The current financial mess is a wonderful opportunity for credit unions, building societies, microfinance institutions, and other social banks to seize a significant share of the market for banking services.
Community Banking Partnerships (CBPs) and their Irish (Money Advice and Budgeting Services) and American counterparts (community development credit unions) offer a glimpse of the "people-worthy" banking these organizations could create. CBPs generally involve an alliance between local credit unions, a community development loan fund, and nonprofit debt and money advice agencies to co-deliver to low-income households the "ABCDs": money Advice, Banking services, affordable Credit, and Deposit services.
Unfortunately, disunity and a weak public (and self) image keep community and social finance organizations from acting on this opportunity. To overcome these barriers, two strategies are necessary. First, the customer base for community and social banking must be expanded, likely by marketing its services to the self-employed. Second, alliances must be built within the social banking sector itself.
In the resolution of any community financial need debt finance has been found to create dependency. By contrast, CBPs strive to enrich monetary transactions of every description so they become user-friendly tools of citizen and community empowerment.