Mission Asset Fund | Past Initiative


The Insight Center provided legal support for the selection and formation of legal and governance structures for the Mission Asset Fund (MAF). MAF was established to help low-income, mostly immigrant residents of the San Francisco Mission District build a more secure economic future for themselves and their families through asset building—access to financial services, savings, and investment opportunities.

MAF grew out of Levi Strauss & Company’s decision to earmark a $1 million contribution for a Mission economic-development fund. The contribution represented a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the company’s former garment factory located in the Mission. A volunteer steering committee, comprised of six community leaders and a Levi Strauss Foundation representative, was formed to develop the fund, and it identified meaningful community participation in the fund’s design and operation as an important value. The committee undertook an extensive community-engagement process to explore residents’ visions of the fund and priorities in building their economic futures. Over 300 residents participated in individual conversations and community forums.


It was determined that a nonprofit membership corporation was the entity best suited to incorporating community participation while achieving the fund’s other objectives. The new corporation’s governing documents institutionalize community participation by providing that the majority of its board members be residents of the Mission.

Latino Young Men and Boys (LMB) | Past Initiatives

Welcome to our new interactive space for encouraging constructive exchange by and about Latino Men and Boys (LMB). Our goal in supporting this jointly-hosted electronic forum is to advance first-voice, creative exchanges on issues and opportunities that especially affect Latino males ages 16-30, read more…

For decades, California’s social, economic and political landscape has produced large numbers of Latino young men and boys whose normal and healthy development has been stifled, if not suspended. Beginning with their early experiences in families that often are under severe economic (and, owing in many instances to non-citizenship status, political) hardship, most of these young Americans face great disadvantages before they even have the opportunity to reach adulthood, read more…

To advance this work, we urge you to participate and engage! We will provide periodic updates and expert commentaries, interviews, and documentary content to build on and complement your own inputs, read more…

Why Focus on Young Men and Boys? 

We are concerned about ensuring the success of all young Latinos in American society, male and female. We are aware that Latina Americans face their own formidable and unique challenges in American culture and economy. And we intend to direct focus to those important issues in downline aspects of our planned future work. However, we begin our survey of minority youth issues with this focus on Latino Young Men and Boys for certain key reasons, read more…

Knowing Our History to Know Who We Are

This webspace is additionally intended to ground current discussion about the Latino male identity and pathways forward in American society in a broader understanding and appreciation of Latino history, read more…

Overcoming Disparity: Latino Young Men and Boys – Book Series

The Overcoming Disparity Project is rooted in a three book series outlining the social and economic disparities faced by Latino young men of color and provides strategies to increase their ability to lead healthy and successful lives. Based on the culturally grounded model called La Cultura Cura, the practices outlined in these volumes emphasize Chicano/Latino history and use of cultural expression to heal, educate, create self-awareness, and inform the development of comprehensive community strategies, systems change, and public/private alignment to advance socially-focused ventures that encourage youth and community development.

The book series includes: Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice and Overcoming Disparity. The team of Author/Editor, Frank de Jesús Acosta and Co-Editor, Henry A.J. Ramos also offer a related Arte Público Press publication, The History of Barrios Unidos.

Click on each cover below to learn more about the three book series.

Latino Young Men and Boys, In Search of Justice, Testimonies (December 2015) Overcoming Disparities, Profiles in Best Practice (March 2016) The History of Barrios Unidos, Healing Community Violence, Cultura Es Cura (originally published in May 2007)

Building Economic Security for All (BESA) | Past Initiative

Quick Links Strategies to Build Economic Security Shortcomings of the Official Federal Poverty Measures Better Tools to Measure Economic Need Improving Lives Using Better Measures ,What Our Partners Are Saying Our History

Millions of people across America are working hard to take care of themselves and their families, but still struggling to get by. However, the official federal poverty measure captures only about a third of the people who really need assistance. The other two-thirds fall through the cracks of our support systems, unable to qualify for many programs that would strengthen their efforts to gain economic stability. Building Economic Security for All’s (BESA) mission is to help all people achieve a basic level of economic security in the U.S., so they have enough money to not only cover the expenses of everyday life like rent, food, child care, health care, transportation, and taxes, but also enough to begin to develop and/or draw on savings and assets. Savings and assets are what enable people to cover the costs of emergencies, build an economically secure future, and leave poverty behind, for good.

