Seeking Collective Impact in Albuquerque

April 28, 2014
By Steve Shepelwich, Senior Community Development Advisor


Community development organizations work collectively to improve outcomes on shared goals in Albuquerque.

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A new collaborative initiative assists residents in Albuquerque's South Valley.

Albuquerque’s South Valley is an area shaped by hard realities.

Stretching along the Rio Grande River to the south of downtown, the South Valley is home to about 59,000 residents, of which nearly 19 percent are foreign-born. Spanish is spoken in two-thirds of the households.

Poverty in the area is high, with one in five families living below the poverty line. A third of these families have children younger than 5. Nearly half of the grandparents in the area are raising their grandchildren.

No easy fix exists for such deep and persistent poverty. A single organization or strategy cannot meet the complex needs of such a community.

That is why Prosperity Kids, a new collaborative initiative led by Prosperity Works, a statewide, asset-building organization, is gaining attention in New Mexico.

Strengthening families

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Families of participating children can open indivdiual development
and savings accounts.

Prosperity Works and four other New Mexico organizations have joined to deliver a comprehensive set of asset-building products and services to strengthen the financial resilience of South Valley families, with an emphasis on helping preschool children.

“Kids only do as well as their parents – and parents as well as their community,” said Ona Porter, executive director of Prosperity Works.

The initiative is designed to coordinate family engagement through a unique parent-to-parent model that uses trained parent leaders. These leaders work with participating families, providing support, education and access to resources.

Prosperity Works manages the development and delivery of the partnership’s key asset-building products and services. One innovative service, Prosperity Kids Accounts, is expected to provide savings accounts for as many as 400 children.

Families of participating children will be able to open individual development accounts and emergency savings accounts, and receive financial education. The belief is that greater stability provided by the family accounts will give the children’s savings account even greater effect.

The Rio Grande Federal Credit Union has stepped up to manage these accounts. Secured credit cards will also be made available to help participants build credit histories.

Legal status challenges

Legal status is an issue for South Valley families, directly affecting a family’s financial stability and access to resources. It’s expected that many participating families will reflect a mixed status in terms of legal residency.

New Mexico Legal Aid and the New Mexico Immigration Law Center, also partners in the initiative, will help families address residency issues and other legal matters.

In addition, Native Community Finance, a community development financial institution (CDFI), has a loan product that can help with the fees required to file for residency. Native Community Finance currently has 13 such loans outstanding.

Taken together, these complementary asset-building products and services can provide needed stability at the household level. They can also contribute to economic, educational and social opportunities.

“Removing barriers and creating opportunities for full participation in education, community and our economy, capitalizes on the assets and dreams of the people we serve,” Porter explained.

Capitalizing on partnerships

Similarly, the initiative capitalizes on the assets that each participating organization brings to the mix.

Henry Rael, program officer for the McCune Charitable Foundation and a supporter of the initiative, noted that, “When people have a common goal and common values, they can create incredible value.”

Rael said a continuing question for the partnership is, “How do we focus the strengths of nonprofits on individuals so that they can make the most of their resources?”

Initiative members say the answer lies in creating a partnership that recognizes and values individual strengths.

Porter put it this way, “We are in the business of looking around the table to identify partners to work together to do what they do best.”