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Tag: Behind the Scenes

Diving Deep into Member Culture

In an effort to better understand our member culture, the staff decided to take time to learn about the upcoming holiday, El Dia de los Muertos.

Here at MAF, we feel it is important for us to connect with our members on a deeper level. In gaining a better understanding of where they are coming from, we can help them better reach their goals. With a majority of our members being of Latin American descent, we felt there was no better way to strengthen this connection than to celebrate one of the most loved holidays of that region: El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The holiday is practiced in many Latin American countries and most festively celebrated in Mexico.

I had learned about the holiday in grade school but upon doing research for a staff presentation, I learned so much more. The reasoning behind the occasion was really great, beautiful even.

The thought behind those who celebrate the holiday is that death is only another part of life and shouldn’t be mourned but celebrated as your loved ones have in a sense graduated from this stage in life to the next. El Dia de los Muertos is the one day a year that our loved ones are allowed to return from their eternal slumber and spend time to celebrate the reunion with their living loved ones. Much of the decor may be seen as morbid or macabre to those unfamiliar with the holiday with the skulls, skeletons, alters, and cemetery visits, but this is due to a difference in cultural understanding.

We wanted our office’s Dia de los Muertos decorations to be as authentic as possible so we visited a store in the heart of the Mission District called Casa Bonampak, which ships its products from Mexico. We special ordered Papel Picado from Mexico, a traditional decorative streamer used for all types of festive celebrations. It included the MAF symbol and was made with the traditional chisels. Tracie, one of the store’s employees was able to assist in gathering the appropriate decorations for the occasion.

One of the most notable aspects of El Dia de los Muertos is the sugar skulls. We decided to buy blank skulls from the store and have the MAF staff decorate them. They were made in Mexico by a man who used clay molds that had been handed down to him for many generations. Before we began decorating, I gave a brief presentation on the holiday to the entire staff, so that everyone would have a better understanding of what the decorations meant.

The sugar skulls are representative of the loved one they are gifted to and the size of them is meant to represent the age of that person. The traditional way of decorating the sugar skulls, or calaveras de azucar, is not easy, and we learned that the hard way! Putting in the effort of decorating the skull shows dedication to the person you are gifting it to, whether that person is alive or has passed.

The skeletons, or clacas, are always seen as whimsical by families rather than sad. They are meant to represent the spirits that are happy to be able to see their loved ones again. As someone with a few relatives who have passed, I admire the idea of thinking happily of them, rather than mourning them.

Families also create altars where they leave offerings of food and gifts from the living in order to feed the spirits after their long journey from death to the world of the living. My favorite tradition is placing marigolds all over the altars and grave stones, sometimes leading from the cemeteries to homes. The sweet smell is said to be strong enough to bring the spirits back and they can follow the smell to the homes of their living loved ones.

The whimsy, joy, and love displayed on this holiday is really something to be appreciated. Our office completely transformed once we finished putting up all the decorations. The hope is to create a positive and trusting environment for our members in every Lending Circle formation, financial management training class and every conversation they have with our staff. Making these reflections enables us to see the role MAF plays in the long arc of each member’s life as we acknowledge and celebrate their past while also watching them build their own brighter futures.

Financial Pride through Lending Circles

Find out how MAF & the San Francisco LGBT center have allied themselves to help all families gain financial stability to thrive.

The San Francisco LGBT Center, as part of it’s 7th annual bi-coastal LGBT Economic Justice Week, awarded three exemplary community members and one community organization for their work in ensuring the economic stability, and mobility of the LGBT community.

MAF was honored to be chosen as the winner of this year’s Ally Award.

MAF has been talked about a lot lately. We’ve been recognized by various groups in many ways for the work that we do. The national recognition has been tremendous, but accepting the Ally Award at the LGBT Center on behalf of MAF was a particularly special moment for me.

Bank of the West representative Justin Knepper presented the award with the following introduction, “The partnership between MAF and the Center has served as a crucial resource for the local LGBTQ community, granting clients access to secure, affordable and socially responsible capital – opening doors that previously were far too often slammed shut. Participation in a MAF-powered Lending Circle at the LGBT Center has helped more than 150 clients to save money, develop their credit histories, boost their credit scores, and improve their overall financial health.”

