We realized we couldn't help our customers succeed in the old system—so we decided to build a system of our own. We spent time listening to our customers in order to truly understand the pain points in their financial lives. We used these insights to develop an Android app to instantly credit score people using the data on their smartphones. We also decided to do the lending ourselves, bypassing the banks entirely. Today, we’re growing our app on three continents, and more than three million customers have borrowed with us. The majority of these customers previously had no formal credit history. Now they do.
This highlights an important lesson: Adding outsiders to a flawed system is simply not enough to make it work for more people. Those of us who want to see change—in the world or in our industries—need to play a role in rebuilding old systems from the ground up, so that everyone is starting from an even playing field, with the same opportunities to get ahead.
This is why simply starting with inclusion can feel insufficient. To be sure, inclusion initiatives have made important strides in many industries, bringing underrepresented people and voices through previously closed doors. But the very idea of including someone else depends on a relationship in which one person — the includer — is more powerful than the other, the outsider. And inclusion does not always subvert or challenge this power dynamic. At its worst, it only reinforces a broken system. True economic empowerment cannot take place when outsiders are “let” in through an open door. The whole structure must be redesigned to serve people uniquely and equitably.