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Ripple of Change: Financial Empowerment, Creating our own Competition

At Momentum, we have purposely worked to create our own competition to make a bigger difference in the community.

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Wed Oct 11, 2023 by Jeff Loomis

Many businesses - and ‘social profit’ or non-profit organizations – often want to beat or limit their competition. At Momentum, we often do the opposite. We have purposely worked to create our own competition, spreading out our competitive advantage, to make a bigger difference in the community.

Over 10 years ago, Momentum was more or less the only game in town when it came to financial literacy education for people living on low incomes and we knew the need far outstripped our capacity. Rather than set goals to grow ourselves, Momentum committed to train other community organizations to offer similar financial empowerment programs. We believed we could scale our impact by sharing what worked for us with our ‘competitors’. It’s been a success! Since 2009:

  • Momentum’s Financial Literacy Training has supported over 900 staff from almost 400 different organizations – primarily in Alberta - to offer their own money management programs.
  • Those trained organizations have had over 26,000 people attend a money management program using Momentum’s Financial Literacy curriculum.
  • The above results are a huge increase from the 1,000 people per year that attend a Money Management workshop offered directly at Momentum.

Looking back, we can see our sharing approach has worked to enable a lot more people living on lower incomes to become financially empowered than we would have reached on our own.

These are organizational decisions we believe contributed to the initiative achieving ripples of change:

  1. We published our curriculum and made it available to non-profits only. This protected the integrity of our offering and eliminated duplication of curriculum development costs across the sector.
  2. We offered curriculum + facilitator training exclusively as a package, to ensure quality delivery. (An external evaluation validated this decision, and the package approach continues to be our model today)
  3. We kept the cost very low. Trained organizations reciprocate by reporting their activity to us so we can track our collective impact.
  4. Rather than spread too thin, we partnered to create a second training hub for Saskatchewan. Foundations Learning in Saskatoon plays the Momentum role of facilitator trainer for that province and has since trained over 180 staff from more than 70 organizations, reaching 5,000 people in Saskatchewan with Money Management training.

Based on the agencies in Calgary offering financial literacy programming, there was growing interest in working more together to scale impact by forming a collaborative.

Momentum, along with the City of Calgary, United Way and Vibrant Communities Calgary launched the Aspire financial empowerment collaborative in 2015 so that people living on low incomes in Calgary had more opportunity to reduce debt and build savings. The Aspire collaborative now has over 25 organizations involved in offering financial empowerment programs, such as education savings workshops, matched savings and tax filing clinics.

Examples of Aspire’s impact include:

  • City-wide, coordinated free tax filing clinics, which benefit over 10,000 Calgarians every year.
  • Expansion of matched savings programs from just Momentum to partners across the city! Availability of these programs has more than doubled to 500+ seats.
  • Moving uptake of the Canada Child Benefit, a boost to the education savings accounts of children from families living with low incomes, from 20% to 50% in Calgary!

At Momentum we believe in the wisdom of the proverb that ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together’. The decision to share our experience and content has supported other community organizations – our potential competitors for both funding and program participants – to work with people to become financially empowered. With the community now working together more, we have gone a long way towards people in Calgary living on lower incomes having more opportunities to better manage and save their money

This post is part of our Ripples of Change Series. See more stories featuring the impact Momentum has had on our community on our blog.