Thursday, May 27, 2010
SF Microfininace 2010 Coverage
By Victoria McBride, conference attendee
I think I can speak on behalf of all the conference attendees in saying that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s speech was truly inspirational. This two day conference was created to have to bring people together to discuss the role of microfinance here in the United States. Mayor Newsom pushed that even one step further. While we can explore the amazing progress that microfinance organizations and companies have achieved on a national level, Newsom examined microfinance on an even more micro level: looking at microfinance within San Francisco city limits.
Mayor Newsom took the audience through a brief overview of how San Francisco has been using microfinance over the years to help San Francisco’s poor. Piloted with the Bank On San Francisco program that has now spread across the country, Newsom and the City of San Francisco have continued to expand their microfinance programs to include a payday loan program and savings program for children in San Francisco. The facts Newsom presented were thought-provoking: for example, a child is seven times more likely to go to college if they have a savings account in their name, or that there are more payday loan places in California than Starbucks and McDonalds’ combined. These statistics make the successes that San Francisco has had in implementing microfinance programs all the more inspirational. This type of thinking and activism on the part of Mayor Newsom and the City of San Francisco reinforces my point from my earlier post: that San Francisco is filled with passionate, innovative people committed to creating positive changes in the world through tools such as microfinance.
The programs that Gavin Newsom put in place are great accomplishments, but the city needs to do a better job of increasing their visibility. Having lived in the Bay Area for the majority of my life and following microfinance and community development in the area pretty closely, this is the first time that I heard about programs such as Bank On San Francisco or Payday Plus. And while programs like these are only a first step in combating our poverty problems—knowing that my wonderful city supports initiatives like these make me proud to be a San Franciscan.