Last Thursday, September 30th, marked the one year anniversary of deepening our commitment to equity and systemic change, and rebranding ourselves as the organization you know today — Change Machine. We recommitted ourselves to prioritizing Black and Brown women who navigate financial insecurity, as they endure the brunt of our inequitable financial system. By centering their success and expertise in our work, we advance our vision of an equitable economy. Now, one year later, we’re reflecting and sharing what we’ve accomplished and what’s to come.
Changing harmful narratives
We challenged dominant narratives by amplifying the truth about the barriers that Black and Brown women face when navigating financial insecurity. We worked to highlight the community of practitioners who use our platform every day to build financial security with the communities they serve.
Last April, during what our field has come to know as “Financial Literacy Month,” I wrote a piece for Ms. Magazine on how the term “financial literacy” is inaccurate and insulting to the communities we serve. Instead of using condescending rhetoric to raise awareness about a topic on which our customers have enough expertise to teach an MBA course, we must redirect the narrative to focus on changing the systems that perpetuate poverty and inequity in our economy.
And just this month as part of the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s The Future of Wealth book, I co-authored an essay with J. Michael Collins, calling for the integration of technology and financial coaching to advance equity. We wrote about how nonprofit practitioners, software developers, and policymakers all play a part in sustaining the infrastructure and scope of this model.
Eliminating wealth gaps
We began advancing public and market solutions to eliminate gender and racial wealth gaps. We hosted our inaugural Convening for Change, where we examined how our tax code exacerbates existing inequities. We discussed how partners could get involved, including by supporting the passing of the American Opportunity Accounts Act.
We began partnering with students, families, faculty, and administrators from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to address the student debt crisis and advance solutions at the institutional level. We led a panel at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s Just Economy conference, advocating for direct policy intervention to combat the student loan crisis as an extension of the racial wealth gap.
In partnership with the AARP Foundation, we hosted Rethinking Older Adult Financial Security Post-COVID — a webinar on how older adults accumulate overwhelming debt that prevents them from building wealth, underscoring the need for student debt solutions and retirement aid grants.
Tech For Equity
In search of an economy that works hardest for those who have it the hardest, we began to evaluate the role and responsibility of fintech products. We presented our assessment, From Inclusion to Equity: Making Fintech Work for Low-Income Consumers at DC Fintech Week.
We launched a fintech product recommendation engine on our platform, which helps practitioners match customers with vetted products that fit their needs and financial goals. Core to this work is our Seal of Inclusivity, which acts as a gatekeeper, reassuring practitioners that recommended products are accessible, fairly priced, inclusive, and effective in improving outcomes for the customers they serve. Stay tuned for our recommendation engine blog series, launching later this fall!
Our team of Change Makers presented this recommendation engine to various audiences, including staff at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Financial Capability and Asset Building Conference. We also encouraged the CFPB to adopt a set of “Data Equity Principles” that establish explicit goals for the use and disclosure of consumer information.
It’s been a busy year here at Change Machine, and we have a long way to go in building an equitable economy for every family. We thank our partners and stakeholders — old and new — who engaged in our shared work of building an equitable economy in which we ALL thrive.
Want to follow along with our work throughout the year? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Change Makers in Action.