The Inclusive Economy
CFED Kicks Off Smart Growth Innovation Fund with Discovery Convening
By Parker Cohen on 08/06/2015 @ 01:00 PM
In partnership with Capital One, CFED began convening the Smart Growth Innovation Fund in April 2015 to bring together six nonprofit credit counseling agencies to think strategically about industry problems and to explore innovative solutions. The nonprofit credit counseling industry has undergone many changes in recent years, including the types of services clients are seeking, the types of clients seeking services and the regulatory environment. Through an innovation research & design (innovation R&D) process guided by CFED, each of the Fund’s participating agencies will design solutions to the challenges faced by their clients. Our goal is to develop solutions that bring valuable ideas and insights to the entire industry.
The six participating organizations are:
- Apprisen (Columbus, OH)
- Clarifi (Philadelphia, PA)
- Financial Guidance Center (Las Vegas, NV)
- Guidewell Financial Solutions (Baltimore, MD)
- Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Navicore Solutions (Manalapan, NJ)
In May, CFED brought this group together for an in-person discovery convening, during which we worked with participants to identify and refine the problem they wish to solve through the innovation R&D process. At the Convening, members immersed themselves in the innovation R&D process, which includes:
- Understanding the innovation cycle. Participants discussed what innovation meant for them in their lives; paired up with a partner to experience the innovation process in a 90-minute simulation.
- Crafting a problem statement, or “design challenge”. This proved to be no easy task. Participants found that they were often thinking of design challenges through an internal operational lens, rather than assessing whether these problems were essential from their clients’ perspectives. Together, participants talked through their design challenges and helped each other revise them to ensure they were more client-centered.
- Developing logic models. Then, members refocused on their internal operations by creating logic models for their credit counseling programs. These logic models allowed participants to identify the rationale and objectives of their programs and identify the impact they expect credit counseling services make on the lives of their clients.
Now that the convening is over, members are using interviews to learn more about their clients’ lives and experiences in their services. These interviews will be used in conjunction with other methods to finalize the design challenges, at which point members will begin to identify potential solutions to their challenges. We look forward to updating the field with the progress of the Smart Growth Innovation Fund as it moves along the path of innovation.