Tens of thousands of low-income people cannot get the full range of financial services that they require. The capacity, expertise, and location necessary to provide these services are present in different organizations, but rarely if ever in one and the same organization. Community banking projects can start to resolve this dilemma by instigating partnerships between community organizations and mainstream banks.
The four community banking projects tracked by the "Financial Exclusion and Poverty in Canada" research project teamed up the following organizations. Cash & Save (Toronto) involved the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) with St. Christopher House, a community organization and Bain and Company, a consulting firm. PHS Community Services Society operates Pigeon Park Savings in Vancouver with Vancity Credit Union. Community Financial Services Centre is a pilot project of Winnipeg's North End Community Renewal Corporation, developed and implemented with Assiniboine Credit Union, and supported by the Alternative Financial Services Coalition. The Desjardins Fédération works with local caisses populaires to provide microloans from their mutual assistance fund; and budget (or credit) counselling organizations refer clients, do pre-lending counselling, and monitor repayment.
Project researchers concluded that these partnerships work best when there is sustained, cross-cultural dialogue to resolve their divergent interests, to improve services and to build friendship and trust between current and future leaders. There are two major challenges. The first is to keep up this dialogue despite the inevitable changes in the leadership and representatives of the partners. The second is to use these local learnings and knowledge to affect the larger institutions, sectors, cultures, and policies within which the partners operate.