Every two years, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) puts together a conference to bring together people from across the country to share lessons learned, honor achievements, and create collaboration across the asset-building field. This year, three representatives from CEF had the opportunity to attend the Assets Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. due to the generous support of CFED and the Integrating Financial Capability in Social Services Learning Cluster. Maggie West, Anne Yeung, and Alex Biggers all the had the opportunity to get to know organizations from across the country, swap stories, and even share about CEF’s unique student volunteer financial coaches.
“Asset-building” is a term that “refers to strategies that increase financial and tangible assets, such as savings, a home and businesses of all kinds. Asset-building policy focuses on long-term development of individuals, families and communities” (CFED). Asset-building provides an important lens for our work at CEF — when CEF advocates and members dream together towards members’ futures, we aren’t satisfied with just an apartment, just a little income, just getting through the month. We want these things, yes, but we also want to work towards something secure, something stable, something to grow on and dream on for members and their families. The systems of power that determine all of our wealth or poverty — capitalism, classism, racism, sexism, ableism, colonialism, heterosexism and many more — work over time and space to steal from some and give to others. At CEF, advocates and members work together to craft new systems that exist to help members build assets. We work against the forces that historically and to this day continue to steal and deny wealth to working-class people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, women, and many, many others.
This year’s conference focused on “Platforms for Prosperity” — integrating asset-building into the places where we already are — where we live, where we work, where we start businesses, where we bank, and where we get comprehensive services. By bringing services like affordable bank accounts, financial coaching, free tax preparation, and savings opportunities closer to the places we already are, we can make building assets more accessible. CEF is proud to announce that we were a finalist for the Platforms for Prosperity Award (and we are big fans of the organizations who won the awards!).
Before the conference began, Anne and I had the chance to meet with the rest of the Integrating Financial Capability into Social Services Learning Cluster at our third in-person meeting. We shared about what CEF has been working on through our partnership at Urban Ministries and learned what other groups are doing to integrate financial capability and asset-building into the work they already do.
The conference lasted three days and consisted of large group speeches and panels, smaller roundtables and concurrent sessions, and even a trip to Capitol Hill to visit legislators. We had the opportunity to learn from experts in the field, hear inspiring speeches, and to share with one another what we’ve been learning.
Here are some of the exciting topics we got to learn about in our smaller sessions:
- Enhancing the Financial Capability of Persons with Disabilities
- ACA at Tax Time 2015 and Beyond
- Working Families Success Network: How to Measure the Impact of Integrated Services
- Financial Coaching Capacity Building Intensive
- Driving Towards Impact: Early Results from the Financial Capability Innovation Fund
- Financial Education 2.0: What is the Way Forward?
- Housing as an Asset-Building Strategy
- IDAs in Shelters
- Building Assets at America’s Community Health Centers
- Building Assets for Fathers and Families: Partnering with Child Support Systems
- Leveraging the Transition Back to Work to Build Financial Capability
- Engaging Direct Service Providers and Constituents as Sensational Advocates
- What Households Want in a Financial Relationship
You can check out all the sessions and their notes on the Assets Learning Conference website, here.
Maggie was on the panel at the Financial Coaching Capacity Building Intensive, where she got to share about the wonderful work of CEF’s student volunteers and advice for other organizations looking to leverage the power of volunteers – especially students — to deliver financial coaching services.
We also ran into one of CEF’s first advocates, Michael Chasnow, who spoke in front of the entire conference about his work with the 1:1 Fund, which seeks to match the savings of low-income families saving towards college through matched child savings accounts. You can learn more about the 1:1 Fund by clicking here.
On Thursday, we had the chance to go to Capitol Hill. Maggie and Anne, along with our asset-building partners in North Carolina shared the challenges facing individuals and families in our state and pushed legislators to vote for important legislation affecting North Carolinians. Alex shared about the work CEF is doing in North Carolina.
Some of the main talking points Maggie and Anne were advocating for:
- The ABLE Act, which would have removed some of the barriers for individuals receiving income due to a disability to build assets. Currently, people receiving Social Security Insurance (SSI) due to a disability are only allowed to have $2,000 in assets.
- The American Savings Promotion Act, which would expand Prize-Linked Savings (like a lottery, but with saving instead of spending!) to more financial institutions across the country.
- Keeping payday lending out of North Carolina
- Turning the budget from upside down to “right-side up” by investing in policies that build wealth for families and individuals that need it, rather than policies that continue to give billions of tax dollars to people who are already wealthy.
We want to give a big shout out to all of the hard work of members, advocates, and our community partners here in Durham and Chapel Hill that have shaped CEF’s asset-building strategies, and allowed the three of us who attended the conference to be incredibly proud and excited about all the work we’ve accomplished together.
CEF is incredibly grateful to CFED for their support of three of our staff to attend this year’s Assets Learning Conference and for putting together such an informative three days of learning and sharing.
On November 6th, Parker Cohen from CFED will be visiting CEF in Durham and Chapel Hill and sharing some about CFED’s work with asset-building. All of our community partners, members, and advocates are invited to join us to learn more about Asset-Building.
We want to continue discussing and sharing all of what we learned at the Assets Learning Conference so that we can begin putting into place strategies from some of the insights we gained from our four days in DC. If you’re interested in learning more about the conference, CFED’s visit, or to generally just talk about asset-building at CEF, you can contact Alex Biggers at firstname.lastname@example.org.