Savings Initiative Project:
building a two-generation savings approach


The Savings Initiative Project is a two-generation savings project that engages parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and their children in building savings behaviors and increasing financial capability. With our design professionals, program development staff, and partners, we seek to answer the question, “How might we improve the financial resilience of parents in the Community Jobs program?”

Savings and asset accumulation is a key piece of financial stability and wellness. Savings allows families to weather unforeseen events, such as a job loss, health crisis or car repair, prevent cycles of debt, such as expensive short-term loans, and achieve long-term goals, such as higher education, homeownership, and secure retirement (Urban Institute, 2016). Saving can be more difficult for low- and moderate-income families because they have less income left over after paying for necessities.  Yet, research has shown that low-income families will save if given the right opportunity (CFED, 2014).

This 3-year project, generously funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, builds on an earlier pilot conducted in Washington State that linked Workfirst Community Job participants to bank accounts. The Prosperity Agenda and its partners are co-creating an approach that will utilize a human-centered innovation design process to develop, test, and pilot model strategies that address participants’ lack of financial wellness and savings behavior.

Households without savings are vulnerable to economic shocks, such as an income drop from a job loss or an expense spike from an unexpected car repair or medical bill.
— Ratcliffe, McKernan, Wheaton, and Kalish, July 2016


The Prosperity Agenda is working with TANF Community Jobs contractors to design, test, and rapidly assess the project through our Lantern Innovation Labs, a unique collaboration that consists of design professionals teaming up with TPA program development staff. 

The Savings Initiative Project involves using a rigorous design-process focused on capturing the needs of parents in order to increase savings behavior and financial resilience.  This process could lead toward greater use of traditional and nontraditional financial products, non-monetary savings incentives, debt reduction, and income generation strategies. 


  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Washington State Department of Commerce
  • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
  • Washington Association of Head Start/Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program


Families on public assistance usually leave the system without no or very little savings to sustain them in future financial emergencies or give them the ability to invest in assets, such as post-secondary education or a home. This makes it nearly impossible for a household to become financially stable.

The Community Jobs Bank Account Pilot (CJBAP) Project, conducted in 2014 by the WA State Department of Commerce, Lower Columbia Community Action Agency, YWCA (Seattle), and The Prosperity Agenda sought out to integrate financial empowerment services into Community Jobs, a transitional jobs training program for TANF recipients. Along with the job opportunity, parents were also offered a bundle of financial services including access to low-cost bank accounts, electronic funds transfer, Money Smart financial education, and financial coaching that addressed the clients’ struggles with personal financial management. The participants demonstrated positive financial outcomes, such as utilizing direct deposit for their paychecks, overcoming fears of interacting with the banking system, and reducing banking fees due to improved understanding of money management. Download the full report here.

The pilot showed good results with 42% of clients starting to save.
— The Prosperity Agenda, 2014



For more information about this two-generation savings project, contact Alicia Atkinson, Program Development Manager, at

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