For seven years the San Francisco LGBT Center has been creating visibility around the financial shadows that many LGBT people find themselves in.

In San Francisco alone less than 50% of economically stable LGBT couples own property. LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to find themselves homeless or in a state of economic uncertainty. We’ve worked with many LGBT couples who have been living in the financial shadows. I shared the story of Edgar and Gustavo, a couple who experience financial instability because they are undocumented and LGBT.

For me, standing on this stage with Celve Jones, Miss Major, and Dr. Kortney Zeigler, people who have fought hard for their communities, and have become icons of movement building and empowerment is an honor. Just being mentioned with these amazing community leaders is a testament to how Lending Circles are building bridges toward brighter futures for communities across the nation.

MAF will continue to work closely with the LGBT Center, to be an ally to all families, no matter what form they take. MAF will continue to bring our voice to highlight the issues of financial invisibility and uncertainty among the LGBT community. MAF will continue to help all communities out of the financial shadows and create pathways toward the financial mainstream.

We want to help everyone move past just surviving, we want to see them thrive. The stronger our families are, the stronger our communities become.

MAF Presents at Dreamforce

A conversation with MAF’s Product and Research Manager, Jeremy Jacob, offers a behind the scenes look at Dreamforce 2014

MAF has had a very long and successful history with Salesforce, both as a community and financial partner, so we were excited to participate in several presentations at this year’s Dreamforce conference. One of our sessions was incredibly special, because we gave a first ever public look at our new Salesforce-based Social Loan Platform.

Without Salesforce, we would not have been able to create the Social Loan Platform that creates easy access for Lending Circle clients, and streamlined Lending Circle management for our partners. Salesforce is an integral part of MAF’s network approach to scale.

We wanted to take some time after our busy schedule at Dreamforce to talk to one of the people behind this amazing, unique platform to learn a little more about how this magnificent piece of technology was forged.

After the Dreamforce dust settled we took a moment to sit down with Jeremy Jacob, our Product and Research Manager, to pick his brains about the new Social Loan Platform and how we turned an idea into reality.

How did we first get started with Salesforce?

Back in 2007, MAF was granted 10 free licenses to what, at the time, was a rapidly growing CRM company. The grant was part of this company’s 1:1:1 philanthropy plan of donating 1% of its product, 1% of its equity, and 1% of its time. Early on we saw the potential of this system as not only an internal tool, but rather as an entire platform for our programs. Little did we know at the time that the decision to start using Salesforce on day one would lead us down the path that we’re on today.

While we had been building out our original system, MAF 1.0, Salesforce had also been building out their product. What had started out as a customer management tool had rapidly begun much more than that. It had become a platform that easily allow any organization or business to create customized products and systems with an incredible degree of flexibility and efficacy. So when we started to think abou the next step for MAF, we knew exactly where to look first.

Why did we choose Salesforce as the core of MAF 2.0?

We had several requirements for the next version of MAF’s loan servicing platform. #1 was that it had to be much more than just a loan servicing platform! We needed to build a system that would allow us to efficiently bring Lending Circles to communities across the country. One that would enable us to serve clients from the moment they hear about Lending Circles until the last day of their loan. And one that would be so intuitive that any staff at our partner providers could organize a Lending Circle.

The increadile flexiblity of the platform allowed us to build a product that was intuitive and effortless for all users, from our clients, to our partner providers, to our own internal staff. By building off of the platform, we were able to use a combination of out-of-the box solutions and components, including Conga, Docusign and Cloud Lending’s NEON product, to build a system that would allow us to easily service hundreds of highly customizable social loans a month.

What does the new system allow us to do?

As I said earlier, we needed this system to do more than just service social loans, we had already developed one of those. We wanted a build a system that encompassed all facets of the loan process.

Our new hub for all things Lending Circles,, allows prospective Lending Circle clients to locate a Lending Circle provider in their area on their PC, mobile phone, or tablet and then submit an application. By utilizing Docusign, Clicktools, Conga Composer and Everfi, we’re able to offer online financial education along with a paper-free enrollment process.

