OFE’s Financial Empowerment Centers offer professional, free, one-on-one financial counseling across New York City, helping clients manage issues ranging from student loan debt to opening a bank account.
The Financial Empowerment Hackathon aims to develop an app that can be used primarily by Financial Empowerment Center clients to achieve their financial goals, along with all New Yorkers who could use help keeping track of their finances. OFE hopes that apps developed during the hackathon will help solve some of the following challenges that Financial Empowerment Center clients face:
Appointments and Counselor Communications: Clients sometimes run late or can’t make an appointment, and forget to notify their counselor. In addition, there are a number of documents (bills, bank statements, debt settlement letters) that are useful to bring to their first appointment, but these can be hard to remember. Although the locations of the Centers are on OFE’s website, clients don’t always know where the closest Center is or how to make an appointment (by calling 311 or our Call Center).
Counseling Outcomes: OFE has a number of outcomes that it uses to measure success of its counseling. Often, these outcomes rely on things the clients do outside of the session—like track their spending for a week, keep to a budget, pay their bills on time, or start saving money. Clients sometimes have trouble keeping track of this information and presenting it to their counselors in a clear way, and for some outcomes, they need to give their Counselors documents like a bank statement to verify they opened a bank account.
General Financial Health: Counseling aims to help clients make good financial choices, but behaviors like saving money or paying down debt are extremely difficult. Counselors provide support at follow-up appointments and through check-in calls and emails, but constant support could help ensure that app users achieve their goals and move forward financially. OFE’s model doesn’t include monetary incentives for attending counseling sessions and achieving outcomes, but gamifying attendance and outcome achievement could increase rates of both. In addition, some clients have wanted to connect with others who have achieved their financial goals and become more financially stable, but privacy concerns have made it hard to connect clients and share success stories and tips (even in an anonymous way).
Feel free to use the ideas and develop them further, or create a completely new idea on your own!