What is #T4E?
Tech for Equity is a movement to ensure that technology advances equity, rather than reinforcing systemic inequities and perpetuating existing power structures.
Within financial services, #T4E means prioritizing the financial security outcomes of historically marginalized communities in the design and delivery of tech-based products and services.
The inequity in tech-based financial services was again evident in the early days of COVID-19, when the world shifted to a cashless economy overnight. Despite having bank accounts, one in ten Americans received payments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in paper form. With bank branches closed, more than three million such paper checks were cashed through check cashers, costing families in some states upwards of $195. The culmination in issues such as this resulted in a 673% increase in consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This “tech premium” harms vulnerable families who are already facing barriers when navigating the system.
Paying unnecessary fees to receive CARES payments is just one of many examples of the ways in which the financial system expects customers to overcome complexity, time and friction in order to achieve their goals. Adding to the deeply embedded hazards of the system, a number of new entrants have come out with products purporting to “democratize” tech-based financial services in one way or another. Many of these products are, in fact, wealth-stripping models that do not build financial security over time. Early wage access products, for example, ostensibly designed to help earners living paycheck-to-paycheck better manage household working capital across pay cycles, in fact do little to create lasting improvement in financial stability.
Technology’s ability to accumulate and wield power is unquestionable, and it will continue to perpetuate the same power structures that define our society today unless we expect different inputs and demand better outcomes. Rather than designing products that demand that customers be savvy enough not to be taken advantage of, what if technology were a meaningful force driving an equitable economy?
An equitable economy in which we all thrive
A business-to-business technology platform supporting social services organizations and public agencies, Change Machine helps practitioners address financial insecurity rapidly and at scale. Our products and practices have set the national standard for inclusive financial coaching, and more than 12,000 practitioners across 50 states have used our platform to build their practice, connect with each other, and amplify their impact.
We aim to use the power of technology to improve financial security outcomes across the ecosystem of customers, practitioners, and providers.
Customers: Supported by Change Machine’s recommendations, customers engage more with appropriate fintech products, leading to better financial security in the form of decreased debt, increased assets, and more.
Practitioners: Practitioners see the value of fintech products and services for their customers, and they become more capable and confident in their ability to influence positive customer outcomes using the Change Machine platform’s stories, expertise and data. Better outcomes result in greater programmatic success for practitioners, leading to more secure funding and a ripple effect of customers served and impact.
Fintech providers: Companies developing products and services see the success of tech-supported solutions in people’s lives, driving greater investment in these products. Change Machine’s platform generates a continual stream of data and insights to support product development and refinement. New products are even more well-suited to the needs of economically disadvantaged customers. Black and Brown women-led fintech companies achieve success and serve as role models for future generations of entrepreneurs.
With strategic reinvestment of the profits generated by this virtuous circle, Change Machine intends to influence change at the systemic level.
- Supporting reinvestment programs such as alternative, low-interest cash flow loans, matched savings, and/or licensing subsidies for Black and Brown women-led partners;
- Influencing policy efforts focused on closing gender and racial wealth gaps; and
- Continuing to promote and stimulate the development of fintech products that accelerate financial mobility for Black and Brown women.
Why Change Machine?
We got an early glimpse of the power of technology to amplify our impact when, around 2010, we broadened the scope of our work to include not just on-the-ground financial coaching, but training for social service providers to scale our business. Offering tools that were immediately relevant to people’s lives – along with a database to track customer progress and a forum for providers to connect and share learnings – we served more people in a year than we had in the prior seven years of financial coaching.
The power of technology to deliver financial coaching support was compelling, and so was the potential to use technology to harness customer insights to influence product development and offerings.
Change Machine is uniquely positioned to bring together practitioners and fintech providers to meet historically marginalized communities where they are, removing barriers to their success, creating equitable access to financial security, and empowering them to advance their financial lives on their own terms.
We believe the ultimate measure of #TechforEquity will be the prioritization of financial security for those who stand to benefit most.