Once an applicant applies, the Community Cloud allowed us to easily set up a one stop shop where our partner providers can manage applicants and form Lending Circles. By utilizing VisualForce pages we’re able to create an intuitive and accessible way for any partner providers to easily form Lending Circles and manage their loan portfolios.

Using Salesforce also allows us to streamline our other business processes, from marketing to financial accounting, enabling our internal teams to work more efficiently. This will allow us to bring Lending Circles to more and more clients and partners across the country at the lowest cost possible.

By choosing to build our social loan platform with Salesforce, we were able to build a system that brings Lending Circles to to communities across the country, in turn helping to create a fair financial marketplace for all hardworking families.

Lesson Earned #1: MAF Moves Pretty Fast

Join me as I strive to earn 11 lessons through my contributions to MAF

Check in each month to get a better picture of life here at MAF through the eyes of a recent grad looking to discover her next career step!

MAF moves pretty fast: If you don’t stop and contribute once and a while, you might miss it.

I’m a big fan of comedies. And John Hughes. So on my first day when everyone kept telling me “things move pretty fast around here,” I immediately thought of Ferris Bueller.

Though I’ve only been at MAF for a couple of weeks, I can see how true this statement really is. From Day 1, I was “thrown into the fire”. I sat in on my first set of meetings anticipating I was meant to take on an “observatory” role.

But at MAF there’s no time to just sit back and watch. By the time we’ve come up with an idea, we’ve already analyzed how to improve it and are in the midst of implementing the new plan.

Following the MAF tradition, Aparna (another New Sector Fellow), and I carved out time to meet with every member of the MAF staff. These one-on-ones began as purely informational – how do certain programs work? who are our partners? – and soon morphed into full-fledged brainstorming sessions.

I began to envision the larger picture, examining how the different departments at MAF connected and found myself seeking ways that I could bolster their communications.

It was my first task, and a very simple one at that, but my goal changed so suddenly and organically. What at once seemed like a very passive activity turned into my first project proposal – all within just two days of being here.

For any newcomer, especially a new fresh-off-the-grid grad like myself, the thought of coming in and making a new proposal outside your project’s scope seems like a terrifying get-you-fired-pronto strategy. But at MAF, it’s not just natural; it’s vital.

As a relatively new company MAF operates like a startup in many ways, meaning there are areas in which there is no rubric for success. After all, we’re attempting to tackle the otherwise unaddressed issue of bringing the unbanked out of the shadows;  there is no beaten path to follow.

Some can see this as worrisome, and it certainly is for me sometimes. Not always knowing the direction in which you should be heading can seem like a daunting task. Yet it’s also very comforting. Without strict processes to spend time understanding, I can inject my own ideas quickly and without question.

At MAF, the answers to the difficult problem we are trying to solve are unclear, but the need to answer them great. 

In such a case, hesitation can inhibit. Often times the longer I sit on an idea, the longer it takes me to follow through with it. Once I do, the moment has passed and the solution is obsolete. Thus the need to constantly be moving makes us better employees, better thinkers and better people. The ultimate reward, though, is an instantaneous unity that inevitably arises from partaking in this mentality.

By contributing in out-of-the-box ways and with out-of-the-box thinking, I unknowingly became part of the team and one with the culture. This mindset is what makes MAF tick and if you don’t jump on board fast, you’ll miss the ride.

SPUR of the moment

MAF explores the connection between urban planning and financial access.

It’s mid afternoon on an exceptionally warm summer day in San Francisco as people begin to file into a sun-drenched room at SPUR’s offices on Mission and 2nd Street waiting to hear about creating a new path to financial empowerment. Unlike the usual groups of people (banks, tech companies, nonprofits, asset-builders) who usually come to hear Jose talk about MAF, all of the people in this room are urban planners.

These are the people who work to make the city’s streets navigable, the buildings impressive and unobtrusive, the parks green and inviting, and the traffic flowing smoothly. So why would urban planners – people who are interested in the tangible aspects of city planning –  be interested in financial empowerment? Simply put, a strong vibrant city needs an economically empowered base.