Strategies to Build Economic Security

Having been a leader on this issue since 1997, the Insight Center uses a combination of strategies to build economic security for all. We:

  • Research to inform decision-makers about what it truly costs to make ends meet and which populations are struggling the most in which regions of the country
  • Organize statewide education and mobilization campaigns to develop systems which support, rather than hinder, families in their own efforts towards economic stability
  • Advocate to transform the way we measure and combat poverty in America through legislative  and administrative reforms, and  by developing best practices on the ground
  • Educate policymakers, foundations, businesses, and the media about proven practices to support and
  • Build Capacity of local organizations to design and advocate for effective policies and programs to move families toward economic security through training and one-on-one technical assistance

Using these strategies, the Insight Center leads California’s efforts to build family economic stability through our coalition, Californians for Economic Security (CFES). We have expanded this effort nationally, advocating for improvements at the federal level, and building the capacity of other state leaders to design new programs and policies for working families. For example, we are currently working with local organizations in Mississippi to create a diverse, statewide coalition of stakeholders dedicated to the economic stability of all Mississippians, called Building Economic Security in Mississippi . With the launch of the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ in 2008, we have also expanded the impact of this work to help retired older adults age with economic well-being. (Back to the top)

Shortcomings of the Official Federal Poverty Measures

Poverty reduction programs in the U.S. use outdated measures, the Federal Poverty Thresholds and Federal Poverty Guidelines, to determine who needs and receives assistance for many programs. The Federal Poverty Guidelines are “frozen” at the level of a basket of goods and services adequate for families in the 1950s, and updated only for inflation. They do not reflect rapidly increasing costs, such as health care (of particular concern to elders) and taxes or “new” costs such as child care; nor do they reflect local differences in the cost of basic goods and services. As a result, millions of working Americans who are not making ends meet do not receive the support they need: the official poverty measure captures only about a third of those who need assistance. (Back to the top)

Better Tools to Measure Economic Need

Our organizing and advocacy work focuses on what it actually costs to make ends meet in communities across America, as defined by the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard (Self-Sufficiency Standard) and the Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index), county-and family-specific measures of the income needed to cover basic needs. Unlike the official federal poverty measures, the Self-Sufficiency Standard, developed by Dr. Diana Pearce of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, uses publicly available data sources to quantify the actual costs of meeting the basic needs for working families by county – without public or private assistance. The Elder Index uses similar data sources to quantify the actual costs of meeting basic needs for retired adults age 65+ by county, and is the only elder-specific financial measure of its kind. The Elder Index methodology was developed by Wider Opportunities for Women and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and is analyzed and applied in California by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.(Back to the top)

Improving Lives Using Better Measures

Over the past decade, policymakers, service providers, advocates, labor unions, foundations, businesses, working families, and retired elders have used the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index to improve lives. They use these tools to:

  • Evaluate the impact of programs and policies
  • Advocate to reform the official poverty measure
  • Adjust eligibility thresholds for certain public benefits
  • Inform wage levels in union contracts
  • Measure the return on investment in grantmaking
  • Evaluate budget proposals at the national, state, and local levels
  • Provide career counseling to educate students and workers on how much income they will need to cover their costs
  • Fundraise to expand programmatic capacity

What Our Partners Are Saying

    • “The Elder Index information provides a reality-based way to plan, and enable older adults to age in place; the Federal Poverty Line is the ‘bury your head in the sand’ way”. – Paul Downey, Senior Community Centers
    • “We revamped our grantmaking and advocacy work to focus on the overall goal of economic self-sufficiency for women, using the Self-Sufficiency Standard as the underlying blueprint for these changes.” – Carol Penick, Women’s Fund of Mississippi
    • We use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to educate policymakers and the public about the needs of low-income households. It is a very useful and credible tool for examining and contrasting the impacts of budget and policy proposals.” – Mike Herald, Western Center on Law and Poverty
    • “We use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to educate the media about how much families have to spend on housing and other basic needs. Getting folks comfortable with the federal poverty line and having them understand that this is what we’ve used for years, but it’s not any good, is one thing. It’s another thing to say, ‘let’s flip it on its head and let’s look at what’s adequate income versus what’s inadequate income.’” – Dena Wittman, formerly with Back Bay Mission
  • “SETA uses the Self-Sufficiency Standard to define self-sufficiency wages in Sacramento County. We raised the eligibility criteria for intensive case management and training services to the Self-Sufficiency Standard, which has made our employment and training programs available to more people in our community.” – Robin Purdy, Sacramento Employment & Training Agency

Our History

The Insight Center was one of four leaders that, in 1997, launched the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project: an innovative, nation-wide effort to gain support for proven practices to help working families reach economic security, using realistic benchmarks of what it takes to make ends meet in today’s economy.  With partners in 37 states and Washington D.C., this work has developed into a national movement to transform the way we measure and address poverty in the United States. The impact of our work includes the Census Bureau’s efforts to develop a Supplemental Poverty Measure.

