Article

Pursuing Scale

Using Technology to Expand Momentum’s Reach

27 February 2021

The social profit sector is full of buzzwords and jargon. One of the most used phrases in the sector over the last few years is ‘scale up’. The ‘scale up’ concept is based on the idea that it is possible to increase the social impact of a program without having to increase the growth of the host social profit organization.  

At Momentum, we don’t believe that bigger is always better. In the social profit sector, standard arguments for an economy of scale are not always valid. In fact, we believe that programs that work with a small number of people are often critically important if they make a meaningful impact. For example, our Owen Hart Home Owners program works with 6 to 10 people every year to become first time homeowners – it is not many people, but the program helps dreams to come true. Often in the social profit sector, small is beautiful.  

However, we have also recognized that for some programs that are working well, it is important to consider how they could benefit more people. In our current Strategic Map, we identified the opportunity to use technology to increase our reach and potentially scale the impact of our work. For us, technology is a tool to help us increase our impact by delivering programs in a different way to more people.  

As a result of the Strategic Map priority to ‘embrace technology’, a few years ago we started to work on scaling our savings programs by using app technology. The effort to develop an online savings app is based on the 20 year track record of Momentum’s matched savings programs, which have helped people living people living on lower-incomes to save collectively over $4M. We were also inspired to use technology to scale up our savings work by a social profit organization in the US called SaverLife that has over 10,000 people using its savings app. The goal for using technology like SaverLife is that we can reach 10x more people in a savings incentive program – going from the 150 people per year in our current matched savings programs to 1,500 people using a savings app.  

In the fall of 2020, we were thrilled to launch the new online savings app in partnership with a Canadian financial technology company called QUBER. After a lot of development work, the Momentum Savings Challenge on QUBER launched as the first savings app in Canada developed specifically to support people living on lower-incomes to save. The Savings Challenge works quite simply by boosting savings with cash incentives so that at the end of 10 months participants have $500 in total savings. It makes it easier for participants like Henry to save a little each month to build a savings cushion that can help avoid using high cost debt in the future for an unexpected expense. Since the launch of the Savings Challenge on QUBER late last year, over 200 people have already saved over $65,000 on the app.  

Our goal to use technology to increase our reach was significantly impacted by COVID-19 last year. Since we were not able to deliver programs in-person due to COVID-19, it forced us to ramp up our use of technology. An example of accelerating our use of technology during COVID-19 is that we now offer Money Management workshops online that people can take anytime and anywhere. The on demand workshops have been accessed over 500 times since they launched in 2020. A big goal we are pursuing is that the on-demand Money Management workshops will be made available to any Albertan receiving public benefits – over 40,000 Albertans who could increase their financial knowledge to support them managing their limited income.  

Even though ‘scale-up’ is a buzzword, we are starting to see the benefit of more people being able to access programs online. We are early in our online program delivery journey, but we are now on the path to greater scale.