As part of its unique comprehensive approach to community development, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has established a national network of Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) to support and enhance the work of local community groups that help low to moderate income families become financially stable. The goal of the FOC approach is to provide people with new skills that allow them to not only find a job but sustain employment by learning to budget, save, build credit and make careful use of conventional financial products and services. As clients are guided to reduce expenses, obtain public benefits and remove barriers to employment, they are more likely to work longer over a lifetime--and earn more.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) commits to opening an additional 10 Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) in four to five cities by the end of 2013. LISC-supported centers will help individuals achieve a measure of financial stability as defined by positive net income (positive monthly cash flow), obtaining/retaining employment, improvement in credit score and positive net worth (more assets than liabilities). When, on a monthly basis, a family has positive cash flow, their ability to think about saving money, spending on education and doing other asset oriented behaviors increases exponentially.
While LISC does not directly operate FOCs, it provides support and training to community-based groups, community colleges, public housing agencies or a coalition of these organizations that effectively run them. LISC's role is to develop and manage the overall strategy for the FOC networks-typically there are several in one city-through fundraising, training, communications, outcomes measurement and the research and policy agenda. LISC also intercedes with financial institutions and providers of public benefits on behalf of clients.
LISC supports the centers in the following ways:
- provides grants
- provides training and technical assistance on the various aspects of model implementation
- distributes and trains on the use of the client tracking/management database
- manages and supports peer networks among the 60 centers already implementing the model
The centers will be operated by community-based organizations which will provide individuals and families with bundled, multi-year services across three critical and interconnected areas: employment placement, job retention, and skills improvement; financial coaching and counseling; and, access to income supports. Three of the 10 centers will be organizations that focus on occupational skills based training.
By October 2012, LISC will open three Financial Opportunity Centers in Boston and two in Philadelphia. LISC will plan the implementation of the Financial Opportunity Center model which includes, designing a client service delivery strategy, hiring staff, training in financial coaching, launching the utilization of efforts-to-outcomes data tracking software, and rolling out client services.
LISC has already opened 60 FOCs across the country. In its next phase, LISC hopes to fine-tune and expand the model in those geographies with low-population density, such as Fayette County Pennsylvania and the Mississippi Delta.
By March 2013, LISC will assist local organizations in select cities to evaluate whether their community-based organization environment is a fit for the Financial Opportunity Center model. This evaluation will be conducted in cities, including Jacksonville, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; Fayette County, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Buffalo, New York; Flint, Michigan; and the Mississippi Delta.
By December 2013, based on results of the assessment, LISC will select and then assist five community-based organizations plan for the implementation of the model. This includes: planning client service delivery strategy, hiring staff, training staff in financial coaching, beginning the utilization of an efforts-to-outcomes data tracking software, and rolling out client services.