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative | Past Initiative

Who We Are:

The Insight Center’s Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative is a national effort to address the wealth gap that leaves the average American family of color with only 16 cents for every dollar owned by the average white family. To close this gap in the next generation, we have brought together over 180 scholars, advocates, and practitioners of color to inform the national economic debate with diverse perspectives and provide policy solutions to create a more inclusive and equitable future for all Americans.

Why This Matters:

Unleashing the potential that exists in all our communities to generate economic growth is essential to ensure a globally competitive economy, but it depends on our nation’s commitment to eliminating inequities and providing opportunities for all families to build their wealth (assets minus debts). Without wealth, families and communities cannot become and remain economically secure. Public policies have and continue to play a major role in creating and sustaining the racial wealth gap, and they must play a role in closing it.

What We Want to Accomplish:

To ensure that public policies address racial economic disparities and create economic opportunity for all, regardless of race and ethnicity, and to reframe the public policy debate to recognize the importance of wealth building and the racial dimension of the wealth gap. To that end, the Initiative has developed a set of policy principles, fact sheets and a white paper “Laying the Foundation for National Prosperity: The Imperative of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” that serve as a framework for developing and implementing policies that will close the racial wealth gap and that include people of color as full and equal participants in the economy.

How We Work:

Through the Initiative’s Experts of Color Network (ECON), a network of over 180 of the nation’s leading American Indian, Asian, African-American, Latino(a), and Native Hawaiian experts in the asset-building field, we are educating policymakers about the racial wealth gap, providing the media with experts who can speak on issues that are most relevant to today’s economy, and developing solutions to close the racial wealth gap. These scholars, policy specialists, advocates and community leaders have given Congressional briefings, and provided testimony on issues like housing, jobs, savings and investment, debt, credit, social insurance and business development. Through strategic communications, they are actively framing economic issues with a racial lens and building public will for inclusive policies. Already, the work of the Initiative and members of the Experts of Color Network have been featured in several national media outlets including The Washington Post, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Reuters, The Huffington Post and NPR.

What We Can Do:

We have a portfolio of services and programs that foster the development of equitable asset building policies that can help close the racial wealth gap, increase the economic security of low-income people, and help women and minority owned businesses thrive. Our approach includes increasing the impact of experts of color in the media and public policy arena, improving community and family savings strategies, and developing and promoting models to grow diverse small businesses.Our staff can:

  • Analyze the racial impact of public policy
  • Develop and give presentations and workshops on the racial wealth gap and how to close it
  • Develop community and family savings and asset-building strategies
  • Design small-business and micro-enterprise development policy and programs
  • Research and develop sector-based strategies for small business development, including minority and women owned business

Contact Us

To learn more about our work or to contact an expert of color, please email Anne Price or call 510.251.2600.

Savings and Asset Building | Past Initiative

Our Approach

The Insight Center has developed a portfolio of initiatives designed to foster the development of more equitable asset building policies, increase the economic security of low-income people, and help make women-and minority-owned businesses more competitive. The Insight Center helps strengthen and expand the asset building field through the following activities:

  • Increasing the reach and impact of experts of color in the national asset policy dialogue
  • Improving and expanding saving strategies to reach a broader portion of the population
  • Promoting and crafting program designs and policy models to grow minority businesses
  • Facilitating the investment of private capital to benefit low-income communities
  • Providing and increasing legal and operational support to community organizations

Key Project and Initiatives

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

  • Working to increase the impact of people of color in asset policy, practice and research; developing a public policy agenda and communications effort that will raise this issue to national prominence, and create the impetus for policy change

Inclusive Business Initiative 

  • Supporting minority – and women – owned business development through research, policy analysis, and partnerships with public, private, and nonprofit sectors

Community Asset Building

  • Researching and advising nonprofit economic-development corporations on social-enterprise creation and replication strategies, worker-owned cooperatives, and second-tier service cooperatives, especially among immigrant communities or in rural areas

Click here for more projects

Customized Services

  • Design small-business development policy and programs, including affirmative marketing and procurement, and financing for minority- and women-owned businesses
  • Research community and family savings and asset building strategies, including feasibility, scalability, case studies, and best practices
  • Consult on the start-up or replication of worker-owner cooperatives, especially in new immigrant communities
  • Research sector-based investment and support strategies for minority- and women-owned business and small-business development
  • Consult on alternative financial products, such as payday lending
  • Provide strategic planning for foundations

InBiz, the Inclusive Business Initiative | Past Initiatives

The Inclusive Business InitiativeSM is a project of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development that provides information to states and local governments, as well as diverse small businesses and their advocates, in order to further the inclusive business programs of public agencies. This initiative is a key component of the Insight Center’s work to advance strategies that build family and community assets and help overcome the racial wealth gap.

Click to view and download publications about InBiz.