WASHINGTON (4/6/11)--The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) held the first meeting Thursday and Friday in Washington, D.C., of its Financial Capability Innovator Development Lab. The development lab initiative will support a small group of innovators through peer learning opportunities to strengthen their capacity, sophistication and efficiency in delivering solutions that promote the financial capability of underserved consumers. The CFSI’s Financial Capability Innovation Fund is providing $1.5 million in grants to five nonprofit-led projects designed to help low-income, underserved consumers better manage their finances. The Filene Research Institute and Grow Brooklyn/Brooklyn (N.Y.) FCU are two of the five recipients of grants from CFSI. “It was a kickoff week in which the funders were introduced to the five grantees in the program,” Denise Gabel, Filene Research Institute chief innovation officer, told News Now
. “The development lab experience will be two years long and have a pretty aggressive research component. There should be a good cross-pollination of ideas.” Gabel attended the meeting with Mark Meyer, Filene CEO. Filene Research Institute will test Lift, a Filene i3 idea, to determine if rewarding consistent timely loan payments with interest rate reductions will leader to better payment behavior. Grow Brooklyn/Brooklyn (N.Y.) Cooperative FCU and online personal financial management software firm Piggymojo will use goal visualization, social dynamics and mobile technology to help low-income savers turn impulse buys into impulse saves. CEO Samira Rajan represented $11 million-asset Brooklyn Cooperative FCU at the meeting. On Friday, all five grantees met with invitees, dignitaries and policymakers at the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C. “Everyone there shares an interest in the financial capabilities of Americans and in raising up those capabilities,” Gabel said. Two U.S. legislators stopped by--U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), she added. “A key theme was how to look at financial capabilities differently, because financial education alone is not working. This group is trying to do some things differently, to link the education with the consumer decisions, for instance at the time of a purchase. “No action was taken at the meeting,” Gabel said. “We just got the ball rolling, got the infrastructure set to start to the projects. Filene will begin its project next week, and will put out a call for credit unions to collaborate.” The CSFI lab participants will meet at least twice a year, with the next meeting scheduled for June. Also, participants will informally meet to see each other’s projects down the road, Gabel said. Other grantees and their projects are:
* Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley, which will test whether social commitments and text alerts can help consumers reduce debt; * Co-opportunity Inc., which will leverage technology via a new online platform to enhance the effectiveness and scale of its volunteer budget coaching program; and * Mission Asset Fund, which will franchise its Cestas Populares program, a peer loan coupled with product-specific, peer-led education, to help immigrants build credit and manage credit wisely.
CFSI selected the five projects from among 246 applicants totaling more than $67 million in requests. Organizations from 44 states responded to the request for proposals CFSI released in September.