Next stop on my preview tour of the upcoming Assets Learning Conference in Washington DC: “Roundtable Sessions 1,” scheduled for 3:45 to 4:45 pm on Thursday, September 11, the first day of the conference. (In my backwards way, I already previewed the “Roundtable Sessions 2” on Friday, as well as “Concurrent Sessions 2,” also on Friday.)
Living in rural Vermont, option 1 is definitely of interest to me: “Finding Better Ways to Reach and Serve Rural Communities.” The idea of recruiting IDA participants at Farmer’s Markets is intriguing, and it may become routine practice for certain organizations as federal funding for farmer IDAs becomes available through the most recent Farm Bill. Carol Coren of Cornerstone Consultants, who will lead the session, seems to have worked hands-on in every area of the asset development field (and many other fields), including rural development, job training and cultural economic development.
I commented briefly on the “Outcome Tracker” roundtable session in the third paragraph of my last post, so I won’t bother to repeat myself. VistaShare is offering what appears to be the same session during both roundtable periods for those who are interested in learning more about their IDA account management software.
As a huge fan of the acclaimed but short-lived TV show “Arrested Development,” I feel like I really should attend the session “What If You Didn’t Get the EITC All at Once?” I don’t recall any Arrested Development episodes about the EITC (most of the members of the Bluth family were full-time unemployed so wouldn’t possibly have been able to earn the EITC). But the Arrested Development reference is rattling around my head because this roundtable session is facilitated by Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution and Steve Holt of HoltSolutions. Try googling Steve Holt: you’ll find a Canadian musician, a vegetarian bodybuilder, the guitarist for Alaskan Metalcore band 36 Crazyfists, and of course the fictional class president/moron/perpetual senior on Arrested Development. My apologies to this particular Steve Holt, who I don’t think is any of those mentioned above — this one obviously has terrific expertise with issues surrounding the EITC, and I was glad to read his informative background paper on “Periodic Payment of the Earned Income Tax Credit,” a concept which seems like it could potentially complement the efforts of IDA programs and other asset-building initiatives that aim to promote regular saving habits. Nevertheless Steve, if during your roundtable you see someone waving a fist in the air and shouting “Steve Holt!” at random moments, you’ll know why.
Option 4 during this time slot is a roundtable hosted by HUD staffers Anice Schervish and Kathryn Greenspan, “Asset Building in Public Housing.” Anice is affiliated with HUD’s Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) Programs, and Kathryn’s programmatic focus seems to be the Housing Choice Voucher Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Both of those HUD programs provide significant resources for asset-building in communities served by public housing authorities. Personally, I find the language of HUD somewhat difficult to parse (the distinctions between homeownership voucher programs and FSS programs, for example), so a session like this might be helpful just to grasp some of the basics, although it sounds like it would be a case of learning the language by immersion.
The fifth roundtable option is perhaps the most intriguing to me: “Financial Social Work: A Successful Long-Term Financial Behavioral Change Model.” This session is led, appropriately enough, by Reeta Wolfsohn, Founder of the Center for Financial Social Work in Asheville, North Carolina. I would be delighted to attend this session if it offers an approach to financial education that truly goes deeper than what we typically think of as financial training. I’m sure that most financial trainers understand that imparting knowledge is not the same thing as changing behavior and they try to bring motivation as well as education into the classroom. Still, if the Center for Financial Social Work knows how to create behavioral change more consistently with replicable strategies, then practitioners throughout the field ought to learn that model. On a side note, I recently saw that Reeta took the initiative to submit an online “project idea” to the American Express Members Project, in which cardmembers vote to determine which social change ideas will receive a piece of AMEX’s $2.5 million pie. I haven’t studied all the entries this year to see if any others appear to be coming out of the asset-building field, but I hope that her financial social work proposal will garner lots of votes and lots of money: click through to vote starting September 9. (My asset-building Members Project idea last year didn’t pick up steam, but never fear, I’ve kept working on it since then because I do think it has legs, and I’ve connected with some like-minded people to see if we can make it happen even without a jumpstart from AMEX.)
