Aug 19 '20

New Filene Project Focuses on Impact of Community Development Practices in Financial Services

Credit unions positioned to be leaders in the national conversation about financial wellbeing and equality.

Filene Research Institute’s Center of Excellence for Community Social Impact will conduct applied research to expand the knowledge and practice of social impact among credit unions. The outcomes of this project will enable credit unions with information and resources needed to develop a strategic advantage in the communities they serve and become a catalyst for transformative community change.

Consumers’ financial capabilities and economic prospects are increasingly constrained by structural challenges that cannot be resolved with solutions that target individuals. Current public health, economic and social injustice crises further add to a growing body of research demonstrating that social impact is an increasingly important factor by which consumers decide the brands they want to engage.

This applied research project will document, index, and test social impact activities in the consumer finance industry with the goal of identifying models that leverage financial services to enable positive social impact and community transformation.

“Credit unions are a small but mighty player in consumer financial services, holding firm to their mission of serving the needs of their communities—especially for those most vulnerable within them,” said Filene’s EVP + Chief Research and Development Officer George Hofheimer. “But there is a gap between recognizing the value of social impact strategies and actually implementing them. Therefore, this applied research project will document, index, and test social impact activities in the consumer finance industry with the goal of identifying models that leverage financial services to enable positive social impact and community transformation.”

Work conducted throughout this five-year project will be done in collaboration with an advisory council of credit union leaders and a dedicated research fellow to focus on:

  • Identifying proven factors that successfully fight the root causes of poverty and inequality impacting individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities.
  • Establishing longitudinal research to identify and track proven programs and agencies that enable social impact in the consumer finance industry and drive household and community financial wellbeing.
  • Creating and testing a social impact playbook to demonstrate the links between community development initiatives and positive business and consumer outcomes.
  • Building partnerships with local governments, schools, hospitals, community and nonprofit organizations to translate financial services into physical and social wellness and improved quality of life.

Generous support for the Center for Community Social Impact is provided by Callahan & Associates (Washington), Redwood Credit Union (Santa Rosa, Calif.), Summit Credit Union (Madison, Wis.) and WSECU (Olympia, Wash.).

“Callahan and Filene have very similar missions and values,” said Callahan & Associates CEO, Jon Jeffreys. “We both are passionately committed to advancing the credit union industry through insight, data, and resources needed to best serve members and improve the wellbeing of both members and the communities they serve. We’re excited that our sponsorship of the Center of Excellence for Community Social Impact will help move that commitment forward, especially in a time of public health and economic uncertainty for many Americans.”

Credit unions and system partners have an opportunity to get involved as part of Filene’s Inner Circle by sponsoring Community Social Impact or any other Center of Excellence, much like these strategic partner organizations already have.

The Center of Excellence for Community Social Impact will officially launch in October 2020.