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The Lab brings together MAF’s strengths as a direct service nonprofit, a financial services provider, a data-driven tech organization, and a force of social innovation.

The practice of listening is a core principle behind design thinking – a process that ensures that we are addressing users’ needs, building on their strengths, and creating products that will have real impact for people. MAF has taken the principles of design thinking and placed it at the center of meeting people where they are.

The Lab is MAF’s research and development team

An innovation unit within MAF to build better programs and products to meet the needs of the communities we serve. We have a strong track record of employing best practices in research and design, and serve as a model for other practitioners in the field (to replicate) and tech firms (user-centered design for marginalized communities).

MAF Lab Goals

  • Understand & Discover

    • Practices, relationships, and resources of our communities

    • Pressing unmet needs of our communities
  • Improve & Build

    • Improving relevance and usability of programs and products to meet users’ needs

    • Expanding types of financial needs supported through MAF’s programs and products
  • Share

    • Research, experiences, and insights with other organizations

    • Research, design process, and technology services to practitioners and supporters

Our process built on MAF’s values

The Lab’s R&D process focuses on empathy and engagement to build products for members of communities who are left behind. The typical process looks like this:


Our research and publications shine a light on our clients’ financial journeys and strategies, and use these insights to drive our pursuit of more equitable financial mainstream.


We co-create with our community. As a direct services provider, we involve members of the community into every step of our product development process. We seek to authentically represent our community in our designs.


We build our technology to scale quickly and to prioritize our clients’ privacy.

The strength of the MAF R&D Lab comes from the trust we’ve built with clients. It’s trust that encourages them to open up about their dreams and fears. The Lab preserve that trust by grounding our work in MAF’s values of respecting and empowering our clients.

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