The Center for Advanced Hindsight (CAH) at Duke University, in partnership with the MetLife Foundation, is pleased to announce the CommonCents Lab: a new, innovative approach to building financial well-being and stability. In close partnership with companies, organizations, institutions and donors working with Low- to Moderate Income households, the CommonCents Lab will design, implement, and evaluate potential solutions to the greatest challenges around financial well-being using research and insights gleaned from behavioral economics.
Behavioral economics is widely becoming a vehicle for organizations and companies to better address social problems. By using research on decision-making and behavior, companies and governments have increased participation in savings programs, decreased debt default rates, increased organ donations, and many other advances that benefit society.
Over the past five years, CAH and its affiliates have partnered with over 20 companies to create behavior based interventions in the financial sector. The CommonCents Lab is embedded in the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University and under Professor Dan Ariely. Dan is a New York Times Bestselling author and Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at the Fuqua School of Business. We study how people make decisions about money, health, and work that are often unexpected and against their own interests. A key goal of the Center is to translate academic research into accessible and applicable findings for practitioners and the general public. To further this goal, the CommonCents Lab is looking to partners with organizations working to improve the financial lives of low to moderate income households across the United State.
Description of Partnership
The Center for Advanced Hindsight partners with organizations that believe that their work could be improved through insights gained from behavioral economics. These organizations may have the opportunity to work with the Center to find and test solutions to behavior-related challenges. The partnerships generally address one of the following challenges:
- Saving for Emergencies: Americans do not have adequate emergency savings. In fact, 60% of Americans do not have a three-month savings reserve if they ever lost their jobs or became ill.
- Saving for Retirement: Americans are not saving for retirement. More than a third of adults say they have not started saving for retirement yet. More alarming, over 25% of respondents age 50-64 report not having started to save for retirement.
- Saving for College: Americans are also not saving for their children’s college fund. While 89% of parents value education as an investment in their children’s future, 49% of families have not started a college savings fund. Saving for college is a critical issue; Failure to save for college makes students four times less likely to attend college.
- End of Life Decisions: Prior to the financial crisis, medical expenditures were the leading cause of bankruptcy, accounting for more than 62% of bankruptcies by 2007. Contrary to popular belief, most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners.  As long-term care costs continue to rise, families need to make difficult financial trade-offs to care for an incapacitated loved one. There is a heightened need for living wills, in which a person can dictate how they would like to receive end-of-life care.
- Big Purchase Decisions: When making important purchase decisions, like buying a car or a house, Americans are often anchored on the wrong attributes, costing them millions of dollars in unnecessary fees and expenses. For the majority of LMI households, automobile ownership greatly increases economic opportunities, particularly access to jobs. However, many Americans focus on the monthly payment but ignore the term of the loan or the interest rate, leading them to overpay for the car.
Our typical approach to partnership includes the following activities:
- Kick-Off Workshop: Kick-off behavioral economics workshop to get everyone in the organization excited and interested in this new approach. We need to get a critical mass of the organization excited.
- Behavioral Audit Report: In-depth assessment the current behavioral environment, identifying key barriers and benefits in the ecosystem. This involves site visits and rigorous data collection on the target demographic (interviews, surveys, etc.).
- Implementation Design Report: Design experiment based on the likely impact and ease of implementation. We will present an implementation design report to the organization detailing our proposed intervention. This report will help ensure that the partnership organization is able to measure all of the required variables.
- Intervention: Implement the intervention. We expect each of our interventions to be in the field for a period of 4-6 months in order to gauge impact.
- Results Report: Data analysis and presentation of the results.
As part of this partnership work, small, unrestricted grants are available to offset costs to the organization, such as staff time or materials. These grants range from $5,000-$25,000.
The following organizations are eligible to submit proposals:
- Credit Unions and innovative banks that offer products, programs, or services for low- to moderate-income populations;
- Community Colleges and Universities, in the United States, that offer programs for low- to moderate-income populations;
- Non-profit, for-profit, and faith-based organizations in the United States that provide services to low- to moderate-income populations; and
- Government agencies in the United States serving low- to moderate-income populations.
- Additional organizations in the United States that fulfill the spirit of this work will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Each year, a committee from the Center for Advanced Hindsight, along with Prof. Ariely, will select five partner organizations providing financial services to low- to moderate-income households. The selection will be approved by the Board, based on the following criteria:
- Ability to address one of the five financial problems outlined above;
- Anticipated reach of solution to their customer base;
- Scalability of any potential findings;
- Commitment to run an experiment;
- Ability to run the experiment (technical, support staff, willingness);
- Willingness to share learnings with financial inclusion community;
Timeline and application
Proposals must be submitted by January 15, 2016
Interested organizations are encouraged to direct any questions about the Center, the partnership, or the proposal to Mariel Beasley, firstname.lastname@example.org.