Sunday, October 6, 2013

"It Takes a Village"

Again, a long hiatus between posts. I certainly did not expect that it would take this long to make good on the promise in my last post to write about the development of Banker Corps—now called Impact Corps—a platform for student-led microfinance organizations to bring financial services to low-income communities. The first such organization is being launched in Stockton California. Stockton Impact Corps is the result of a yearlong study conducted by students at the University of the Pacific’s Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship that documented the needs of the low-income community in Stockton for financial services.

Unsurprisingly, the students discovered through their research that there are no easy answers to the myriad challenges facing low and even moderate-income citizens in our highly competitive, market driven economy. In fact, they discovered that it literally “takes a village” to have even a hope of creating meaningful opportunities for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. They found a number of local groups working on various aspects of the problem but none that provides a comprehensive program resulting in tangible financial services such as reasonably priced credit.

Stockton Impact Corps aims to fill that gap. By working collaboratively with other community based organizations and stakeholders in mobilizing community resources for creating economic opportunity in Stockton, students from the University of the Pacific and Delta Community College will be developing their own skill sets while creating meaningful impact on the financial and social issues facing the Stockton community. Stockton Impact Corps aims to achieve the following outcomes:

1. New small businesses will be able to access the needed capital to begin or expand operations;
2. Small business owners will be able to sustain their operations through an elevated level of financial literacy and business know-how;
3. Clients will gain greater access to traditional financial services; and
4. University of the Pacific and Delta College students, through collaboration with other local community based organizations, will acquire a greater understanding of the issues confronting the low-income community and how they can assist in increasing financial inclusion and economic activity.

Another facet of the original vision of Banker Corps, training for students who aspire to work in the community with low-income entrepreneurs, is also being implemented with the launch of Stockton Impact Corps. A comprehensive program covering areas such as presentation skills, personal finance, basic accounting, marketing, business plan development, credit analysis and loan processing is an integral part of Stockton Impact Corps.

Although the incubation period has been much longer than I anticipated, Impact Corps is emerging from a deliberate and collaborative process that, I hope, augers well for its success. Banker Corps’ original vision remains well embedded in the vision for Impact Corps and that includes a future mechanism for leveraging the donor bases of the Impact Corps entities by providing social impact investors with a reliable way to invest in Impact Corps assets.

But more on that in a future post. Banking on the Poor is proud to support the Lend For America annual Summit in Philadelphia next week and to help introduce Stockton Impact Corps to the greater community of student-led microfinance organizations.

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