2018 was a year of broad work for FIELD, as we collaborated with leaders across the field to better understand and address the challenges that small business owners face. As we kick off the new year, we want to share some of our highlights from the past year that we plan to build on and expand in 2019.
Supporting Employee Ownership
As the silver tsunami of retiring Baby Boomers continues, employee ownership continues to gain traction as a way to help expand economic opportunity for workers, improve job quality, and support healthy communities. This past year, we hosted an event to discuss the potential for employee share ownership and how community leaders and policymakers can encourage businesses to make this transition.
With the opening of Opportunity Zone investments in 2019, we also worked with a group of leaders to look into the potential for these funds to be used to support conversions to employee share ownership, a strategy that could help to insure that new wealth created in the zones benefits local residents and workers. We will continue our efforts to encourage investment in employee ownership in the coming year.
Expanding the Scale and Impact of Leading Microlenders
We continue to work with our Microfinance Impact Collaborative to build knowledge and increase collaboration to support members’ growth, and to share the lessons from their work with the broader industry. Our report, “The Price of Access” uses their experience to explore how pricing proves a challenge in scaling for microlenders. We found that large-scale lenders are charging higher interest rates to reach more customers, but with an eye toward affordability. The tradeoffs that need to be made to scale lending should be considered not only by lenders, but also by policymakers and investors, to ensure that these organizations can expand their reach.
We’ve also begun work with the collaborative to explore capitalization and liquidity strategies that are central to their work, and we continue to focus on the role that technology will play in their operations. We shared our findings from this during sessions at the Opportunity Finance Network’s Small Business Finance Forum and its Annual Conference, and also with the grantees of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. These issues will be a continuing part of our work into the new year, in part because scaling microlending is central to providing access to women and entrepreneurs of color, who disproportionately seek smaller amounts of financing.
Calling for Transparency in Small Business Lending
Calls for laws to require more transparency in small business lending are growing. Following an investigative series on how unscrupulous lenders have exploited small businesses, the Bloomberg editorial board called for laws to help protect businesses from such practices. The editorial linked to the work of the Responsible Lending Coalition, and bills have been introduced at both the state and federal levels, showing that lawmakers are recognizing the need for these protections.
Collaborating with Leaders on Inclusive Financial Technology
The boom of fintech companies had the potential to extend financial services to many people who have previously been unable to access them. However, seizing this opportunity will take intentional work. We were proud to convene Nonprofit Leaders in Financial Technology (nLIFT), along with the Financial Security Program, who are working to ensure that fintech fulfills its potential to build economic opportunity and security for all.
We’re looking forward to continuing this work in the coming year as we continue to support efforts to build understanding and strengthen the role of business ownership as an economic opportunity strategy.
Tweet 2018 was a year of broad work for FIELD at the Aspen Institute (@AspenMicro), which collaborated with leaders across the field to better understand and address the challenges that small business owners face.
Tweet As the silver tsunami of retiring Baby Boomers continues, #employeeownership can help expand opportunity for workers, improve job quality, and support healthy communities. Learn how @AspenMicro is working to advance this exciting strategy.
Tweet #Fintech can extend financial services to people who are unable to access them, but seizing this opportunity will take intentional work. Learn how the #nLIFT coalition is pushing fintech to build opportunity and security for all.
FIELD at the Aspen Institute works to build understanding and strengthen the role of business ownership as an economic opportunity strategy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay informed of new announcements and resources.