February 3, 2016

We Will Never Achieve Financial Inclusion Without Digital Equity

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Since 2008, the economic recovery in the U.S. has gained momentum for many, however financial security remains out of reach for low-income families, young adults and ethnic and racial minorities. In today’s economy, digital skills and financial literacy are essential to obtaining living wage employment and achieving economic mobility.

Yet, traditional models are failing to close the gap.  We’ve identified 4 key issues that we believe must be addressed to ensure economic mobility and financial security for all:

  1. Disparities Exist: Rates of technology adoption and financial literacy are proportionally lower among low-income households, the less educated, certain diverse ethnic and racial groups, the disabled and the elderly.*
  2. Economic Stability of families and savings: 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and 25% have no savings at all**
  3. Debt among young adults: Nearly half of all millennials have too much debt relative to their incomes and many borrow from predatory lenders.***
  4. Employment Opportunities: Financial literacy and digital skills are critical to attaining living-wage jobs and advancing in today’s fast-paced and global economy.

At the Civic Accelerator, we believe that entrepreneurs with breakthrough ideas that engage people in new and different ways are critical in solving our world’s toughest social issues.  Thus, our Spring 2016 accelerator program is calling for entrepreneurs with innovative, scalable solutions to the following challenge:

How might we accelerate technology adoption & financial inclusion for all to succeed in the digital economy?

From increasing access to financial services and technology tools, to building digital skills and financial literacy, we’re looking for innovative technologies, platforms, and other models that increase opportunities for the underserved, underbanked and underemployed.  Examples of solutions include:

  • Financial services offering equitable access to investment capital
  • Ways to create incentives to save money and improve access to cash
  • User-generated and peer-to-peer technologies that eliminate inefficiency and reduce costs for all
  • Digital skills development that increases employability and access to higher-wage opportunities
  • Financial literacy models that support and influence healthy financial behavior and greater access to social services, professional mentoring, career advice and healthy living

Our national accelerator will convene 10-15 teams in Atlanta from April 11-14, in San Francisco May 9-13 and in Washington D.C., June 13-17. Over the course of the 10 weeks, entrepreneurs will immerse in an intensive entrepreneurial curriculum founded in lean startup development, rapid innovation, design thinking, and business model design, as well as connect directly with sector leaders, mentors, and funders/investors through curated events and workshops.

While this is a specific design challenge for our next cohort, many of Civic Accelerator alumni have focused on economic opportunity.  Some notable alumni tackling digital and financial inclusion include MoneythinkNeighborlyLibrary for All and CODE2040.

The deadline to apply for the Spring 2016 Civic Accelerator is February 26. The accelerator does not charge for participation and all selected ventures will receive travel and lodging stipends thanks to our generous sponsors.

To learn more and to apply, visit cvcx.org

Sources:

  1. *Mapping the Digital Divide, Council of Economic Advisors Issue Brief
  2. **Most Americans Have Less Than $1,000 in Savings
  3. ***Gen Y Personal Finances: A Crisis of Confidence and Capability
  4. ****2015 Talent Shortage Survey
Megan Christenson
Megan is the Director of the Civic Accelerator at Points of Light. In this role she is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Civic Accelerator, including venture recruitment, program and curriculum development, portfolio monitoring and evaluation, direct investments, and developing
strategic program and philanthropic partnerships.