Family-Guided Innovation: How We Made Money Powerup Packs

We are excited to announce that our work to co-design Money Powerup Packs with guidance of low-income families is featured in the inaugural issue of Journal of Participatory Research Methods. This new journal is committed to showcasing interdisciplinary practices related to participatory research methods in the poverty alleviation field. 

When we started the Savings Initiative Project in 2016, we had some thoughts on why families in poverty may have low savings. Most obviously, they don’t have enough income to save money. This remains true for millions of families in the U.S. who face underpaid and low-wage work or receive public assistance. We learned, however, that families experiencing deep poverty practice unique, inventive, and creative savings strategies on a daily basis. But harmful narratives and toxic stigma portray these hard-working people as “bad money managers” who need to be taught how to make better decisions. It’s time we start shifting the conversation away from individual behavior change to systems change. 

We have developed and refined a unique design process that allows us to work well even within highly-regulated systems. From our vantage point, we're able to listen, learn, challenge assumptions, and make progress in ways that are important to families. We're able to co-create innovative solutions with families and staff in an environment of ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity. 

To continue to undo the harm of the past, we must all uplift the voices and experiences of people who have long been ignored and undervalued. This means building and designing programs with families at the center. Only then can we understand what parents and communities need to thrive and on their own terms. 

This work would not have been possible with out the experience, expertise, and efforts of our partners. We thank them for the contribution to the field and everyone who will benefit.

The Prosperity Agenda has recently received a three-year investment from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to replicate and scale Money Powerup Packs in other markets. We're excited to develop new partnerships to bring more person-centered financial conversations to families across the country. If you are interested in learning more or partnering with us, send us an email at

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