Track: Economic Opportunity
Commitments: Leading with Vision; Partnering with Purpose
North Star: Strategic Partnerships

Format: Project-Based
Level of Learning: Doer

Community Service League and Holy Rosary Credit Union created an innovative public/private partnership to help break payday lending in Missouri. Their work provides alternative lending to low-income families and creates a framework for dismantling the massive payday loan industry.

This session will educate participants on how toxic lending keeps families entrenched in poverty and why economic stability remains out of reach for those trapped in debt cycles. Explore seedy practices of toxic lenders and examine how their practices prey on the vulnerability of low-income families.

The session will then talk about the unique partnership forged in Missouri that brought private and public entities together to create a lending model that helps low-income families access capital at reasonable interest rates. Learn how this partnership grew, in just three years, to more than 150 loans made and a loan portfolio of nearly $500,000.

The partnership is a venture cooperatively assisted by philanthropy and capitalism, and we aim to show how those two concepts can be married to bring social good to a community. This opportunity allowed both partners to rethink how they do business and how they incorporate innovation into their work. Partners had to rethink the role that access to capital plays in the lives of poor families and how the deck is stacked against those families.

Presenters will also share how communities have banded together to fight back against oppressive lending in their communities, and this session will explore legislative strategies that have weakened the reach of toxic lenders and will look at the work that remains to be accomplished.  

Learning Objectives  

  • How low-income families are negatively affected by an economy that isn't open to all people
  • Strategies and solutions for breaking cycles of toxic lending
  • How organizations, through partnerships, can develop lending networks that provide economic empowerment to kids and families in their communities


  • Doug Cowan, president & CEO, Community Services League (@doug_cowan and @cslcares)

Doug Cowan
President & CEO
Community Services League
@doug_cowan @cslcares

Doug Cowan is the president and CEO of Community Services League (CSL), based in Independence, Missouri. During his tenure at CSL, the organization has reached several milestones, including celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, being named as the Excellence in Impact award recipient in 2016 by Nonprofit Connect, the opening of CSL’s 11th location in the Kansas City area, and growing the agency’s annual budget to more than $4 million.

Active in his community, he will serve as president of the Rotary Club of Independence during its 2018-19 year, has served as co-chair of the Independence Social Service Summit, has served as chair of the Independence Square (downtown) Association, has served on the Parish Council of St. Mark’s Catholic Parish, and has coached youth soccer and baseball for several years.