living off borrowed money, it’s the difference between which neighborhoods you live in, which school you go to, which life you get to experience.

I had the privilege of once again attending the Credit Builders Alliance 6th Annual Symposium. Like years before, there great speakers, fascinating discussions, and passionate people looking for effective ways to serve clients.

This year’s theme was focused on highlighting the impact credit has on opportunities for individuals, families, and small businesses, and on how nonprofits can create, promote, and measure this impact.

Below are some of the things that stood out to me.

Nonprofits need to evolve

I really took to heart the presentation by Joseph Antolin, the Executive Director of the Asset Funders Network. He was the featured speaker charged with sharing trends in philanthropy. And one of his messages was clear to me, that social service organizations need to evolve in order to have the impact we truly desire.

As an adherent to continuous improvement, I am almost always on the lookout for ways to strengthen what I and my team bring to the table. Antolin argues that nonprofits need to focus on identifying collaborators and establish and/or join ecosystems to better serve clients.

I see this daily. I run financial counseling programs that are embedded in workplace development services, colleges, and legal settings and our best work tends to happen when a cross-service (and cross-sectoral for some) approach is in place, kicking in high-gear. There’s no doubt that there’s value in our stand-alone programs, but we tend to still branch out and establish relationships that will be beneficial to our clients. This is the ground-level to what Antolin is calling for and what I’ve heard from various funders. We need more formal ecosystems to lead clients to their highest potential.

He also pushed for better story-telling, which is something I am working on with my team. We’ve already established a story bank highlighting vignettes of successful interventions, but I want us to do better with capturing nuances, not being afraid of highlighting non-successes, and just plainly being better storytellers. All without falling into the trap of survivor porn.


The Promise of Rent Reporting

Perhaps in line with the need for innovation highlighted above, rent reporting on credit reports is really picking up steam. I sat in on a panel of stakeholders who are in the thick of rolling out various initiatives.

I was particularly surprised to hear how in one jurisdiction, the introduction of rent reporting actually strengthened the relationship between tenants and the Housing Authority! Another interesting development is the need for a solution, or at least the work-around, that will need to be established to protect tenants who withhold rent for repairs.

Lastly, it was announced during the panel as breaking news, that The Credit Access and Inclusion Act was reintroduced in the Senate – it had failed in previous congresses.

Self-disclosure – my organization is providing financial counseling as a wrap-around service for clients who have the option of opting in to report rent on their reports. We just began the project and I look forward to exploring more the intersection between financial counseling and rent reporting.


Lightning Round

To ensure this post isn’t too long I’m going to provide some one-liners on other interesting items:

Common Cents Lab
I love, love these folks. Fundamental attribution bias, default bias, friction costs, social norms and more! They shared some lessons on the 56 field experiments they have performed over the past 3 years.

Credit tips

  • Woah, to me not knowing that the best utilization ratio percentage is 1-6%. This is a great added nuance to the general stay under 30% utilization.
  • Some lenders are pushing back on Experian Boost

Empowerment Economics
I must admit to feeling embarrassed for not putting much deep thought into culturally sensitive programs.

The big takeaway is that the culturally sensitive program approach differs from traditional financial empowerment approaches in that it is less centered on the individual and hones in more on family and community. I look forward to following the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD) and the Hawaiian Community Assets who are leading the conversation in this space. Check out their Empowerment Economics logic model!

As expected, another insightful and informative symposium. I really enjoyed the theme, the discussions, and the camaraderie.


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