Scaling smarter, scaling for keeps

LISC's Financial Opportunity Centers offer a road map on expanding a great approach

Lessons from the front lines of bringing social programs to scale, as written by LISC's Chris Walker in the Stanford Social Innovation Review's blog.

28 Dec 2012 - Chris Walker, LISC Director of Research and Assessment


Bringing social programs to scale is a common goal—yet it’s rarely realized. The threat of cuts to such programs, amplified by the looming fiscal crisis, means we not only need to ramp up proven innovations, but we also need to be smarter and more effective about how we do so.

In his first term, President Obama committed to “seeking out creative, results-oriented programs … and helping them replicate their efforts across America.” In 2011, the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) made one of its first awards to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national community development intermediary dedicated to the revitalization of low-income neighborhoods, to expand its Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) program.

LISC’s Financial Opportunities Centers help low-income families by offering comprehensive counseling services, including financial coaching to support budgeting and repairing credit; support for getting and keeping a good job; and assistance in identifying and applying for public benefits.

Early results have been extremely promising. Clients receiving this set of services showed more dramatic gains in employment, credit scores, net income, and net assets than those who received such help piecemeal. Since early 2011, LISC has, with the support of this grant and other investments, expanded the reach of FOCs from five cities and 23 centers to 22 cities and 68 centers. Other grantees are getting results as well. SIF grantee New Profit, for example, has helped to fund the successful expansion of KIPP charter schools.

Successfully bringing social programs to scale is still relatively rare, but in analyzing LISC's successful expansion of its FOC model, we made a number of discoveries that might help similar organizations. Continued[+]...

> Read the full Stanford Social Innovation Review blog post.

> Read the LISC report Expanding Financial Opportunity: LISC's Experience With Scaling Up Financial Opportunity

Article Type: Blog Post