Program Spotlight: LIFT-Los Angeles and the Behavioral Design Project

By LIFT on May 20, 2016

Categories: Our Work


Those familiar with LIFT’s work know that our members accomplish exceptional feats each day. Across goals like obtaining living-wage employment and securing permanent housing, LIFT members work with advocates to overcome short- and long-term barriers on their unique paths to economic mobility. Regardless of the gains made, we’re confident we can do more for our members.

Recently LIFT-Los Angeles was one of 10 organizations selected to partner with ideas42 in their inaugural launch of the Behavioral Design Project for Promoting Financial Health, generously supported by the JP Morgan Chase & Co. Through this partnership we will join a learning community of nonprofits and private sector companies working to promote financial health. The project will help us uncover insights about our practices and constraints and allow us to be better equipped to integrate behavioral science into our work. Not to mention help us continue to build a strong, diverse network of experts and partner organizations to help inform and fuel our work.

LIFT’s alignment with ideas42, a leading behavioral design firm, evolved organically last summer. After leading a successful initial launch of its financial capabilities pilot, LIFT-Los Angeles was searching for ways to improve member engagement, uptake and goal attainment. For example, we knew that 90 percent of our members struggle to make ends meet, and that parents living in poverty face constant competing pressures on their time and mental bandwidth. This makes accessing needed services and achieving outcomes difficult.

Given these challenges, we believed that we could better serve our members if we meet them where they are and design programs by taking the context of their lived experiences into account. Behavioral science offers multifaceted consideration of this context, which provides a powerful lens for better understanding the barriers that prevent parents from achieving their goals. This new partnership will provide LIFT with an opportunity to learn from experts in the behavioral design field, test new research and help us understand more about what drives – or impedes – human action.

Over the next 18 months, LIFT – working with ideas42 – will explore ways we can infuse behavioral insights into the design of a financial coaching pilot in Los Angeles to help members access accounts and matched savings, improve their credit scores and take advantage of other financial opportunities for themselves and their families. With ideas42 we will work toward streamlining LIFT’s program offerings for maximum impact. We will also start to identify and work to eliminate barriers to sustained uptake of our programs.

The implications of this for members and their families are substantial. Members working with our trained financial coaches will learn key skills like how to budget and save, as well as other ways to financially prepare their families for thriving futures. Our early results demonstrate that these interventions have compounding ramifications in other parts of members’ lives as well, including reducing parents’ stress and influencing better overall health outcomes. By helping parents build more stable homes, we are helping to enhance the environments in which their children will learn and grow.

At LIFT, we understand that poverty is complicated but believe that getting help should not be. At the heart of our organization, we remain member-driven. By concurrently infusing the insights of behavioral science into our work, we will identify and vastly reduce the guesswork involved in program design and more efficiently build services that work for our members. Through the ideas42 project we hope to make progress across three goals: (1) our members will achieve greater, lasting progress toward reaching their self-set financial goals (2) LIFT-Los Angeles will identify successful program innovations that can be scaled across our national network and (3) LIFT will be able to share its practice-based learnings with practitioners, researchers and other influencers.

Stay tuned for updates!