New Youth Council Puts Young People at the Center of Financial Decision-Making

Financial stress can have a tremendous impact on self-confidence, productivity and overall well-being. Although many low-income communities (particularly communities of color) experience financial constraints such as low-wage jobs, income volatility and rising costs of housing and healthcare, young people in general are even more vulnerable as they begin to establish their own financial habits, achieve greater independence from their households and experience the unprecedented territory that comes with transitioning into adulthood.

To financially empower program participants, it’s important that they are included in design and implementation to create services that reflect their needs. One way this can be achieved is by adopting human-centered design.

Human-centered design allows program staff to better understand the context in which people make decisions about their finances. It also levels the playing field by centering and including participants in the design and decision-making process. Programs can shift from a transactional interaction with participants towards transformational service delivery that recognizes participants as powerful, resourceful and knowledgeable.  

Inspired by this model, Prosperity Now convened its first Youth Council this May. The Youth Council will serve as a platform to elevate youths’ experiences with banking, credit and saving. The Council will gain exposure to useful resources and guest speakers on money management and advocacy. At the same time, the Youth Council will be an opportunity for members to become champions for financial capability by strengthening their communication and leadership skills as they develop ideas for sharing financial knowledge with other young people. This engagement will happen through individual and group activities on both virtual and in-person forums with opportunities for collaboration.

The Youth Council is comprised of eight young adults enrolled in workforce programs at organizations that are part of the Citi Foundation’s Youth Financial Capability Fund (YFCF). Ranging from 18 to 24 years of age and located in cities across the country, the Council represents various perspectives, ideas, interests and walks of life.

While some have just finished or are attending high school, others are working or considering post-secondary education. Youth Council members have expressed initial interest in developing general financial management skills alongside their peers, with an emphasis on sharing knowledge with each other and their communities. We look forward to learning from them to inform our understanding of young people’s financial decision-making and identify opportunities that would best help them realize their goals. 

This project stands out among our other work because it breaks from our usual approach. In our technical assistance, we typically engage with program leadership and staff. However, the Youth Council allows us to hear from young people directly to challenge the assumptions we might hold about them and their financial experiences. We are determined to have this experience inform the way we engage with stakeholders by raising the ideas of young people as well as the experiences of funders, workforce organizations and policymakers alike.

Our 2018 Youth Council members include:

  • Antoinette Hui, San Jose CA (Genesys Works)
  • Darius Owens, Seattle WA, (Juma Ventures)
  • Dayzhonna King, Kent WA (Juma Ventures)
  • Luisana Estevez, Bronx NY (NPower)
  • Ranye Mclendon, Baltimore MD (NPower)
  • Sean Burris, St. Louis MO (NPower)
  • Jonathan Jenkins, Hartford CT (STRIVE International)
  • Jamilla Sanders, Baltimore MD (Urban Alliance)

When asked what they are looking forward to the most about the Youth Council, participants said:

  • “Learning from and teaching others financial literacy tips that pertain to us as adolescents. It's important to pass on knowledge.”  
  • “Co-operating with such brilliant young adults to better our financial futures.”  
  • “Learning about the role I can play as an individual in making change possible and enabling young adults like myself to be mindful about financial management.”  
  • Learning about workshops in my community. They will be useful in an area where many students have to find their own path in finances as first-generation Americans.”

The Youth Council launched with a virtual meeting on May 20, when young people shared their personal goals for 2018 and brainstormed ideas for what they should strive to accomplish together. The Youth Council plans to connect through social media (using #fincap4youth on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and virtual calls over the next several months to learn about and share tools to help them achieve their financial goals, discuss financial topics, and explore ways to implement their ideas in their communities.

Youth Council members will also convene in-person at Prosperity Now’s flagship conference, the Prosperity Summit, during which they will have opportunities to meet with their congressional leaders, engage in speaking opportunities and participate in networking events and other learning and brainstorming sessions.  

Stay tuned over the coming months as Youth Council members develop their ideas and deepen their collaboration with each other. We’re grateful to engage with this group of dynamic individuals and can’t wait to share our journey with you!

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