By Monica B., Enmerlin P., Cheryl W., Sue B.
On April 5th, 2022, members of BlackRock’s Financial Inclusion Team (FIT) were invited to join Operation HOPE and Financial Literacy for All (FL4ALL) as they rang the NASDAQ opening bell. We were the four lucky FIT members who did!
While the Opening Bell Ceremony was a spectacular and memorable event, it was the words of Operation HOPE’s CEO, John Hope Bryant, that resonated most within us. Operation Hope is a movement to eradicate poverty for all people. John Hope Bryant’s purpose is clear and compelling: Raising awareness about economic inequality, and providing access to financial education for individuals and small businesses to expand economic opportunity and make free enterprise work better for everyone. This purpose is notably aligned with the core valuesandmissionofFIT.WelefttheceremonyinspiredanddeterminedtofindwaysforBlackRock’sinfluence and resources to be used to promote financial dignity to underserved communities.
The NASDAQ event inspired us to talk more about the meaning of financial dignity and financial literacy. We discussed multiple ideas, such as a curriculum that could guide individuals through understanding their personal financial narrative, as well as help, regulate their financial choices while personalizing, humanizing, redefining, and reconstructing the fundamental components of financial wellness. As our conversation evolved, it became evident that knowledge alone is not enough. We must ensure that those offering financial education to these communities are doing so from a position of understanding and reliability.
Our own personal stories, as well as that of John Hope Bryant, highlight the importance of having an impactful and relatable message. To help marginalized communities meaningfully, it is crucial for educators to find common ground and create safe spaces for conversations surrounding personal finance. For John Hope Bryant, it was an individual that came into his classroom in Compton, California that delivered a life-altering message that placed him on this journey. This guest speaker made him aware of future possibilities which were previously unfathomable. At the time, John didn’t know what an entrepreneur was, and he was unaware of the many alternate paths to success. This pioneering speaker entered a Compton classroom and set in motion a powerful ripple effect, greatly impacting the life of John Hope Bryant and, in time, hundreds of thousands of other individuals who have now been touched by Operation HOPE.
We may not recognize it, but we all have the opportunity to become changemakers within our families and communities. For Monica, her father was an educator and the inspiration for change. For Cheryl, a financial literacy program in high school built upon the knowledge that she had already learned from her entrepreneurial parents. For Enmerlin, her grandparents set the standards for having open conversations about money. And for Susan, the foundation of her upbringing was based on education across all facets.
Building a strong foundation around financial literacy provides the opportunity to create exponential change within underserved communities. Establishing a financial literacy curriculum is a wonderful first step in creating pathways of connectivity. However, as FIT members, it is our responsibility to deliver this message in a way that is relatable and empathetic to the communities we hope to serve. This must be done by providing tailored guidance to community members on how to navigate a complicated financial system. We must also establish crossroads between BlackRock and community leaders to create a pipeline for students to develop financial awareness, visit our offices, experience our culture, and imagine all the possibilities.
Using BlackRock’s influence, resources, and reputation, we are committed to creating vital partnerships with internal and external organizations. If we succeed, we can maximize the impact of a financial literacy outreach program. Having the support of trusted members of these communities will also contribute to our success. It will give us the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the challenges they are facing, build our own relationships within multiple communities, perfect our message, and increase our impact.
For more about John Hope Bryant’s inspirational story and message, read his books: Love Leadership (2009); How the Poor Can Save Capitalism (2014); The Memo: Five Rules for your Economic Liberation (2017): and Up from Nothing: The Untold Story of How We All Succeed (2020)