Engaging Youth for Financial Empowerment

Winner of the 2015 THINK Prize sponsored by OpenIDEO, CO-OP Financial Services & Mastercard


Sponsor: OpenIDEO Financial Empowerment Challenge, Co-Op Financial Services, Mastercard

Role: Project Owner, Service Designer

Sector: Social Service Design

Industry: Finance


Project Overview

This project  is a concept born and developed on OpenIDEO as a part of the Financial Empowerment Challenge. The idea takes the form of a grassroots youth campaign engaging our current generation of students, ages 17 and up, in open discussions in order to break down social taboos and change the way we think and communicate about money and financial stability. Full details can be viewed here



My Money & Me Process.png

Design Summary

The problem is broad. It strikes a a universal chord. We all need money to survive and thrive on this planet. It is at the core of our basic needs. However, many people around the world find themselves lacking the necessary education and support to build financial stability. The goal of this project was to develop a design solution that would tap the power of communities to extend the reach of financial education, resources and support, ultimately leading to a brighter financial future for everyone.  

"How might we use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most?"

I looked to a bright spot in my local community to get started. Chaco Credit Union puts it's mission, "people helping people" into action every day through community financial education programs. I sat down with four of these dedicated community leaders in recorded video interview sessions to get their take on the issues.

Four themes surfaced:

Empowerment — How Chaco empowers the community through investments and a member-run business model.

Programs & Services—They launched two education initiatives for teens and adults, a new budgeting app and second chance checking.

Collaboration—They partner with community organizations such as schools, churches and shelters.

ChallengesTheir obstacles include engagement with the community due to lack of motivation to change, volunteer needs and apathy.

After speaking with the team at Chaco, it became clearer that there were many bright spots around the country, and many dedicated public servants aiming to improve the lives of those in their community through financial empowerment. So, I posed the question: How could the success of Chaco and other local credit unions around the country, be distilled, expanded or channeled to inform a global solution?

During my interviews Mitch Vocke from Chaco Credit Union mentioned “Rock the Vote” as an example of a successful movement that got young people motivated and interested in the elections. That reference was the spark that initiated the idea for a grassroots campaign that engages students in open discussions about money. I posted the concept on the OpenIDEO global platform and over the course of the first month, 11 other people from the OpenIDEO community joined my virtual team to collaborate.

One of those contributors was Ryan Zimmerman, a teacher from a K-12 school in Atlanta, GA. He decided to shape his design thinking curriculum around the My Money & Me idea. He engaged his 76 students and gathered their feedback for the concept.  As the process moved along to prototyping, we asked his class to test a prototype called Money Talk, a conversation starter kit for teens. The kit was designed to initiate conversations in a supervised classroom setting, collect information about youth psychographics, and test student willingness to participate outside of the classroom with online and take-home activities. The downloadable kit can be used in high school and university classrooms, clubs, churches and community groups to spark conversations about money. 

As momentum built, the concept grew and expanded rapidly thanks to the global, collaborative effort of dozens of people from around the world. They contributed their ideas, provocations, questions and feedback to help build on the idea.


User Journey




This idea was a winner of the THINK Prize 15 and was chosen as a Top Idea for the OpenIDEO Financial Empowerment Challenge. It was also a catalyst for the founding of the OpenIDEO San Diego Chapter in September 2015 and that chapter's participation as workshop facilitators in the THINK Conference 2016 in Coronado, CA.

This story was recently published on the OpenIDEO Stories Medium Page.

OpenIDEO – Financial Empowerment Challenge: Announcing Top Ideas

OpenIDEO – Financial Empowerment Challenge: Announcing Top Ideas

CO-OP Financial Services – THINK Prize 15 Top Ideas Have Been Chosen

CO-OP Financial Services – THINK Prize 15 Top Ideas Have Been Chosen

CO-OP – THINK Prize 15 Ideas Are True Winners

CO-OP – THINK Prize 15 Ideas Are True Winners