About the Inclusive Economies Lab
The exclusion of many community entrepreneurs and residents from significant financial opportunity has its roots in a wide variety of restrictive policies and discriminatory mindsets by institutional investors and traditional private-sector lending institutions, by government at all levels, and even by the nonprofit sector. Access to mainstream capital and the many benefits it affords in moving up the ladder in the US has been impeded historically for entire geographic communities based upon culture and skin color (the practice commonly referred to as “redlining”); and for many individuals due to gender, class, education, sexual orientation, and non-traditional profiles such as criminal records or histories of addiction. Products offered to these historically excluded communities are often disproportionately “alternative” high-cost vehicles, as evidenced by the proliferation of “sub-prime” financiers (check cashers, pawn shops, and payday lenders) in low-income communities, and the “predatory” home refinancing that played a critical role less than a decade ago in the massive foreclosures and loss of equity in minority communities.
In addition, the work of creating wider financial inclusion in communities in the US depends on recognizing the need to cultivate effectively the many diverse populations that comprise viable markets through effective training and support that overcomes human and cultural barriers. In other words, full success in achieving robust financial access would see not only the greater availability of capital and loans, business technical assistance, and employment opportunities, but also “financial fitness” on the demand side to optimize the uptake and utilization of newly provided opportunities. This depends crucially on relationship-building, mutual connections, and enthusiastic commitment by consumers.
The Labs are designed to help communities utilize the artistic process as a means to work together in innovative new ways in response to a specific community-defined challenge. Deeply influenced by systems thinking and complexity theory, Community Innovation Lab | Inclusive Economies aims to launch innovative programs and activities but also to increase adaptive potential and capacity across each community as an embedded asset in achieving sustainable financial and economic health in the future.