Exodus Financial Services

Report date
October 2022

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

The return to in-person/hybrid convenings of stakeholders in local communities to engage in issue education and discernment around problem solving was a boost to both morale and efficacy. The issue of predatory payday lending and its impact on individuals and families is deeply personal and strictly virtual gatherings didn’t result in the same disclosive story sharing and investment in problem solving that this year’s gatherings have garnered. This year our team and partners were able to speak with more than 30 organizations and community groups in areas of our state that are particularly targeted by payday lenders and lay the groundwork for both local and statewide efforts on the issue. Six additional organizations have signed on as endorsing organizations to our coalition with several more pending.
We’re very excited about the recent decision to move the Minnesotans for Fair Lending Coalition and become a campaign under Exodus Lending’s organizational structure. This puts our work in even closer relationship with those Minnesotans directly experiencing this issue on a regular basis and centers their experiences as we continue our city-by-city efforts to curb the predatory effects of these lending practices. We’re learning together how to combine direct service and movement building and learning lessons along the way. More to report in year two!

Key lessons learned

As we’ve shifted our focus from a statewide legislative campaign (although that remains a longer term goal) to a locally based city-by-city model of change, we’ve learned a lot about the amazing impact that Minnesotans can have at the local level. Even our more seasoned advocates are learning that their phone call or visit to their city council member has a far greater impact than their postcards and calls to state legislators in Saint Paul. They’re finding their local elected leaders to be (mostly) more accessible. Moreover, because the payday lending lobby isn’t buying influence at the city level the way they do at the Capitol, the voices of those impacted are getting their due attention.
We’ve learned a lot about shaping the narrative and telling the story of the issue in a way that includes the broadest constituency possible. We’re clear that payday lending impacts the Minnesotans who take out loans, and we’re becoming more skilled at drawing wider and wider circles around the issue so that more community members understand themselves as stakeholders. We’ve had a few experiences where we’ve failed to adequately root the issue in a hyper-local context and this makes the issue easier to write off as a metro-based problem, or one that reflects a politically liberal agenda from “the cities”, and we’ve had to regroup and restructure our conversations in ways that are responsive to the local contexts. Having field organizers who are rooted in greater Minnesota and trusted leaders in their communities has had a huge impact on our ability to work effectively statewide.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Collaboration has been the most important to us in this stage of our process. We’ve partnered with trusted community organizations in the Minnesota communities most impacted by the problem of payday lending, through our partnerships we’ve been able to make the progress that we have. From hosting community convenings and issue education sessions, offering political strategy expertise, story collecting, writing letters to the editor, sending postcards about the problem to elected leaders, all of the work that has brought us progress on this issue has been done through strong trusting partnerships.

Building our coalition, an ongoing effort, has lent us credibility which has enabled us to bring together (sometimes unlikely!) partners in a shared effort. When we win a major solution we want to be sure that our whole broad coalition feels that win deeply.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Agility - because we’ve been able to support leadership on the ground in communities throughout Minnesota, we’ve been able to build bases of support that can move quickly, respond effectively to the way the problem impacts their specific community and feel empowered to lead. While we’ve implemented a meaningful solution in Moorhead, our base of leaders in Mankato is learning what they can from that success, but ultimately crafting the solution that will work best for them.

Understanding the problem

As more states enact measures to protect their residents from payday loans each year we’ve become even more determined to act locally in ways that will lead to broader statewide change. Our hope is to develop a portfolio of solutions that have been effective in localities around Minnesota that new groups of stakeholders can test out and adapt in ways that fit their context. The need for protection from predatory lenders has only come into sharper focus for us as our grant period has progressed, as we know that Minnesotan families living paycheck to paycheck are struggling with increasing costs and waning pandemic relief measures. The urgency to find effective solutions has never been more clear to us.

If you could do it all over again...

While there are so many benefits to addressing this problem at the city level, we’ve learned so much about how the dynamics of city government are different from the dynamics we’ve been used to as advocates at the statewide level. It would have saved us lots of learning to develop partnerships with smaller and much more locally based organizations earlier in the process, rather than turning to them after running into roadblocks that we could have foreseen if we had built those relationships up front.

One last thought

While this report is being submitted by Exodus Lending, this is the final report of this grant under the leadership of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA. The work transitioned to Exodus Lending on September 1, 2022.