Solidarity-based finance at DID : Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds have been contributing to financial literacy since 2001

November 1, 2019

Did you know? Since 2014, DID has been helping Desjardins caisses offer three solidarity-based finance initiatives: Créavenir, Desjardins Microcredit to Businesses and Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds. Offered in Quebec and Ontario in partnership with 172 community organizations, these initiatives combine customized financing and coaching to financially include entrepreneurs, self-employed workers and individuals in financial difficulty. In 2018, they reached 23,005 individuals and entrepreneurs. 

Since 2011, Canada has been celebrating Financial Literacy in November, defined as having the knowledge, skills and self-confidence needed to make responsible financial decisions. The Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds program helps foster financial literacy in Quebec and Ontario by offering advice and support to individuals in vulnerable circumstances.  The program enables participants to receive confidential coaching free of charge to plan and manage their budgets, and it provides financial assistance as needed in the form of a small emergency loan. 

Launched in 2001, the Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds program is now offered by more than 75% of Desjardins caisses in Quebec and Ontario.  A recent impact study, conducted with five budget consulting partners of the program, confirms that it has made a real difference in improving the financial literacy of supported individuals.

Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds: a conclusive impact


The impact study, conducted in late 2018, is proof of the major, positive impact that the program has had on individuals in vulnerable circumstances. 

The results speak for themselves:

  • 98% of individuals accessing the program found it met their expectations and needs 
  • 90% were able to implement personalized budget solutions 
  • 84% improved their situation
  • 79% feel better equipped to change their financial situation 
  • 87% changed their spending habits

Furthermore, the participants were able to identify a number of ways the coaching provided by the Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds contributed to improving their situation:

  • Better management of their personal finances 
  • Regained control of their situation
  • Better understanding of community resources 
  • Increased ability to negotiate with creditors
  • Taking responsibility for and developing better payment habits
  • Reduced stress
  • Renewed confidence, enhanced self-esteem 
  • Access to help (escape isolation)

Lastly, the satisfaction rates with respect to the services received were very high: 

  • 95% consider the information received as being clear
  • 100% felt that the advisor’s attitude was respectful and appropriate
  • 98% feel that the advisor listened to what they needed

These results show that the Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds, with their unique cooperative approach, meet the needs of individuals in a precarious financial situation and foster both financial education and financial inclusion.  They also emphasized the merits of the partnership strategy adopted by Desjardins caisses and community organizations to support and capitalize on their expertise in providing advice on budgeting.