CBO Interview with Community Financial Resource Center (CFRC)
This community-based organization spotlight features the work by Community Financial Resource Center that is located at 4060 South Figueroa Street. Meta’s Community Liaison, Tania Picasso, had a moment to talk with Rudy Espinoza, Senior Program Officer for CFRC’s Local Economic Development department and discuss some of the programming related to social media and street vendors that is currently taking place. CFRC’s approach to community development through financial assistance and asset building illuminates what the Metamorphosis Project refers to as the Communication Infrastructure, an approach that privileges the community residents and grassroots perspective by uncovering the healthy connections between organizations and residents and the levels of communication that are happening as a means of bringing about positive change.
MetaConnects (MC): Please describe Community Financial Resource Center’s (CFRC) overall mission.
Rudy Espinoza (RE): As a Community Development Financial Institution, our role is to provide capital and asset building education to consumers. We see ourselves almost like an alternative bank—when business owners and people go to the bank and they’re not getting the loan or the account that’s going to help them build assets—that’s when they come to us and we help them. CFRC is about building assets in the community. We serve all of LA County with in our surrounding neighborhood of South LA.
MC: How does CFRC go about making their resources known to the community? What are some of your outreach/media strategies?
RE: In the past, we used to do community walks where we would go out into the neighborhood and talk to folks about the programs that we had. I think now, we want to start bringing that back. But I know that in my capacity here, the way that I promote is working through my partners. Sometimes I mix outreach through nonprofit partners with simply walking in the neighborhood and talking to people. Ultimately, it’s really about mapping out the natural aggregators in the community and leveraging their network to get the word out.
MC: Who are some of CFRC’s partners and collaborators in South LA?
RE: The new work that is coming out of the Capital Partners Program involves working with street vendors. We’re treating street vendors as business owners and entrepreneurs. We are organizing them and trying to get them in here to help them understand the process to become a legitimate business in South LA. That work is funded through The California Endowment, so we’re excited to participate in the Endowment’s hub where we have gotten to know partners in the community like, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and SCOPE. These organizations help us get the word out about our program.
MC: Tell us about your computer laband how it’s become a resource in the community.
RE: We have a computer lab with 20 computers. So recently we thought, “What can we do to get people in here to use the computers?” Although we don’t really have funding for it, we decided we would invite people to come in and see if they want to take some classes. I made a flyer, I put it on the door, made a sign-in sheet. And people just started coming in. Right now I have a small group of 15 ladies in my class that are monolingual Spanish speaking. The classes are not very business-focused, but rather general, covering topics like the basics of using a computer. We are trying to mix it up by putting more of a social media angle to it, because when we asked them what they wanted to learn, some of the things they said was that they wanted to learn how to get on Facebook, they wanted to learn how to pay their bills, how to do transactions over the internet. The internet was the hub of all that. It wasn’t a Word Processor or Quicken—it was the internet.
MC: How do the computer classes and technology tie into the new Street Vendor Project?
RE: My goal is, connecting back to street vendors, is to get them on the computer too. The work that I am doing with street vendors, is obviously connected with food trucks. Food trucks, the gourmets particularly, use Twitter and a lot of social media to promote where they’re at. I’m a big techy myself, and I was like “yes, we got to figure out a way to connect the veterans we see in our community pushing carts or even the loncheros.” Now the ideas are coming full circle because my colleagues from the Loncheros Association recently asked if CFRC can teach their lonchero trucks Twitter. That’s probably happening soon. We’ll do a Twitter 101 workshops covering everything about the service—what does it mean, what does it do. I’m hopeful that through this experimentation we can get more people in to take advantage of the resources at CFRC. I know cell phones are going to be a big thing too. In the first class, there were a few señoras that wanted to know how to take a picture on their phone, and they had all these questions: Where does the picture go? Can I take the picture out of my phone? That should be simple, you just need to put in the time to explain it. I’ve followed what’s happened with vozmobiles—it’s awesome to see how you could use technology. For the most part it’s free, already in their hands, and an amazing tool that can empower residents to get involved in their community or improve their lives. They might not have computers, but they have cell phones. There was a lonchero that I hung out with last week, he was looking for a loan, and he was renting his truck and wanted to put money in the truck and another business. He was awesome, he had been doing it for 20 years and wanted to put money into marketing. He wanted to put banners on the truck which could easily be done. Part of it is that you actually need a designer to print stuff out and wrap the truck but the other part is promoting it on Twitter. I saw his cell phone—a smart phone – and I’m sure he didn’t know how to use it to its full capacity. I know he would love to know, and the best part is that it’s mostly free. The resources that CFRC has can help someone like that business owner get to a place where he could buy his own truck. He wouldn’t need to rent anymore. That’s when you could start talking about the assets we’re building in our community.