The Living Cities Income & Assets Working Group is focused on the challenge of reaching scale in the asset-building field. This field has significant creativity and innovation, but few efforts have reached enough of the market to make a material difference. For the most part, existing efforts focus on stand-alone centers or singular services or products. To date, very few efforts have sought to tackle the challenge of integrating asset-building within existing public infrastructure, such as our social services systems. And for those who have taken on the challenge, they have found progress slow going at best.
We are convinced that if asset-building efforts are to reach scale, part of the answer will rest with the ability of practitioners to institutionalize the asset building framework and practice within public sector social service delivery systems. Our Income & Asset Working Group grants will test this hypothesis.
The Income & Assets Working Group recently awarded two 18-month grants to Seattle’s Housing Services Department and the Louisville Metro Department of Community Services and Revitalization to organize the integration of financial counseling into their homeless services continuum. The goal of this effort is for clients within the homeless services continuum to have support in achieving increased financial stability. What makes this approach especially exciting is the potential to re-engineer a full social services continuum to empower individuals to build their own assets. Implementation teams will establish a base-line practice, develop and ratify standards for the delivery of asset building services, and reorient public contracts to embed financial education and asset building into their core requirements.
The implementation teams will take the form of meaningful cross-sector partnerships. Rather than a top down prescriptive approach implemented by the public sector, financial coaching experts and seasoned service providers will work alongside municipal leaders to reorient the existing approach to homeless service provision.
Team building kicked-off in late February when we convened multi-sector teams from both sites to Washington, DC for a two-day Municipal Asset-Building Learning Community. Both sites participated in an emergent learning session that allowed them to critically re-examine and reformulate their initial work plans based on critical reflections about prior innovation and reengineering efforts in their home cities. Supported by Living Cities staff and a graphic recorder, the teams worked their way through the emergent learning cycle developed by Fourth Quadrant Partners, LLC. This was a promising start to these grants as it provided and opportunity for them to engage with a framework to measure scale, develop an understanding of how another site is approaching this work, and reflect on their work plans and teams
We’ll keep you posted on what we’re learning from Louisville and Seattle.