A city is like a living organism; when its residents get stronger, the entire city gets stronger.

Jose started with talking about how important economic empowerment is for creating a sustainable urban environment. It’s not an argument we often talk about because we’re usually in a different sort of crowd. So we weren’t entirely sure how this would go over, but to our surprise the crowd was in full agreement.

We used this opportunity to dig deeper into the meaning of financial empowerment and its immediate impacts upon communities and cities. We talked about innovative approaches to creating financially empowered communities that no longer have to resort to subsisting on payday loans and other high cost debt.

One of the SPUR members asked, “I’d love to see an effort made to make credit unions feel more accessible… by emulating Check Cashing stores.” Jose replied, “ While on the surface that may seem like a constructive idea, to create a familiar space for individuals. Emulating pay day lenders would encourage and reinforce the cycle of debt as well as the subsistence patterns that we are trying to move people away from.”

By emulating a pay day lender, we are not modeling positive financial behaviors. We want to move people from those groups towards lower cost, mainstream financial services.

It was at this point the crowd fully understood what MAF was about. When we meet people where they are, we recognize the financial aptitude of our members as well as how they navigate the financial pain points of their lives.

We see the financial savviness they have developed and we use it to transform them. For us, neither subsistence nor replacement is the goal. We don’t want to replace a broken system with another system. We want to move our members to a functional and formalized pattern of saving, investing, and credit building.

Economic planning goes hand-in-hand with the financial stability of an entire city. That’s just as important as creating bike lanes that are wide enough or buildings that are up to code. It’s about taking a longer view of sustainability of a city, its culture, and the quality of life for everyone. Urban planning does not end with the sidewalk; it begins with the people who use that sidewalk.

SB896: One signature away from history

After months of movement through the California Senate SB 896 has officially been sent to the Governor for final approval.

Mission Asset Fund is thrilled to announce that as of this morning, after more than a year of movement through the California legislative process, we are a single pen stroke away from SB896 becoming law.

MAF was sent notification that SB896 has moved through the engrossment process and is now on it’s way to Governor Brown’s desk to receive final approval!

We want to thank everyone who has been involved in this long, intricate process. Through your support, we are only one signature away from creating a new and better lending space for hardworking families that supports sustainable scaling and collaboration between micro-lenders statewide.

Now we need to make sure that SB896 gets signed! We sent a letter to Governor Brown yesterday afternoon to ask him to finalize this legislation. Read the letter below.

August 4, 2014
The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Governor, State of California  

RE: SB896 (Correa)

Dear Governor Brown,

On behalf of Mission Asset Fund, we respectfully request that you remove unnecessary barriers to the financial mainstream by signing SB896 into law.

SB896 has overwhelming support from public leaders, nonprofit organizations and policy advocates across the state for its potential to create new opportunities for culturally relevant financial products and services to help low-income Californians realize their true economic potential.

Close to 1 million California families are in the financial shadows without access to the most basic mainstream financial products like checking or savings accounts. According to CFED, 57% of California consumers have subprime credit scores, making loans more costly and inaccessible to low-income families. Indeed, millions of Californians are forced to subsist on the financial fringes, struggling to access responsible financial tools to build their financial security.

SB896 would set a major precedent by recognizing and legitimizing the work in small-dollar lending and credit building fields. The bill will establish a licensing exemption within the California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) for nonprofit organizations like MAF that facilitating zero-interest loans and provide financial education.

In the past 6 years, MAF has facilitated over $3.0 million in social loans through the tested and proven Lending Circles Program, allowing thousands of clients to improve their credit scores and to have access low-cost loans. MAF serves clients directly in the San Francisco Bay Area and indirectly through partnerships with other nonprofit organizations statewide.

The enactment of SB896 will encourage more nonprofits to help financially underserved Californians. The bill will recognize efforts by nonprofits to network and collaborate together to lower the cost burdens of providing lending services in their own communities.

