Walking into $13 million Express Credit Union, a community-based credit union located in South King County, Washington, you are immediately surrounded by representation of community: flyers sharing local events in multiple languages (such as Spanish and Somali), surveys asking for feedback and member highlight stories; in short, you learn about (and see) a community-based credit union that has made substantial and meaningful efforts to include everyone in their branch, from communication materials to financial service product design.
Through the “Financial Health for Diverse Communities Project,” a two-year initiative funded by Northwest Area Foundation, we had a series of conversations with community members who were connected and not connected to financial services in South King County. By listening to the community, we heard that there is a key thing missing when it comes to supporting diverse communities: building trust-based relationships.
Traditionally, financial capability programs, such as credit-counseling or financial education, have focused on increasing engagement by looking to expand on individuals’ knowledge, skills and ability to access resources. By talking to community members, we learned that challenges with engagement are steeped in strained relationships with financial institutions and don’t necessarily have to do with individual knowledge or the products these institutions are offering.
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