Future of Matched Savings Summit – Part 2

By Jess Junke

During the first week of December, Prosperity Now brought together a small group of leaders from across the country to a summit exploring the future of matched savings. At the summit, we celebrated our collective victories and reflected on what we’ve learned from the losses. You can read more about that day in my first blog post.

This short follow up post discusses ideas which either percolated in the small group discussion I was a part of but we did not move forward as a full group, or ones I’m adding to my wish-list upon further reflection after the Summit. This list is not all-inclusive, and I welcome any recommendations on what else we need to be grappling with as we imagine the future of matched savings. As we look to that future, I believe we need to:

  • Acknowledge that matched savings alone will not solve the poverty and economic instability our country faces. We also need living wages, safe and stable housing, access to affordable healthcare, and a healthy appetite to fix the racial wealth divide.
  • Ensure the redesigned program fits within a “Targeted Universalism” perspective. It should be universally available to anyone but with intentionality around serving the folks who face the greatest barriers first and best.
  • Increase incentives for wealth building to marginalized groups of people to begin the long needed moral step to real reparations in this country. (Ta-nehisi Coates wrote a great primer on the need for reparations a few years back that you should check out if you’re not already familiar.)
  • Prioritize people of color in the distribution of resources.
  • Build the program within a “Universal Design” framework. People with disabilities should be able to access the resources without added accessibility needs.
  • Build the program from a “Trauma Informed Care” perspective. Poverty and trauma go hand-in-hand, if we really want to end poverty by moving people to financial capability, then we need to acknowledge the very real presence of trauma in their lives and shift programs accordingly.
  • Exclude overly paternalistic structures which at best attempt to ensure top-down control of program participants’ journeys and at worst build in barriers to success for both participants and providers.

Here in Oregon, we look forward to exploring these design principles with our partners as we continue our work to grow and evolve the Oregon IDA Initiative, share best practices in broader financial inclusion work, advocate for other asset building programs through the Oregon Asset Building Coalition, and come together annually at our RE:Conference.

Despite the enormous uncertainty at the federal level and to some extent at our local and state levels, we have huge amounts of wisdom and experience at the ready to design a future that is equitable, just, and full of opportunity for all. We know that we can achieve that future if we continue our work together.