Filene Research Institute announced the first cohort of credit unions accepted into its Racial Economic Equity Incubator (REE Incubator). The REE Incubator works to advance racial economic equity through the credit union system by co-creating solutions that meet local community members’ needs and delivers resources, support, and capital to communities of color.
Hailing from eight communities across the U.S., the first cohort of the Racial Economic Equity Incubator have been chosen based on their commitment to designing with—not for—people of color, which is the only mechanism for ensuring financial products and policies immediately begin to address decades of disinvestment from Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
The REE Incubator Co-Creation Model
Over the past few years several of the country’s biggest banks have pledged more than $45.2 billion to racial justice. Yet, many of these efforts represent a small portion of the Black, Indigenous, and other families of color across the country, and are targeted toward one solution such as homeownership. The REE Incubator distinguishes itself from other financial services interventions through its model of co-creation—working with not for communities of color to ensure products and policies are non-extractive.
This year’s participating credit unions and their areas of focus are:
- Allegiance Credit Union (Oklahoma City, OK) will partner with Scissortail Community Development Corporation to expand branch presence and create relevant products and services to better serve the local Latino community, including the Hispanic-owned small business community.
- FAMU Federal Credit Union (Tallahassee, FL) will partner with Capital City Chamber of Commerce, focusing on increasing access to capital for minority- and women-owned businesses, in particular Black entrepreneurs.
- Hiway Credit Union (St. Paul, MN) will collaborate with Right Track, St. Paul’s Office of Financial Empowerment, and Youthprise to center indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth, developing products that go beyond financial well-being training to focus on wealth and asset-building strategies, including homeownership.
- Kaua’i Federal Credit Union (Kaua’i, HI) will partner with Hawaiian Community Assets along with local business development and leadership programs to build economic resiliency for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and low-income families. They will utilize “place-based” approaches to support housing, small business/ entrepreneurship, and financial wellness and equity.
- Marine Credit Union (La Crosse, WI) will work with its Foundation to improve homeownership rates and build generational wealth for credit-challenged populations. Finding HOME is a free financial literacy and behavior change program designed to help families that do not qualify for a mortgage achieve homeownership.
- Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (East Lansing, MI) will partner with GreenPath and programs focused on Black empowerment to address the racial wealth gap through addressing high-cost debt while building pathways to homeownership.
- Municipal Credit Union (New York, NY) will partner with The Bronx Community Foundation to create innovative programs to eradicate inequity and build sustainable futures for all Bronxites.
- Veridian Credit Union (Waterloo, IA) will work with Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity, 24/7 BLAC, and House of Hope to weave the organizations’ work into a comprehensive program which will improve access to affordable banking and consumer lending and build generational wealth for Black, Indigenous, Latino, and other families of color.
Expanding on Filene’s 15+ year successful track record of testing and scaling solutions, the REE Incubator will identify opportunities to test, refine and evaluate strategies to close the racial wealth gap, and develop a process map centering an equity lens. The REE Incubator provides participants with access to national experts in financial inclusion, a network of like-minded innovators to share experiences and results, and a committed team of coaches and partners to help navigate the systemic and local inequalities that credit unions face.
Creating Change with the Community
Credit unions—members of whom represent 18–22% of US households—can play an important role in the push for racial equity by providing equitable, accessible, and inclusive financial products to U.S. families. Designing with—not for—communities of color is critical for ensuring products and policies are non-extractive. REE Incubator partnerships and the insights that come from their work will create a roadmap for others seeking to create lasting, structural change from the ground up.
Future of the Program
Insights from the credit unions and their on-the-ground partners will be published throughout the year for the benefit of financial services organizations across the country. Stay up-to-date with the partnerships and insights from Phase Two of the REE Incubator program focused on building entrepreneurial capabilities by contacting Horacio at [email protected].