Remember “Home Ec” classes? At high schools across the country, students learned about household finances: how to save money for a rainy day, how a loan works, and what compound interest does.
Over time, we’ve seen financial management get more complicated and financial literacy training harder to come by. How you handle your money is a critical skill set for anyone. But for people living in poverty and facing or experiencing homelessness, it can be the key to transforming their future.
For years Solid Ground has supported clients in gaining these financial empowerment skills in a classroom setting or through one-on-one coaching. But these formats have limited our ability to reach a broad section of the community.
Now, thanks to a partnership with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), Solid Ground is part of a unique national Intensive Learning Cluster to develop ways to integrate financial empowerment throughout the breadth of our programs.
Solid Ground was selected as one of five agencies from across the country to participate in a six-month pilot project with CFED, which was launched with a four-day gathering in Washington D.C. this fall. Judy Poston, Solid Ground’s Financial Fitness Boot Camp Program Coordinator, went to the kick-off and gave this report:
The purpose of the Intensive Learning Cluster is to work with CFED staff – as well as the other four agencies – to come up with ideas to successfully integrate financial empowerment education in all Solid Ground programs. We hope to take a holistic approach to this process that will teach people how to build personal assets and become financially empowered.
One of the most inspiring parts of the conference was keynote speaker Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ. His keynote speech challenged and called us all to action to continue financial empowerment work so that all Americans can learn to be self-sufficient.
The five agencies are looking at how we can build on best practices to integrate financial empowerment education into all of our programs. That way everyone will have a chance to achieve the American dream. At Solid Ground, this means we’re looking into developing a common intake process, tracking long-term outcomes, and getting staff buy-in to the process.
There will be a lot of discussion on how to get our staff to willingly buy-in to this model when, perhaps, their own finances might not be in great shape, or they might feel overwhelmed at being asked to add one more duty to an already full workload.
Among our next steps:
1) CFED staff will come to Solid Ground in January, 2013 to work with our staff as we develop our financial empowerment plan.
2) We’ll hold a focus group composed of housing staff who have attended the Burst for Prosperity Financial Coaching Training to discuss how they see themselves implementing financial empowerment into their work with folks we serve.
3) We’ll share powerful, successful client stories, being cheerleaders as well as advocates for this implementation process.
I am thankful to work with folks who are so dedicated and compassionate. And I am confident in our joint success as we work together to deliver financial empowerment services to everyone we serve.
Participating in the Intensive Learning Cluster represents just one of the ways Solid Ground is working to infuse all of our services with best practices learned from across the agency’s 30 programs and services to increase the synergy of our work. That means the people who come to us for temporary housing, nutrition education, legal support or other services will get the full benefit of all of our programs. Now that’s what we call compound interest!