During the first quarter of this research project at Eva’s, focus groups were conducted with residents in order to incorporate their voice into the programming model. It allowed the research to obtain a greater range of insights from unique and personal experiences and explored opinions of financial literacy in a collective context. It aimed to explore assumptions for the motivation and rationale for certain financially-related behaviours or emotional responses and identified educational opportunities therein:
Behavioural insights: Participants in focus groups did not see relevance of the questions or topics to their lifestyles as their limited or non-existent incomes have typically made it extremely difficult to save and budget. There is a need for realistic goal-setting activities for all areas of financial literacy and accountability and motivation present to move forward and act on these goals. Successes must be celebrated.
Emotional insights: Word associations in focus groups revealed over 50% of responses as negative connotations to talking and thinking about finances. There was also discomfort expressed around paying bills and doing taxes, extreme negativity and nervousness around debt, spending and credit cards with words like “impossible”, “stress”, and “unhappiness” used by many participants and significant distrust shown for banks and the government. There is a need to further explore the relationship homeless and at-risk youth have with money and how it impacts their financial decision-making and stability.
Cognitive insights: Participants in focus groups understood basic financial concepts with many answers made with confidence. The clearest need for knowledge was around debt reduction, taxes, credit and navigating their needs versus their wants.
Literature Review & Gap Analysis
A comprehensive literature review was completed as part of the research quarter of this project. The following were major themes that emerged from the review. This is followed by an overview of the gap analysis.
- Financial literacy initiatives aimed at youth are often generic and not designed to address the needs of low-income youth in particular – curriculum content should be meaningful and relevant to the lives and situations of the participants.
- Using traditional top-down pedagogy for educational programming involving marginalized youth risks alienating them further from the education process. We need to employ effective, non-traditional experiential learning opportunities for all life-skills programming. If program participants actively participate in the application of their knowledge and make connections to their everyday life, they are more likely to learn effectively.
- Facilitators need to be fully aware of the power imbalances present in the classroom and use an anti-oppressive framework in their programming.
- The capacity of shelter staff should be built and strengthened alongside the participants in the educational programming.
The participatory research indicated a need for a combined group/individual structure that anyone could take at anytime with no prior knowledge required. As argued in the literature review, this is best coupled with a user-led and controlled environment with non-traditional pedagogy and experiential learning activities framing the delivery of the content. In addition, an anti-oppressive framework is necessary for participants to feel ownership of the material and their learning. Certificates and incentives should also be offered to increase engagement and empowerment through recognition. The Toolkit was constructed, and modules designed, utilizing these recommendations.
Throughout the facilitation of the workshops, participants had the opportunity to give their opinions and suggestions for program content and structure changes through the pre- and post-workshop surveys. The responses were analyzed and used to make changes to the program model. The following is a brief overview of common responses:
- There was evident personal and group growth, as well as the development of more realistic and obtainable financial goals made at the end of the workshops by participants who had attended more than one workshop.
- Participants stated that their levels of confidence increased exceedingly in answering financially-related questions, as did their ability to grasp financial concepts and understand budgeting, spending, saving, banking, debt, tax and credit basics as they took more workshops.
- When participants were asked if they would take another financial literacy workshop in the post-workshop surveys, 93% of responses stated yes. When asked to elaborate they shared such comments as “It’s fun!”, “I want to take more in order to remember the things I learned”, “It’s informative and keeps me motivated”, and “I can’t even come up with questions, which means I must need the info”.
- Participants stated that they were most stressed about credit.
- 90% of participants stated that they thought the workshop would help in their responses to the pre-workshop surveys, which indicates a hope or desire to gain knowledge.
- Their favourite parts of the workshops included: “The games”, “Talking about credit and sharing each other’s stories”, “The handouts”, “Seeing how expenses added up! It was crazy!”, “Being able to understand how I should be careful with money”, “Expanding and discussing certain topics”, and “Getting all my questions answered”
- For the Dislike section on the post-workshop survey, they normally noted things like the length of the workshop being too long, and the snacks not being what they wanted. They also wanted more multimedia.
- When they were asked if they changed their mind about anything during the workshop, they noted such things as: “Money Mart”, “Negative thinking about credit”, “How I feel about debt”, “My budgeting approach”, “Saving for your future self”, “Benefits of filing taxes”, and “Complaining about income tax deductions. I’ll stop now”.
- When asked if the workshop was interesting and the activities were useful (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.4.
- When asked if the participant was leaving the workshop with more knowledge (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.4.
- When asked if the pace of the workshop was good (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.3.
- When asked if the participant was more confident in the subject area than when they came in (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.3.
- When asked if they would stick to the plan they made in the workshop – whether that be requesting a copy of their credit report, following their budget or savings goals, or filing their taxes on time next year – (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.2.
“I needed this information!” (Wise spending workshop)
“The info that was given was very helpful. A lot I didn’t know about” (Conquering Credit)
“The info was kinda spot on for me. It gave me access to more money” (Tackling Taxes)
“Being in the workshop shed light on a new concept. That I should see myself as an investment. It gave me motive to view careful spending and saving as investing in me.” (Savvy Saver)
“I used to think about money as a non-entity. Like, I would look at the numbers in my bank account as if they weren’t real – I didn’t understand the value of a dollar.” (Resident committee)
“My budget made me stressed because I felt as though I couldn’t/wouldn’t make enough money. It increased my sense of urgency to find a more suitable job.” (Budgeting Basics)
“When I first met with Meaghan, I didn’t even know how much money I owed. Now I have a savings of $5000 and one of my visas paid off. I’m very aware of my expenses. Thanks!” (Resident committee)
“After a workshop, I learned I wasn’t the only one facing the same money probs!” (Resident committee)