For this week’s Throwback Thursday we hear from one of our community partners, the Mission Asset fund, who is connected to our history through our Valencia St. factory which closed in 2002. The Mission Asset Fund now aims to make history by winning a philanthropy contest organized by Google. Read on to learn more from Jose Quinonez, CEO, Mission Asset Fund about our historic connection and how you can help vote them on to victory…
Almost 10 years ago, Levi Strauss & Co. did something amazing and transformative. Instead of pocketing the $1 million in net proceeds from the sale of the company’s Valencia Street factory, located in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, they decided to reinvest the funds in the local community through the Levi Strauss Foundation.
Together with neighborhood leaders, the Levi Strauss Foundation imagined a new kind of future for residents of the Mission district and helped create the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), an innovative organization that provides services to help low-income families improve their financial capability. I was hired as the first — and at the time, only — employee of this groundbreaking organization.
My background was in asset-building policy at the state and national levels, and some of my friends were confused by my new job. I remember people asking me why I was taking a job running a small nonprofit in San Francisco. But I knew something they didn’t know: that the answers to the policy problems we were working so hard to solve could actually be found at the local level — within the community itself.
Soon enough, we found that people in the community were already helping each other by lending and borrowing money in informal lending circles. We realized that we could help by providing a formal structure so people could keep doing what they were already doing, but with the added benefit of building credit scores that could unlock access to the world of mainstream financial products and services.
This sparked Lending Circles, our credit-building social loan program that honors the ingenuity of everyday, hardworking people. And we didn’t stop there. Like Levi Strauss, we shared the wealth of knowledge we developed and made sure that other nonprofits across the U.S. were able to offer this program, too.
While the Levi Strauss Foundation continues to support MAF, contributing $1.8 million over the past eight years, it’s just one of many sponsors. MAF has a broad base of backers because our business model works and we have demonstrated results. That’s why we’re a finalist in a prestigious philanthropy contest sponsored by Google. The contest allows us to globally showcase our innovative solution to the problems facing more than 200,000 low-income families in the Bay Area who are largely invisible, stuck and strapped financially. Without credit scores and bank accounts, these families are left with few options outside of predatory lenders and check cashers. With the Google Impact Challenge grant, we’re aiming to change those options for more people.
People across the U.S. and even around the world are recognizing that, together with the Levi Strauss Foundation, we built something amazing. And much like a new pair of jeans, it has legs.
Please join me in honoring Levi Strauss & Co.’s heritage of giving back and vote for MAF today!