The roundtable on “Market Expansion: AFI and People with Disabilities” will focus on AFI program models developed by Allies, Inc., in New York and New Jersey. Strangely, there’s no listing or bio for the session facilitator, Emad Samad, on the staff page of the Allies, Inc. website. Perhaps Emad works on the IDA program as a consultant rather than a salaried employee. Anyway, asset-building is all about inclusion in financial opportunity, so I love learning more about how organizations like Allies, Inc. open up asset development tools for people with disabilities.
The 7th Roundtable option Thursday afternoon is “Social Security and the Assets Agenda: Complementary Roles.” This sessions appears to ask the question, can you be in favor of individual savings through asset-building programs while not being in favor of the privatization of social security that would allow individual workers to save their FICA contributions into private accounts? The session is facilitated by Matthew Baumgart of the Aspen Institute’s Initiative on Financial Security and Virginia Reno of the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance. I’m particularly interested in the work of the Aspen Institute, whose financial security initiative is billed as “the nation’s leading policy program that uses a business-driven approach to create smart solutions that help Americans save, invest and own.” I took a look at their “Savings for Life” report (pdf format), which covers their major proposals for universal savings vehicles delivered through the financial services industry with government-funded matching incentives for low-income savers. I like where they’re coming from, and would be glad to see their savings proposals get traction. I’m sure Matthew will have compelling thoughts on the relationship between social security and asset-building efforts, but I have to say I’m even more interested to hear from Lisa Mensah, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Initiative on Financial Security, when she makes the case for children’s savings accounts during the third round of concurrent sessions on Friday afternoon.
Another roundtable option on thursday afternoon is “Does Your Native Community Need an IDA Program?” led by Leslie Newman of First Nations Oweesta Corporation. I didn’t see a bio for Leslie on Oweesta’s website (maybe they’ll include it here as a comment — Oweesta’s VP Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy was kind enough to add some detailed comments to a previous post about the conference in which I discussed another session involving folks from Oweesta, and perhaps he’ll chime in again, hint, hint). In any event, I’m confident that anyone associated with Oweesta will facilitate a terrific conversation about when IDA programs make sense for native communities.
If you want a break hearing from asset development experts and instead want to hear from experts in web-based technology for nonprofit social change in general (about how to better use the web for your asset-building initiatives), attend the roundtable titled “Learning the CCC: Create Media that Connects with Your Consumers.” One Economy Corporation has a strong track record in that area. Not that One Economy’s Lee Davenport isn’t an asset development expert in his own right (the massive tax prep program he built at New York’s FoodChange has been on my radar for a while as I’ve thought about the intersections of nutrition, agriculture and asset development), but he has brought that direct experience in our field to an organization that looks across a wider spectrum of social needs from a technology slant. And he will be joined as co-facilitator by One Economy’s Director of Communications and Media Relations, Austin Bonner.
And finally, before I could finish this post CFED added a 10th option for the Roundtable 1 sessions (they want to keep me busy): “Homeownership Done Right: Communicating About Homeownership in the Face of the Housing Crisis.” Certainly no organization knows more about homeownership done right than NeighborWorks America, so to have this session facilitated by Neighborworks’ Applied Research Manager Lindley Higgins makes perfect sense. And with CFED presenting “findings from the Assets and Opportunity Special Report on the role of homeownership in household wealth,” I expect this to be a meaty discussion. I’ve blogged previously about how great it is to have facts from CFED on the relative success of IDA home buyers in weathering the foreclosure crisis; it just adds further credence to our claims about why asset development strategies are so important. I expect that many more good talking points will emerge out of this Roundtable session.
Which of these 10 will I attend, you ask? Actually, none of them. I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in on the Invitational Business Roundtable that afternoon, in which employers and policy experts will discuss workplace asset-building strategies. I’m sure you’ll hear something from me afterwards about that, and if any of you want to send me favorite snippets from whatever roundtable you attend that afternoon (assuming you don’t make a Hill visit instead), I’d love to post thoughts from other conference attendees on this blog. Don’t be shy. It takes a village to blog a conference. I’m at blair93 (at) gmail.com. I hope to hear from you.