The statistics can be shocking. An overwhelming 91 percent of British adults have never received lessons at school on basic financial management, such as budgeting. This suggests that Britain faces a significant gap in financial knowledge as the current generation struggles to equip its children with the financial skills they need. And 30 million (66%) of Britons believe that financial lessons would have provided them with the knowledge and understanding to better deal with the financial challenges of modern life, explains Lapenna. A prominent symptom of this lack of financial education is the increasing debt that many households are experiencing.
It’s clear! When it comes to money, many of us are not fully informed of how to manage our money effectively. MyBnk believes that there is a real need to allow new generations to become informed consumers of banks. “Our research has shown that there is inertia about changing banks with more people in the UK getting a divorce than changing banks,” says Lapenna, Italian-born and raised in London. Lapenna has international experience in international development with a focus peer education and backward linkages to micro finance.
The goal of MyBnk is to increase young people’s financial literacy and develop their enterprise skills. Its approach is to give them hands-on experience of organising, running and using financial services, via ‘MyBnk Branches’ also known as ‘MyBnk-in-a-Box’.
This is done in secondary schools and colleges that provide a convenient place for young people to save and take out small, interest-free loans.
Cooperative and individual savings are encouraged. This helps youth put their good ideas into practise by taking out small loans that are used towards the development of enterprising activities.
“We are currently running 7 MyBnk branches and are in the process of signing on 30 new secondary schools/colleges for September,” explains Lapenna.
MyBnk also offers fun assemblies, workshops and learning programs to encourage financial and enterprise capability amongst young people.
The organisation seems to be getting great support from larger social organisations. John Bird, CEO and founder of the Big Issue, says : “When you have money, and you know how to deal with it, then your choices are made freely. You are not alienated anymore. I support and encourage MyBnk because it is about independence, choice and education.”
While social enterprise ideas can sound great and be really of help to all, they can also sometimes be difficult to finance and sustainability is another challenge. But MyBnk business model has a vision. “We are a mixed receipt social enterprise so we have a wide funding spectrum from donations, to grants, to contracts and open market sales,” Lapenna said.
Donations made to MyBnk go into core costs, product development costs and delivery costs. “We believe in minimum spending and maximum impact. We have thus to date managed to have a substantial impact working with 2000 young people on a very small budget,” says Lapenna.
Lily Lapenna belongs to the many social entrepreneurs in rise today. She was inspired to set up MyBnk in response to a need, through a very powerful conversation with Michael Norton, a social entrepreneur and a columnist for The Leader World. “I was inspired to and because I realized whilst in Bangladesh that micro finance can be used enterprisingly. Together with young people in the UK we have decided to use micro finance as an educational tool,” she explains.
Having worked in Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Italy, Thailand and the UK on her own projects and for NGOs like BRAC, Gemin-i.org and Plan International, Lapenna’s work focuses on innovation in informal education and skill development for young people. “I am a true believer in facilitating change rather than creating or imposing it,” she adds.
The article first appeared on The Leader World: http://www.theleaderworld.com