A key lesson from the past 14 years is that improving people’s financial security has to do with much more than their personal financial choices. In most cases, it has everything to do with their civic lives.
Here’s the thing — Financial security is intimately linked with the political winds and economic structures that keep many of the people we serve in the shadows and at the margins of society.
For some clients, it’s also about the barriers immigrants in this country face when opening a bank account or asking for fair pay. For others, it’s about the way they’re judged and treated based on the amount of money they have. On a day to day basis, across all clients, we see that political realities and cultural narratives impact their financial lives in real and everyday ways.
Nothing makes this more evident than the federal government’s response to COVID-19. There are millions of immigrants who pay into the U.S. tax system and contribute to communities in meaningful ways. Yet, many of them were shut out of the CARES Act. This is a prime example of how current unjust political systems fail to recognize the intrinsic value in us all.
MAF’s direct programs and services anchor the mobilization work that we’re leading. As long-time believers that low-income and immigrant communities are the experts in and advocates of their own lives, we’re listening to them.
They’re frustrated with a national discourse that actively denies their humanity, a system of institutional racism that perpetuates a cycle of poverty, and exclusionary immigration policies that block people’s access to essential services and opportunities that they deserve.
What’s become clear more and more every day is the urgent need for change. And people – the true experts – need to be at the front and center of it.
That’s why we’re re-committing ourselves to our community-centered approach by intentionally adding mobilization as a growing body of work. By doing so, we’ll dedicate more of our energy to thoughtfully design actionable tools, resources, and campaigns that place people at the forefront of change and mobilizes them to take civic action.
In true MAF fashion, our values guide us. We’re building on our programs and services by keeping engagement at the heart of our work. We’re harnessing the power of communities by uplifting their voices and lived experiences as a force for change. We’re also continuing to work in collaboration with other advocates across the country who share our goals of empowering communities through civic engagement.
What we know is that communities are powerful. What they have to say matters and people are their best self-advocates.
We want to help people get loud about the issues relevant to their lives by empowering them to become civically engaged. And our work has already begun. In the last few months, we’ve designed and tested technology to help low-income and immigrant communities participate in the census. Soon we’ll be unveiling a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign to help facilitate an ongoing conversation with clients about how they can take action on the issues most pressing to their lives.
Alongside the low-income and immigrant communities we serve, MAF is re-imagining a world where we celebrate everyone’s strengths, and political systems treat us all with an equal amount of respect and dignity. A world where dominant narratives match our realities, and we can all reach our full economic and civic potential.
There’s a lot of work ahead to create an equitable system that recognizes, uplifts and empowers the inherent strength of all people. Stay tuned for more about our growing body of work and join us so that together we can mobilize communities across the country towards civic engagement.