Innovator Spotlight: MyPath

MyPath is a nonprofit focused on paving economic pathways for low-income youth.

Margaret Libby

Mounir Tyler

Margaret Libby and Mounir Tyler had very different childhoods, but their experiences led them to a common goal–to reduce economic inequality, break the cycle of poverty, and reverse decades of financially-driven discrimination in the United States.

Together, and with the support of organizations like the Principal Foundation and Financial Health Network, Margaret and Mounir are tackling this problem head-on.

Growing up, Margaret Libby, Founder & CEO of MyPath, saw the disparity of opportunity among youth and vowed to do something about it. She spent years working with and advocating for youth through various organizations, including the California Reinvestment Coalition. Through these experiences, she saw that the distribution of resources and opportunities in America are racialized, gendered, and built within entrenched systems reflecting long-standing policies of exclusion.

Mounir Tyler, MyPath Chief Operating Officer, grew up in an African American community that experienced this discrimination through a lack of quality financial resources. He vividly remembers his grandmother utilizing check cashing and other predatory lending services due to the lack of access to traditional banks. Mounir’s family and friends were situated in a “financial desert,” a community without ready access to safe, quality financial tools and information. Financial deserts are still a problem. In fact, many of the 20 million young people ages 16 – 24 working in America and earning their first paychecks are located in these areas.

The costs of lack of access to financial resources are high, particularly for youth of color. Often the only access to financial services in the community are predatory lending services such as check cashing and short-term loans that end up costing more due to high interest rates or exorbitant fees. Such services can become cyclical and it can be hard to get out, especially if there are no other alternatives in the area.

For both Margaret and Mounir, financial exclusion stands out as a foundational social-economic justice issue that perpetuates discrimination and prevents communities from transforming their income into assets. Early intervention is key to helping youth escape the predatory lending cycle and put them on a path toward a brighter and more financially healthy future. MyPath was founded to reverse decades of financially driven discriminatory practices and help break the cycle of poverty by providing knowledge and access to quality financial services.

Spurring Change

MyPath was created by Margaret, in collaboration with a team of youth, to reverse decades of discriminatory practices in the financial services system and to break the cycle of poverty. The organization does this by helping cities and nonprofits “bake” banking, savings and credit-building directly into existing youth employment programs. MyPath’s youth partners were instrumental in building effective local economic pathways targeting financial knowledge and access to friendly financial products using both technology and in-person delivery to ensure financial empowerment and mobility among their peers.

In Summer 2019, MyPath ran a workshop for 80 youth to provide training on credit and access to a financial mentor. This workshop helped opportunity youth understand the benefits and myths of credit and provide a solid foundation to help them understand the benefits and best uses of credit, and also debunk myths. They walked away with basic information that they can use to understand and leverage credit throughout their lives to build a better financial footprint.

Through collaboration with community stakeholders, Mounir and his team can provide an even greater impact in communities of color and low-income youth populations. This goal not only aligns with his personal social values and goals in leveling the economic playing field for all, but it begins to break down the financial deserts. Integrating traditional banking and financial services into these otherwise overlooked communities will have a lasting impact on the future of their residents, particularly the youth.

Moving Forward

MyPath is currently combining technology with human relationships to design and scale models. Upcoming milestones for the company include a test and pilot for the MyPath Mentor feature, the implementation of a digital platform credit module, and further research around private sector partnerships. Additionally, there is interest in expanding research capabilities to deepen understanding around youth financial decision making. The organization continues to build towards a longitudinal evaluation on the impact of early financial capacity interventions.

About YouthCan Innovation Program:

MyPath was selected as an Innovator in the Principal Foundation Youth Can Innovation Program, an initiative in partnership with the Financial health Network dedicated to furthering organizations that propose big ideas to help youth achieve economic opportunity and financial health. As a featured innovator, Edquity received a grant of $150,000, as well as ongoing mentorship from Financial Health Network and the Principal Foundation.

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Learn about the Youth Can Innovation Program