Enhancing financial capability among youth in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Québec Canada)

Date
2011
Authors
Smith-Brake, Julia M.
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Southern New Hampshire University
Abstract
The project described in this paper aimed to enhance financial capability among 12 to 17 year-old youth in a low-income neighbourhood in Montreal, Canada. Based on the capability approach, this community economic development project was designed to link financial skills and knowledge with opportunities to practice those skills and to access financial services for economically vulnerable youth. Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is a geographically isolated neighbourhood, situated east of downtown Montréal, in Canada‘s French province of Québec. According to Canada‘s most recent census, 10.5% of all persons in the country registered an income below the Low Income Cut-Off; the incidence of low income in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve was 41.7% (Statistics Canada, 2006). A major problem facing families in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is that they lack the financial capability to enable their children to learn the skills and access the resources that will allow them to grow up to be economically autonomous. The literature review which explored this problem includes discussions of the capability approach and how it is applicable to youth, definitions that lead to the idea of "financial capability", financial exclusion and intergenerational transmission of poverty in Canada, and building financial capability among economically vulnerable youth. The intervention model developed to address this problem includes three project components: financial education workshops, access to financial services through matched savings accounts, and a revenue-generating microentrepreneurship activity. These joint components were designed to meet the following desired outcomes: - Short-term outcomes: increased knowledge and skills in financial literacy, increased awareness of the value of financial knowledge, and access to resources and venues for financial skills; - Intermediate outcome: youth demonstrate financial capability; - Long-term outcome: youth plan for the future (e.g. finish high school, join the workforce); - Longer-term outcome: families break the cycle of generational transmission of poverty. The project was implemented as a pilot project with seven (7) participants, all of whom were involved in the host organisation‘s after-school program. The project retained six (6) of the seven youth (85.7%) who initially began the project. Of those six, 100% attended the financial education workshops and participated in the matched savings accounts, opened at the local credit union. Of the microenterprise activity, youth deposited an average of 81.67% of their profits into their savings accounts and 100% continued participating in the project beyond the pilot phase. Evaluation interviews with project participants, partners, and managers confirmed the achievement of short-term outcomes. Beyond the increased knowledge of financial skills and of the value of financial skills, and access to financial services, every participant interviewed stated teamwork as a main lesson and achievement of the project. Also, although each short-term outcome was achieved in some way, participants have not yet demonstrated financial capability. Their continued participation in the project, and changing components of the project to reflect lessons learned, will enable them to achieve this intermediate outcome. As the sample size of the pilot project is very small, the results of the project cannot be too generalized. However, the intervention model and success of the project has garnered attention from youth practitioners at both a local and national level. The author was solicited to create a curriculum based on the model for a national-level institution with partner organisations across Canada. (Author abstract)
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