Opportunity Challenge Spotlight Video: Financial Access & Inclusion

Tuesday October 20, 2020

In early March, the Opportunity Challenge, a joint grantmaking initiative of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund and the Tarsadia Foundation, sought to identify solutions to create an inclusive economy in the U.S.—one that addresses the supports that immigrants need to achieve economic mobility.

In September, we were thrilled to announce the 12 awardees of the Opportunity Challenge, chosen out of an applicant pool of 470 organizations. The finalists and several runner-up organizations were awarded a total of $2 million. These funds will support innovative projects and programs to uplift refugee and immigrant communities across the U.S.

In reviewing applications, four common themes began to emerge in the solutions offered: financial access and inclusion, worker cooperatives, career pathways, and wrap-around supports for workers.

We created a series of four videos showcasing the work of the 12 awardees and these four issue areas. In this first spotlight video, we hear from the leaders of three Opportunity Challenge awardees on how their organizations are working to improve financial access and inclusion for immigrant communities. Through equitable access to capital, entrepreneurship training, and community lending models, more immigrants and refugees can invest in their own futures, start businesses, and build wealth in their communities.

Financial access and inclusion are essential to immigrant workers, business owners, and families’ long-term security and opportunity. According to the National League of Cities, more than 30 households in the U.S. are unbanked or underbanked. This includes nearly half of Latinx (43 percent) and Black (47 percent) households, who often rely on payday lenders and other predatory financial services. A study led by National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions revealed that there is a significant untapped market for responsible financial products and services among immigrants.

The three leaders featured in this spotlight video are:

  • Rudy Espinoza, Executive Director of Inclusive Action for the City in Los Angeles, California. The Opportunity Challenge grant will grow their Semi’a Fund, a micro-loan program that provides low-income entrepreneurs—many of whom are street vendors in the informal economy—with access to low-interest capital and individualized coaching to help them grow their businesses.
  • José Quiñonez, Founder and CEO of Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, California. 
    Funding from the Opportunity Challenge will expand Mission Asset Fund’s Lending Circles program, which uplifts the strengths and innovations of low-income and immigrant communities to design programs that transform everyday practices into credit-building opportunities.
  • Renay Dossman, President of Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
    Through the Opportunity Challenge, NDC will empower immigrant entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities to transform their neighborhood economies through comprehensive and culturally competent entrepreneur training, lending, technical assistance, and small business incubators.

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