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Who We Are

Our Story

CEO’s origins can be traced back to the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) efforts to help newly- arrived refugees and other low-income families climb the economic ladder. Lack of credit and access to consumer financing was immediately apparent as a significant barrier to prosperity for IRC’s clients – and not only for refugees but for low-income immigrants and non-immigrants alike.

Finding partnerships with existing lenders that could reliably, consistently, and affordably extend financing to its clients proved elusive, and so IRC began to offer loans directly – and did so in tandem with their anti-poverty social service efforts.

By 2016, the IRC had made over 3,000 loans totaling $3 million, primarily to low-income refugee and immigrant borrowers, while maintaining a 94% repayment rate on its portfolio. More importantly, borrowers could build credit, buy cars, start businesses, and pay for training that could lead to higher-wage, higher-skilled work. IRC founded CEO to bring the CEO’s unique model and approach to a larger scale. Through 2023, CEO made more than 6,000 loans totaling more than $25 million across the IRC network and external partners.

IRC began lending in 2003 – and CEO’s model today is directly informed by IRC’s over 15 years of experience and iterative improvements, mistakes, and breakthroughs.

CEO is designed to offer modest loans at affordable rates from trusted community locations. This formula has worked within IRC’s setting, and we are eager to explore applying the model in different contexts, with various partners, and for other populations.

small dollar loans + skills building + accessible community locations = impact diagram.

IRC’s Center for Economic Opportunity is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Our Tax ID Number is 45-3686069. If you are inspired by our cause and would like to donate, please visit our donation page for more information.