SB896 has gained widespread support from the following public leaders, organizations, and advocates:

Asian Law Alliance
CA State Controller, John Chiang
California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity
Californians for Shared Prosperity Coalition
Calexico Community Action Council, Inc.
Center for Asset Building Opportunities
Centro Latino for Literacy
Family Independence Initiative
National Council of La Raza
Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector City & County of San Francisco
Opportunity Fund
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California
Progreso Financiero
Salaami Firm
San Francisco City Supervisor, David Campos
The Greenlining Institute
Watts / Century Latino Organization

We are grateful for your leadership on this critical issue. SB 896 is a strong step forward in helping millions of Californians living in the financial shadows become visible and successful consumers.

Jose Quinonez, CEO

Forming a community with Lending Circles

When you join a Lending Circle, you aren’t just getting a simple loan.

It was a chilly July evening in the MAF office in San Francisco; a gentle wind carried the pleasant smells and sounds of the vibrant Mission District through the streets. Inside the brightly lit MAF office, Doris and Ximena were working to set up the room for one of our Lending Circle formations. In San Francisco the lights of the city were just starting to blink on, as families returned home; half a world away in Guatemala, families were returning to piles of rubble and ash that used to be their homes after a rather violent earthquake.

Emergencies have a tendency to strike when you aren’t expecting or ready for them, but with the support of a strong community even the biggest emergency is easier to deal with. Doris and Ximena welcomed guests to the formation that evening. There were many new and familiar faces in the room. The air filled with conversation, anticipation and a sense of apprehensive hope. For many people in the room, they had been promised miracle fixes and unbelievable opportunities to help them gain a stable financial foothold.

A lady in a neatly pressed, green blouse talked excitedly to the man in the white t-shirt next to her about how she was here to build her credit, and then use the money to help pay for a car. Two women across the room were giggling and chatting about their day like two old friends, even though these ladies had only been introduced to each other 20 minutes prior.

One woman sat in the front of the room, her red t-shirt picked up her rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes, a huge smile across her face.

She talked with the people around her, but chose to only say that she needed the money to help out her. The man in the white t-shirt said he too was there for his family. He was building his credit back up after his business had to close. Ximena and Doris quieted the room and began talking to the members about the formation process and how being a member of a Lending Circle worked. As they talked about the details of the process, the new people were busy taking notes, and the returning members were letting them know which pieces of information were of specific importance to their success in the Lending Circle program.

At the end of the informational session, Doris then asked the group what their needs were and how much money they were looking to get.

One voice said she needed to build savings and credit to buy a car at a good rate. Another person said he wanted to buy some new equipment for their business. Half the group requested a $2,000 loan, while the other half only needed a $1,000. When Ximena got to the woman in the red shirt, the woman stood up and looked at the members. She took a deep breath, her smile still soft and inviting on her face. She then told the group how she needed to get this money for her family in Guatemala. Recently, there was a terrible earthquake and her mother had been trapped inside the rubble that was once her home. Her mother had been rescued and was now safe and recovering from surgery, but once she recovers, she will have no home to go back to.

The woman in red talked about how when she was without a home, MAF had helped her find and pay for a safe, stable place for her and her two young children.

Now that same community was going to be able to give her mother a place to live after her emergency. She was grateful to know that there was always a place for her to come when she needed something, and she appreciated that there was always a community there to support her and her family. Doris and Ximena then disbanded the group for dinner, so that they could talk amongst themselves about what the loan payments would be and other terms of the loan. The returning members spoke to the new members, giving them tips on how to best use the Lending Circle. By the time dinner came to an end, everyone’s group had come to consensus about what their Lending Circle would look like. The $1,000 group came up and talked about what order people were going to be receiving the loans. They talked about the payments, and they also talked about how excited they were to start. When the $2,000 group stood up to talk, they had come to a decision as well.

After hearing about why the woman in red needed the money, they decided that she should be the first one to get it. She needed it far more urgently than anyone else in the group.

Once the meeting concluded, everyone started to file out of the MAF office into the crisp summer evening, all chatting and smiling. When you join a Lending Circle you aren’t JUST getting a loan, you are becoming part of a community that looks out for one another. A community is there for you whether you are looking to buy a car, build your credit, or get support when an emergency hits.

