By: carol harvey
Shortly after Sept. 17, 2011, when Occupy Wall Street launched in Manhattan, Brian McKeown, a small-business owner and entrepreneur, joined San Francisco occupiers at 101 Market St. at the doorstep of San Francisco’s Federal Reserve Bank. Shortly thereafter, he occupied Bradley Manning Plaza – officially Justin Herman Plaza – for two months where he began devising a plan to right the economic wrongs and social inequities wrought by the 1 percent.
In 2008, McKeown traveled to Bangladesh to study microfinance at Muhammad Yunus’ world-renowned Grameen Bank. Under the Grameen Bank microfinance model, Yunus transformed Bangladeshi society by extending small business loans to deeply impoverished women. Yunus’ microfinance model has been replicated in 140 countries. The Grameen Bank has a 99 percent loan repayment rate.
In 2006, Yunus and the Grameen Bank jointly were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace prize in economics “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”
Inspired by the human rights work of his mentor, McKeown and his team are working on a solution that addresses the problems facing the working class, middle class and the underserved in San Francisco. McKeown, joined by other San Francisco occupiers and fellow civic-minded San Franciscans, is leading the charge to organize and establish in San Francisco a new community-development financial institution called The Peoples Reserve Credit Union, or PRCU, to rebuild the American middle class from within and undo the damage of the banking industry.
“Our goal is to help all community members of San Francisco,“ McKeown said.
The credit union “will lend, invest and prioritize the working class and the middle class here in San Francisco. That’s one of the things that separates us from these other traditional institutions.”
Elements of the credit union will focus on local, small-business people struggling through these hard economic times and underserved poor San Franciscans through microfinance loan opportunities.
PRCU is sharing its community-development credit union model with other interested communities seeking to reverse Wall Street’s and the big banks’ stranglehold on, and expropriation of, Americans’ wealth.
Credit unions offer higher rates of return on savings accounts, CDs and check-share accounts and lower interest rates on loans.
PRCU has reached out to City College of San Francisco student leaders about Individual Development Account savings programs to foster opportunities for college students. Local IDA savings programs like Project Earn provide matching grants (free money) up to $4,000 for low-income San Franciscans to start a business or to pay for college tuition.
The Peoples Reserve Credit Union team is organizing this cooperative as a state-based financial institution, “because it’s really about taking care of our people and our community first.”
PRCU is currently fundraising for seed capital. It is asking San Franciscans and civic-minded residents of the Bay Area and beyond for donations so it can launch this community-empowering initiative.
McKeown is adamant. “The profit mechanism for a small group of the financial elite needs to be taken out of the banking industry. We want to be able to invest San Franciscans’ and Bay Area residents’ money locally to be used for the benefit of this community.”
Stay tuned as PRCU will soon release names of its initial board members. McKeown believes you will be excited to see this prominent list of members contributing socially responsible financial management expertise.
Go to http://www.peoplesreserve.org to learn more.
Click on this link and fill out the form if you are interested in joining the Peoples Reserve Credit Union’s efforts in San Francisco.