New service innovation
A clearly defined, tested, and executable offering with proven potential to drive beneficiary outcomes - and justify your funders’ investment.
What to expect
All projects go through the same arc: discovery, ideation, prototyping/testing, launching/learning.
Non-profit Jesse Tree has a mission to prevent homelessness and eviction. Their primary service is providing emergency funds to tenants going through eviction.
Their emergency assistance program is well respected, but they aren’t satisfied with that offering alone. They see an opportunity to intervene further upstream to keep tenants from entering eviction in the first place.
Jesse Tree piloted an online workshop series focused on empowering tenants with skills that are known to promote housing stability: rights education, financial planning, and mediation. Completion rates were low, however, and the project was paused.
I engaged with Jesse Tree to define and validate a solution for upstream intervention that would attract tenants and lead to stronger outcomes in tenant housing stability.
Kickoff: Alignment & goals setting - 1 week
The initial step was to establish project goals and operating assumptions, aligned with all stakeholders.
Measurable, outcome-oriented goal
All goals & assumptions documented in a project brief with client sign off
Over the course of two conversations, we quickly established a goal and a set of operating assumptions that set the stage for everything that followed:
Discovery: Deep diving the tenant problem space - 1.5 months
Discovery is all about learning what people are trying to accomplish and what barriers get in their way.
All solutions evolve from those insights.
User empathy map including tenant needs, barriers, and advantages, as well as ecosystem solutions and gaps
A prioritized set of tenant problems to solve
A from/to vision, from the tenant's perspective
This project's discovery included:
Exploring the original workshops and what did / didn’t work, through data analysis, surveys, and interviews.
Directly observing the work Jesse Tree does to prevent clients in eviction from getting into crisis again
Investigating what worked for similar organizations in other regions
Major insights uncovered:
Jesse Tree case managers working with clients in eviction create “Housing Stability Plans” that have good success in preventing clients from re-entering eviction.
The most significant supports for tenants in a position of instability - but not yet facing eviction - are tactics for improving financial stability; knowledge of their tenant rights; and overcoming the shame of asking for help.
Pilot workshop learnings:
One workshop resonated above all others: Tenant rights and empowerment.
The timing of the workshops made them hard to attend
Personal instruction was much appreciated
Solutioning: Ideating & testing new approaches: 2 months
Ideation & test plan: 2 weeks
Deliverable: An exciting, outcomes-led vision; a detailed, executable test plan
A stakeholder workshop was held to digest insights, map needs, brainstorm new solution ideas, and narrow to the most promising ideas. "Promising" was defined as: high potential to overcome tenant barriers to housing stability.
I then developed a full service proposal consisting of 4 new pillars:
Maintain the core idea of tenant education for upstream intervention, but significantly re-imagine it to bring it directly into the community;
Add a peer support pillar inspired by programs like Year Up and microfinance circles;
Make landlords part of the solution;
Add lightweight but tangible course completion incentives.
The proposal also re-imagined how to make the courses discoverable on Jesse Tree's website.
This is a big vision, and big visions need to be carefully tested and built in small validation phases.
Essentially, we treat visions as hypotheses, and test and adjust them before we fall too much in love with them.
Accordingly, I created a lean testing plan to rapidly and inexpensively test into the riskiest assumptions right away.
Test and launch
To test into the first assumption - that access, not content, was the primary barrier - we took an existing workshop and tested bringing it straight to the community.
We partnered with Boise State University to bring Tenant Rights Workshop to student renters, bringing pizza as a simple incentive to join, and asked participants to complete an exit survey.
Test 1 demonstrated:
- Extremely strong interest in the content taught, and in additional potential topics
- Outreach was not yet there - we had very low awareness and participation
Accordingly the team focused in on outreach & comms, and on bringing the workshop to a well known community touchpoint - the public library. There was also an effort to bring in not just renters, but other community members who work with renters.
- Increased participation dramatically to over 20
- An NPS score of 78 (this is huge!)
- 100% wanted to be informed of future workshops, and we identified one topic that resonated more highly than all the others
Rather than re-inventing the wheel, Jesse Tree identified how to take their existing amazing content to the community effectively - meeting the community where they are at - and now have a plan for regular workshops and impact development.