Delivering Lending Circles to The Mile High City

Find out what connects a lunchbox, social loans, and Denver, Colorado.

As I carried my Dad’s tiffin (A small metal Indian style lunch) box through the airport before boarding my flight to Denver, a TSA agent dutifully inspected what appears to be an unusual metal container.

Without a liquid or even a semi-liquid like hummus to cause alarm, all I could offer the TSA agent, as would be my grandmother’s practice whenever she is stopped by Customs officials, was my food and my charm.

Yet that slight delay actually created an intriguing moment of cross-cultural exchange.  I described the practice of millions of lunch boxes being delivered in Mumbai every day. Each Tiffin is filled with food made at by someone in their home and expertly delivered to hundreds of thousands of workers, by bicycle, without ever getting lost. A premise that lent itself to the polite love story of a new cross-over Bollywood movie “The Lunchbox”.

My experience, however, was more educational than romantic and perhaps foreshadowed what was to come with the upcoming presentation I was giving in Denver.  I got to share something new (my tiffin) by relating it to something familiar (the Lunch Box).

Colorado is new territory for MAF.

Chase graciously invited us to have them show us around, introduce us to people and sponsored MAF’s presentation so we could share our Lending Circles program with potential non-profit providers.

My colleague Tara and I presented in during the convening of the Clinton Global Initiative with about 25 non-profit professionals who came to hear how Lending Circles could complement their mission.

MAF working with new partners in Colorado makes a lot of sense to me.  Like San Francisco’s Mission District, it is often referred to as “up and coming”.  I experienced the thriving nightlife, where the streets were scattered with various food carts, selling delicious treats among old Jazz venues and new dance clubs.  I also read a story on Sunday in the Denver Post about micro-finance opportunities for recently arrived refugees and immigrants.

A conversation I had one evening in Denver with a college friend of my Dad’s from India made me even more determined to bring Lending Circles to Denver.

He told me about the rental shortage, a housing crisis similar to the one that’s gripping the Bay Area right now, coupled with a high number of foreclosures in his neighborhood.

These moments reminded me that with any progress, there’s inevitably some who are left behind. There are those who haven’t built up their credit to rent an apartment, who are strapped by making payments on their mortgage and don’t know how to choose the best financial product for them. MAF provides a solution to non-profits who are interested in building or expanding their programs to serve underbanked communities living in the financial shadows.

We are on a mission to expand our Lending Circles program across the country and boldly say that we will bring on 40 partners by 2015. MAF’s innovative Lending Circles Communities platform enables people to sign up for social loans through a mobile device, but it’s built on a time honored tradition of borrowing and lending money to each other.

Just like a lunch box, Lending Circles may look like a new kind of social loan, but it’s actually incredibly relevant and familiar to many communities.

Shifting the focus on finance: Interview with Sarah Peet

An insight into how Sarah Peet captures the essence of social lending and the people of Mission Asset Fund.

Sarah Peet is a passionate photographer who specializes in destination wedding photography and originally from Vermont. She captured the stories of our Lending Circles members and staff for our new website and we’re thrilled to share the story behind her great work!

What do you feel is the best way to approach storytelling through photography?

Having true compassion and interacting honestly with the subjects is a great way to share their stories. I feel it is best to know as much information about the people you are photographing before you take the images. It is nice to know their history and the emotions they are feeling.  I think making people feel comfortable with you always evokes genuine and telling images. Also really encouraging them to relax seems to be a good way to let them forget they are being photographed. This allows their natural selves to come through in the image. Shooting photos in spaces that are personal to the subject seems to convey the story of their lives by showing all the little details in their world. The emotion can be conveyed through their expressions as well as the activity being performed by the subject.

Sarah Peet

What is your process like when you begin a new project?

Working on projects gives me a chance to hear people’s personal stories and then to document them through images. I research the history of a company, person, organization, etc. and find out as many details as I can about the story that I am capturing with images. I spend time scouting the location for good settings for the subject to be photographed in and for the lighting conditions. I try to scout as close to the time of day I’ll be taking photos, so I know if natural light will work best, or if additional lighting will be required. I love meeting new people and hearing the details of their lives, I am naturally inquisitive.

