Training, professional development, and certification for practitioners and programs.
Local, state, and national stakeholder networks that support and develop practitioner efforts.
Service delivery models and the underlying data systems that support them.
Mary Dupont is the Director of Financial Empowerment for the State of Delaware and works with a multi-sector team of partners from hundreds of public and private organizations to implement $tand By Me, a statewide financial empowerment program for all Delawareans.
44 Wall Street, Suite 605
New York, NY 10005
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$tand By Me ($BM) is a statewide financial empowerment program and a joint project of the state and United Way of Delaware (UWD). Now in its fourth year, the program was codified into state law, establishing an Office of Financial Empowerment at the Department of Health and Social Services.
The State and United Way partner with eight nonprofit contractors, who collectively employ 28 full-time financial coaches. In just over four years, 37,000 Delawareans have taken advantage of program services, with 9,000 receiving one-on-one coaching. The $BM’s approach to implementation is through systems integration where program services are embedded within the operations of host organizations, to maximize program access for targeted constituencies. Coaches are deployed statewide at hundreds of partner locations that include employers, community colleges, childcare centers, high schools, nonprofits, military and workforce development organizations.
This strategy requires each coach to be an independent social entrepreneur, whose job goes beyond one-on-one coaching. Coaches must cultivate their skills to: collaborate with community partners; develop strategies to embed the service into diverse organizational cultures; market services to potential clients; provide high-impact personal financial coaching; and capture clients’ progress in a complex data management system. This essay explores the staff development and program environment needed to build coach capacity to work effectively with clients and partners as part of a statewide systems-change model for financial empowerment.
$BM is a high-profile program representing the Governor, Secretary for Health and Social Services (DHSS), and UWD. With this positioning comes an inherent responsibility to deliver quality services with accountability. $BM has worked hard to ensure quality and consistency in both strategy and practice throughout its broad network of partners. Threats to quality could easily result from the isolated nature of the coach combined with the fact that coaches are employed by 10 separate organizations. $BM tries to avoid these issues by building pillars of strength that support the system and continuously build the capacity of $BM’s coaching community. These pillars consist of the following critical elements: high-quality classroom training; ongoing peer-to-peer support; strong leadership at every level throughout the system; loyalty to the co-active coaching model; and a priority on innovation and flexibility.
To begin the process, coaches participate in a week-long training offered in partnership with the University of Delaware for 2.4 CEUs. Following classroom training, they shadow seasoned coaches for 2 to 4 weeks, where they learn from their peers to perform specific routine tasks such as reviewing a client’s credit report, entering information into the data system, utilizing $BM’s referral database, presenting $BM’s interactive workshop curriculum, and marketing the program within partner locations. They also practice coaching in a safe setting with a peer who provides feedback on how to build an effective coaching relationship. This process develops each coach’s expertise in the core methodology of co-active coaching; enables them to see it in action from diverse perspectives; generates insights from colleagues; and most importantly, builds relationships among team members. This training strategy prepares each coach to build confidence and develop their own style, as they observe how counterparts integrate $BM’s coaching methodology. Feedback from $BM’s coaches reinforces the importance of shadowing as a safe and comfortable way to begin what could otherwise be a daunting assignment.
The comradery that results from shadowing is continually reinforced as coaches routinely turn to each other for advice. The coaching network also deepens through monthly full-day sessions that include expert presentations and peer-to-peer training on coaching techniques, and building shared referral resources. In spite of the diversity of partners and locations, $BM’s coaches are bonded as a proud family, connected by a quality product, strong reputation, and sense of mutual support.
In addition to the network of coaches, organizational leaders connect to each other through the program. Leaders at the state and United Way collaborate to create the program’s strategic framework. Leaders from $BM’s nonprofit partners manage their financial coaches in the field, and leaders at $BM’s community partners become “champions” who host the program within their organizations. Bound by a common mission of financial empowerment, leadership works closely together, fine-tuning implementation strategies to ensure success. This leadership structure reassures the coaches that they are not alone, but rather a part of a larger statewide network of organizations working together to support their efforts.
As a partnership model, we have come to understand that it is our responsibility to become familiar with every aspect of our partner’s business model to find the logical points of intersection for financial coaching as it relates to the business, the customer, and the coach. This includes identifying the right linkage, the right way to introduce it, the right messaging to the customer, and a seamless process of implementation.
On a larger level, as a program of the state, $BM has a unique opportunity to partner with diverse state agencies to integrate financial empowerment into a range of public programs and policies. By following the trail of community services to their source in government, $BM has paved a critical path to scale for financial coaching. $BM partnerships in government are accomplished by embedding financial coaching into the following public initiatives: affordable housing programs funded by the state housing finance agency; childcare programs within the state’s childcare quality system; home visiting programs in the state’s maternal and child health system; college access programs in the state’s higher education office; and workforce development programs in the state’s adult education and employment and training systems. Becoming a student of organizations and systems has enabled financial empowerment to enhance public programs and support vulnerable populations through partnerships with state agencies and their community partners.
That said, the front-line implementation efforts are much more challenging to accomplish than the conceptual program linkages. It takes time until financial coaching becomes part of business as usual. Our coaches are the foot soldiers who gently usher the process along and they need to approach each situation and partner with patience, creativity, understanding, and often, sacrifice. It is not always about what works best for $BM, but rather, how do we make it work best for everyone.
This system of training, peer support, partnership and leadership is knitted together by the understanding that $BM’s success depends on the personal commitment, ability, and vision of each individual. On a larger scale, $BM is propelled by a sense of innovation and the hope that together we can bring about positive change through increased financial stability for thousands of Delawareans. All of these ingredients are critical in supporting the personal financial coach as they work with one person at a time to achieve their financial goals.
44 Wall Street, Suite 605 New York, NY 10005 646.362.1645 phone 646.590.8743 fax
44 Wall Street, Suite 605, New York, NY 10005
646.362.1645 phone 646.590.8743 fax