Progressive Place

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Needed: bootstraps that don't rip when you pull hard

A plan for eliminating poverty with a long-term, peer-led, results-driven support framework; a rough draft.

Ideas after Social Venture Institute, Nov 2004. Sustainable Business Network
(c) 2005 David Calloway.

Adult Financial & Life Mastery Program

An expert on the panel told Tim Styer, CEO of The Service Works Co., "Your board must do more! Get members to contribute specific, identifiably valuable knowledge, assistance, and services, and replace any who can't or won't with ones who will. " This was typical of the feedback to firms like Styer's. I heard a different key issue: To get the employees to recognize the great personal value they gain from working for Service Works. They're growing a richer life, long-term, across a broad range of quality measures. Why blow your budget trying to match a corporate competitor's hourly rate, when your total package is so much more? Your board needs to include high-level corporate types with a progressive tilt, to bring in deep-pocket, resource-rich partners who can contribute to a package you could never afford to create yourself.

Get university and corporate allies to provide in-kind support, volunteers, and consultants. Focus on growing financial and life skills literacy among your employees. The partners will gain personal satisfaction, life enrichment of their own, a more diverse world view, and tremendous PR. Service Works will gain financial strength and ability to reliably make payroll, among other things.

We're talking about people who've bought the official story about their inadequacy. What's worse, they keep getting billed for it, month after month. The solution is more than a systemic analysis. It will address specific gaps in financial and other life skills, identify and mentor natural leaders and coach teams. It will also bring individuals, families, and communities together to help each other become a culture of achievement .

To become a culture of achievement and success, participants will have to leave a lot of their old culture behind. This can be suported with objectives that define a program, a curriculum, and ongoing support framework. (see Component Detail, below.)

Start out with a few individual success stories that simply and graphically:
- illustrate the problems
- frame the context for solving the problems
- explain how real people solved those problems in their own lives
- describes how they used specific tools and resources to implement and maintain the solutions.

In response to this idea, a financial planner said "our firm does all that." But they don't have a program or a plan around it, nor could they. I've reviewed the informational material they send out. I'm somewhat financially literate, and even I struggled with it. Which means it's probably useless to most of the population it's intended to serve.

For-profit financial firms such as Washington Mutual and Legg Mason should contribute to this cause, but they can't be or lead the cause. It has to be a center of energy, a movement-- an uprising, even. It must so powerfully change how poor people see their lives and their personal economy, that it makes the establishment feel a little nervous.

Some Component Detail
Simply and graphically illustrate the problem- plenty of stories around for that, both failures and successes. Most valuable are the stories that show the importance of every single participant: the almost-failures, and the successes that later failed, when one pivotal resource pulled out.

Frame the context for solving the problem- changing financial habits is a long-term-- indeed, life-long-- thing, and ties directly to changing life habits, which means changing culture. Long-term goals are the hardest to follow thru on. What can help people stay the path? How can subcultures of achievement and financial strength be identified, supported, seeded and sustained, until they become the mainstream, replacing and retiring the old, dysfunctional traits?

Explain the solutions-
present tools to implement and follow through with the solutions. Kit form might be best: forms, multi-sleeve folders, labels, calendar, columnar notebooks, boxes

Support structure- introduce toolkits first in a classroom or workshop setting, with skilled guidance.
Then transition graduates into weekly or semi-monthly support/social structures; halfway groups, with expert guidance giving way to peer mentors.

End state
An institutionalized and self-sustaining parallel culture, drawing on structure of 12-steps. Monthly support groups, accountability pairs, frequent celebrations of successes large and small. Build into a parallel culture of accomplishment, to keep people investing in their own success, and supporting others, through the inevitable ups and downs. Create a sub-culture and habits of cumulative accomplishment and wealth-building. Raise its voice above the corporate-sponsored din of the consumption culture.

Financial Planner Michelle Singletary hosts NPR's The Color of Money. Michelle could become an Oprah of personal finance: a celebrity-status personal finance expert, motivational speaker, writer, trainer, magnetic media personality. Her website is Might she also be