Teaching vulnerable kids to be both money smart and energy smart – this is how we’d describe our year-long partnership with Habitat for Humanity Poland and the Delinquent Youth Center of Orione Convent.
Our project aimed to give kids the knowledge and skills they needed to transition from care to independent living. To do so, we created innovative financial education program based on “gamification” (applying game-design thinking to non-game education to make it engaging and fun). We wanted help these young adults create positive attitudes and behaviors around managing their homes and finances within a budget.
Our curriculum included nearly 25 hours of exercises, games, contests, brainstorming sessions and peer-to-peer learning. In total, 17 staff from 6 youth delinquent centers worked with 67 delinquent girls and boys aged 16 to 19. The training covered: personal money management, using financial services, monthly food budgeting, energy efficiency and household management.
Everyone enjoyed the dynamic and interactive teaching methods, especially the mini-competitions that we designed. Over a 6-month period, we observed profound changes in participants: they set saving goals, started regularly saving money, created weekly spending limits (and stuck to them), turned off lights and to save energy, and turned off heaters when they weren’t needed. They also started to limit their consumption of sweets and cigarettes (usually their biggest expenses) in order to save towards more important financial goals. Our youth also gained important new knowledge: how to choose household equipment that represents the best value-for-money, how to borrow wisely (if at all), and why it’s important to have a monthly plan and budget for food.
In our view, the strongest value of the curriculum is that uses interactive teaching methods based on practical real-life examples. Staff were amazed how interested and engaged participants were, despite being viewed as “problem students” in more traditional educational settings.
This project allowed MFC to achieve two key goals: first, to integrate energy efficiency topics into our financial education program, and second to test a new curriculum for vulnerable and low-income youth.
The project was supported by Obywatele dla Demokracji Program, financed by EOG grants.