A Budgeting Toolkit for Latin Families in San Francisco
MEDA is a financial services nonprofit that works with low-income, Latinx families in the Mission District of San Francisco. MEDA and IDEO.org partnered together to see if there was a way to make MEDA’s existing financial coaching services more effective and relatable,because the language used around finances and budgeting is rarely aspirational—in fact, it's usually inaccessible.
The Viva Toolkit is a tool for financial coaches that shifts the focus from money milestones to life milestones such as getting a job, starting a business, or parenting. Coaches use The Viva Toolkit to guide clients through self-reflection exercises, a simple introduction to financial concepts, and an action plan that provides tangible take-aways from their 1:1 sessions.
As of October 2019, the Viva Toolkit had reached over 1300 individuals and had a 62% outcome conversion. Outcome conversion was defined as the % of clients achieving their goal in coaching sessions where the Viva Toolkit was used.
By interviewing and shadowing MEDA coaches, staff, and clients about their existing approaches to financial coaching and by presenting rough prototypes of tools, the design team was able to quickly get feedback on what worked and what didn’t. For example, one of the insights that the design team noted from interviews was that it’s easier for clients to talk about life aspirations such as buying a house or starting a business, rather than financial goals (e.g., “saving $1000 dollars”) even though the two were connected. Another insight was that since immediate, pressing needs often take priority in the lives of many MEDA clients, it was difficult for people to take the time to pause and reflect—but these moments of reflection are vital to planning their financial futures.
In order to develop the graphic system for the Viva Toolkit, the design team was inspired by the patterns and textures found in the Mission District in San Francisco. They built an inspiration inventory by taking photos of murals, colors, decorations on the streets of the Mission.— Then they began to build a visual language from the brand inspired by that vibrancy. Eventually, the design team brought these images back to the community and approached people on the street for feedback to see if those images represented the Mission District accurately.
One of the five design principles developed by the design team during the project was to “Orient design around life aspirations.” By focusing on life goals, like having a child or going to college, the design team noticed that financial coaches were able to ask more difficult financial questions and help build long-term financial strategies.Therefore, Using the “DISC” (Debt, Income, Credit, Savings) framework that had been previously created by MEDA as a foundation, the design team decided to build and run prototypes of different tools that linked the DISC model to life situations and goals. These prototypes were scrappily made of paper and allowed the design team to quickly move through a variety of iterations.
Leveraging the expertise of MEDA’s staff as well as existing frameworks, IDEO.org’s design team developed a financial coaching toolkit that provides a fresh take on an otherwise intimidating ritual. The Viva Toolkit contains a spinner with story cards which outline how real-life dreams relate to debt, income, savings, and credit (DISC). Aspiration cards have corresponding questions and information for each of the four areas. There are also action plans and journey worksheets that embed reflection into the coaching workflow for a more holistic experience.