Martin Eakes is the co-founder and CEO of Self-Help and the Center for Responsible Lending. Self-Help has proven that access to responsible savings, loans and transactions is critical for promoting financial security, family health and improved opportunity for low-income families. Since 1998, Self-Help’s Community Advantage Program has helped more than 50,000 lower-income families, especially those of color, to become homeowners in 48 states.
In 2008, Self-Help Federal Credit Union was formed to build a network of credit union branches to operate on an uncommon scale. It now has 22 branches, $600 million in assets, and serves over 80,000 people in four states. In the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, Eakes spoke with Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Eric Nee and described the devastating effect of predatory lending and the disparate impact on families and communities of color. In the following video, produced by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Martin discusses the conditions that make organizations like Self-Help so critical:
“We discovered that Black and Latino families had one-tenth the family wealth that white families had. And that single fact, in my view, is perhaps the most unacceptable fact in the modern U.S. economy.”
In 2009, Martin was presented with the Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award by the Opportunity Finance Network in recognition of his commitment to responsible lending. Other awards include the Credit Union National Association Wegner Award, National Consumer Law Center’s Father Robert F. Drinan Leadership Award, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation National Families Count Award. A leader in U.S. community development finance and policy, Martin currently serves on the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees, the Bank of America National Community Advisory Council and the Guilford College Board of Trustees.
He holds a law degree from Yale, a master’s from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton, and a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College. A native of North Carolina, Eakes is a nationally recognized expert on development finance and has been honored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a MacArthur Fellow for his work.
“I think that organizations like Self-Help and others that are working to create economic opportunities for the bottom 50 percent are actually working to save the country’s democracy.”
Martin Eakes was recognized in September 2016 as one of Living Cities' 25 Disruptive Leaders working to close racial opportunity gaps.