For the past fifteen years, Change Machine has led the financial security field to new practices rooted in equity and the belief that customers are their own best experts. From demonstrating the impact of financial coaching, to leading the charge on scale by way of embedding, to launching a virtual community of practice that has returned $45 million to customers, Change Machine has a track record of building solutions that prioritize the financial realities of the customers we serve.
Change Machine was born of a deep and abiding respect for the lived experiences of our customers. We believe that customers are their own best experts; their expertise is the well from which solutions must be drawn to effect change. This philosophy guides our work at every turn. It is the reason why financial goals are the centerpiece of our coaching model, why we emphasize savings as an activity, not an amount, and why we reject mainstream banking as the measure of success – focusing instead on lowering financial transaction costs.
It is also the reason we leverage practitioners as subject matter experts in the work of creating an equitable economy. Their proximity and intimate knowledge of the trade-offs, pivot points, and difficult decisions that customers face act as a catalyst for new systems and narratives, influencing Change Machine’s broader equity and technology work.
We are serious about results. In 2014, Change Machine’s financial coaching framework was rigorously evaluated in the field’s first randomized controlled trial (RCT), commissioned by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and led by Urban Institute. The study conclusively demonstrated the impact of our work. On average, trial participants who received our intervention – whose annual income was $22,110 – increased their savings by $1,721, reduced their debt by $1,009, and improved their credit scores by more than 33 points. Trial results were published in a 2015 research report, and were re-released in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization in 2018.
Armed with the results of the RCT, Change Machine set out to achieve impact at scale by embedding our evidence-based framework into the existing program models of social service organizations across the United States. To do this, we built a tech platform that upskills practitioners, connects them with one another, and tracks customer outcomes. We also offered training and technical assistance to partner organizations to sustain their embedded financial security strategies over time. This combination of technology and capacity building produced the field’s first and largest virtual community of practice, through which we amplify our collective impact on the financial security of our customers.