Poverty Solutions research, evaluation services advise Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge programs

Source: Poverty Solutions

People gather at the Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge showcase held April 28, 2023, at Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit. (Photos by Creative Focus Productions)

As six pilot programs to promote the financial well-being of Detroit residents get underway, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan is working with these programs to conduct an evaluation that will provide insights on how to improve and expand city-wide. 

Detroit Greenways Coalition, Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit (D4), GreenPath Financial Wellness, Southwest Economic Solutions Corporation, and Communities First Inc. were recently awarded grants of up to $200,000 each from United Way for Southeastern Michigan – a total investment of more than $1 million – to pilot their ideas as part of the Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge

Their projects include making bicycles available to Detroiters who don’t have other reliable means of transportation, two real estate investment opportunities designed to allow residents to benefit from development in their neighborhoods via a Community Investment Trust and a Diversified Community Investment Fund, a new loan product to resolve nontraditional debts and improve credit paired with financial coaching, a program designed to help people increase their savings, and a clearinghouse designed to streamline the home repair process to better serve homeowners in need of repair. 

In addition to grant funding, coaching, and consultation services from United Way, the project teams are receiving program evaluation services from Poverty Solutions. Poverty Solutions will be working with teams in developing an evaluation plan, offering guidance on data management, and conducting data analyses to identify outcomes and opportunities for improvements

“We are thrilled to continue supporting these dedicated organizations in piloting their new and game-changing programs, thoughtfully designed to improve the financial well-being of Detroiters. The Challenge itself is innovative in its approach of providing funding to build and test never-before-done program models as well as providing dedicated research and evaluation support to ensure the project teams can both do the work and rigorously measure the impact of their work,” said Leonymae Aumentado, senior project manager at Poverty Solutions.

To get to this stage of the challenge, the six pilots were selected from among 17 projects that participated in the Planning Stage, which ran from Aug. 1, 2022, through March 31, 2023. During the Planning Stage, grantees worked to test assumptions critical to the success of their new ideas, develop partnerships, and create the processes and materials necessary to launch a functioning pilot.

In the Planning Stage, Poverty Solutions led 14 student research assistants in assisting the project teams with gathering information on topics ranging from community land trusts to demographics of Black workers in Detroit to the barriers faced by small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

“I gained a lot of knowledge that will be transferable to how I go about understanding the context of different cities,” said one of the research assistants, Kyra Reumann-Moore (MPA ‘23). “I love how community-centric the challenge is and how they are trying to improve the financial well-being of Detroiters based on what they’re hearing from residents.”

The Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge was designed by United Way for Southeastern Michigan, in collaboration with Poverty Solutions, in response to Poverty Solutions’ research assessing the financial well-being of Detroiters. The research found a combination of low and volatile incomes and disproportionately high costs makes it challenging for tens of thousands of Detroiters to maintain consistently positive cash flow and build savings. This leads many households to accrue unmanageable debt and suffer low credit scores.

The Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge, which launched in February 2022, provides seed funding for innovative pilot programs and initiatives focused on addressing underlying structural and systemic barriers to financial well-being. Detroit residents had opportunities to weigh in on project ideas during the Concept Stage and project teams were expected to solicit and incorporate further feedback from Detroit residents into their program design. After the current Pilot Stage, one or two of the pilots will receive additional funding of up to $1 million and continued technical assistance to scale their project citywide. The challenge is made possible through funding from JPMorganChase, Comerica, and General Motors.

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