Building a Financial Capability Network in Central Ohio

How might we work together to build the financial capability of the Columbus region?


The Challenge
Dozens of organizations in Columbus, Ohio provided services to help people improve their financial situations. While many of these programs were effective, the sector as a whole was disorganized. Organizations lacked a set of universal standards, best practices or consistent metrics. Programs were often redundant. Large demographics of residents were either underserved or not served at all. As a backbone convener and funder, United Way of Central Ohio saw an opportunity to bring the organizations together to work more effectively and collectively improve the region’s financial capabilities.


The Approach
We worked with United Way of Central Ohio to build an inter-organizational network from the ground up. We wanted to understand what families needed to succeed financially, and then use those learnings as the foundation for a formal, coordinated method for delivering financial coaching to families. Through a year-long process with service providers, clients, and other key stakeholders from agencies across Columbus, UWCO and DI designed a community-wide strategy and infrastructure for adopting strong financial coaching practices. Read the full case study.


The Details

Our work included:

  • Conducting ethnographic research to understand the deeper needs of financial coaching recipients
  • Applying the user research to build the network’s core elements (metrics, meeting, membership, governance structure)
  • Facilitating an intensive planning process with service providers, clients, and key stakeholders
  • Coaching teams as they tested each element through rapid prototypes
  • Documenting the process through a report and executive summary

The Impact
25 leaders from seven different agencies used in-depth consumer research to create and launch a collaborative initiative to increase the region’s financial capability. By the end of 2017, the team had established clear directives, metrics, and communications, and secured more funding to build the network. The FinCap Network officially launched in fall 2018 to support providers who offer financial services and products for low and moderate-income individuals.


United Way of Central Ohio
JPMorgan Chase Foundation
Homeport Ohio
IMPACT Community Action
Community Properties Impact Corporation
Homes on the Hill
City of Columbus
Columbus Urban League


Community-Centered Design



Network Building
Systems-level Strategy
Process design and facilitation
Strategic problem-solving
Empathy-driven qualitative research
Prototype coaching
Divergent idea generation
Team building


2016 – 2017

This process enabled us to be strategic with how we were engaging our partners in building financial capability for our region. We are usually so rushed and we don’t set aside the time to test our assumptions about what our partners want or what our customers want. This was incredible.

United Way of Central Ohio

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