Dear Friends & Colleagues,
Since inception, water has been an integral guide for Community Credit Lab. We were exposed to adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy principles in our earliest days and, with their guidance, we’ve done our best to incorporate Bruce Lee’s ethos of “Be Like Water.” We have learned that water is inherently a systems change agent as it seeks to fill gaps, change forms, and respond to the context it exists in. This mindset has been essential since CCL’s inception and, especially, over the past year.
Community Credit Lab’s ability to be like water and adapt is crucial to our work. At a macro level, CCL’s role as a “gap filler” in the ecosystem requires us to adapt to changing contexts as we collaborate to build a more equitable financial system together with our Lending Partners. Adaptation is needed as we support our Lending Partners to design and actualize distinct, regenerative Lending Programs for their communities across different contexts, geographies, and demographic priorities. And at the core of our work, each person or borrower that CCL works with is adapting to a constantly changing environment and shifting priorities, which ultimately requires us to adapt and shift with them in order to support them to achieve their goals on their terms.
Over the last two years, we have adapted our approach based on learnings from our Lending Partners and borrowers. Beyond our initial focus on access to credit (which we’ve learned may increase inequality as a standalone effort) and affordability of credit (which we know is essential to reversing the poverty premium and extractive financial practices), we have learned from our Lending Partners that shifting power is essential to reimagining an inclusive and just financial system. We are now integrating all 3 of these principles into consumer and commercial lending programs—with over $1.5 million facilitated across 7 Lending Programs with 11 Lending Partners.
What we didn’t know was how water-mimicry would prepare us, and ultimately support our Lending Partners and borrowers as COVID-19 transpired and its economic effects continued to unfold. With water as a foundational ethos, we quickly went from a highly relational, in-person approach, to a highly relational, online approach. We integrated new loan management software to reach borrowers wherever they are, new investor software to facilitate resources, and updated compliance processes to responsibly support our Lending Programs. Adapting to a new context, we built out methodologies for remote workshopping and training with our Lending Partners; and we are excited to now have a remote team based in Florida (Roselle and Quayneshia), California (Sagried), & even Costa Rica (shout out to Marianella!) supporting CCL’s Finance, Development, and Partnership functions. Most importantly, all these changes enabled us as a team to be more responsive and supportive to borrowers and Lending Partners.
Recently, water has become increasingly integral as our teacher. We’ve begun to recognize that knowledge is water as cross learnings evolve with our Lending Partners, Investors, and Funders. Although we always sought to be transparent with our approach and learnings, we now recognize that knowledge flows openly in many directions as we unlearn and relearn what is possible together with our Lending Partners, Investors, and Funders. As an example, CCL’s investors now consider the effects of liquidity benchmarks in addition to the downstream impacts of higher financial return targets—we're increasingly energized by their commitments to affordable and longer-dated terms that center and support people effectively. We’ve also begun to categorize Lending Programs as “Pilot Programs” or “Scaling Programs” to recognize how we can build and learn together in different phases. And, with CCL’s support, our Lending Partners will increasingly be leading decision-making processes for their communities to shift power to those who understand best what must be in place to design inclusive financial and impact investment solutions.
As we enter our 3rd year, we are proud to continue in the “CCL way”—biased towards action balanced with an approach that is intentional, based on relationships, and a growing understanding of what it means to be human in this world, in this work, and in the context of the financial system. To those that continue to be a part of CCL’s community, know that we see and appreciate you, and to those that are considering being a part of this work: jump in, the water is warm.
Sandhya & Ryan