Economic and social justice are two important values at Mission Asset Fund. How are you able to capture those concepts on film & was it difficult?

Economic and social justice are values prevalent in all of the images I’ve taken with MAF.  I have taken photos of people facilitating and being a part of a Lending Circle – which gives people financial opportunities they otherwise would not have had. I have documented growing business that were supported by MAF and have facilitated safe living conditions, higher education, healthier food, and many other successes. Many people have thrived and risen above poverty and difficulty because of the great support system MAF provides. It’s been great to hear about people’s success because they used photographs I have taken to build their own website, which helped their company expand and grow. I documented the happiness and proud moments which convey the concepts of economic and social justice such as a proud chef standing in her own restaurant or in front of her independent food cart or in her own home away from an abusive past.

What was your favorite photo from your time with us and what was the story behind it?

I’ve really enjoyed knowing Alicia’s story (of Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas). She is such a kind, loving and warm person. I like the photos of her looking proud and standing in front of her own independent food cart. She has worked really hard and is also so appreciative of all the support of MAF and those around her. Veronica of El Huarache Loco also has a very successful business and I loved documenting her in her kitchen of her own restaurant. I also loved seeing the spread with all of the DREAMers. It is nice to see a collage of so many faces of all different ages assisted by MAF.

What was the favorite thing you learned during the process with MAF?

I have loved hearing the sweet success stories that have come out of working with MAF.  There is so much abuse, negativity and struggle in the world, so it has been really nice to focus on moments of joy, support, love and assistance for people that are working hard to succeed.  It has been nice to hear how people have been able to change their living conditions for the better through their connection with such a great organization.

Jonathan D’Souza is the Marketing Manager at Mission Asset Fund and he loves to talk to talk to people about the importance of credit building while showing them too many photos of his dog Phoenix. You can reach him at

MAF’s Emerging in LA

MAF is setting the stage for the future of Social Lending

I recently started working at MAF and before I got in the door, Daniela, our COO, asked me if I wanted to attend a conference in LA. My reply was an emphatic yes! I’d only been to L.A once, so I looked forward to learning more about MAF’s work in L.A. communities and the great city. Before I knew what was going on, my colleagues, Mohan, Nesima and I were bleary eyed and on a commuter flight to attend EMERGE, a conference organized by the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

The goal of the EMERGE conference is to focus on how the financial services industry can reach low to moderate income individuals.

Since MAF focuses its innovative social loan products and programs in communities that are invisible to the mainstream financial system, it was natural for us to attend and be ready to bring our innovations to the table. Personally, I wanted to get a glimpse of what this sector of the financial services industry was all about and the impact it was making.

MAF’s own CEO, Jose Quinonez, was a panel speaker for the first pre-conference session, “A Primer on Consumer Financial Challenges and the Underserved Market.” Hearing about the industry’s approach to innovation (more mobile access to fee based financial products, more innovation with pre-paid cards, to name two).

It became clear to me (and I may be a little partial) that MAF had a highly unique and innovative take on both the consumers being discussed and on providing access to an affordable, fair financial marketplace.

I found two sessions particularly interesting. The first was a data analysis and review by LexisNexis on the population dynamics of the underbanked consumer after the recession. Lots of (propriatary!) data was shared, but one piece really struck me: relative to their financial health before the 2008 recession, the underbanked under 30 years of age were still much worse off than those 31 and over. Hmmm…

The conference’s final session was a presentation on the U.S. Financial Diaries research project. The preliminary research found, amongst other things, that folks that were low to moderate income tended to lend and borrowed money to each other as an alternative to conventional financial markets.Who knew? Why, MAF did! In fact, MAF was referenced several times in the presentation as being a driving force of innovation and scale in this area.

For me, the key moment was when a slide during the presentation told me the story of these communities and how MAF’s been ahead of the curve for years.

It was a great conference week, finishing with a whirlwind (but very moderate) meal with a few allies & partners  at La Costa, with some great people and awesome leather booths. Thanks, L.A., for a great trip!