Ways and Means Toolkits for The Community Builders

Evolving opportunities for low-income housing communities

As the largest non-profit urban housing developer in the US, The Community Builders (TCB) has developed and sustained communities for low-income families for more than 40 years. Facing a series of new challenges, opportunities, and technologies, TCB began to re-examine its approach for helping residents and communities realize their full potential. Looking to evolve from the role of landlord to innovator, TCB came to IDEO for help creating a series of tenant services and opportunities.

IDEO began conducting fieldwork, visiting mixed- income housing sites to examine how tenants interact with TCB communities. Using insights from in-context interviews and home stays, the team uncovered a set of values and aspirations shared by tenants: to own homes, to attain financial independence, and to send their children to college. These cross-demographic, cross-cultural insights led to a framework for further understanding tenants and shaping related services.

IDEO’s framework defines and projects the trajectories of tenants as they attain financial independence. By understanding finance-spurred movements over time, rather than using demographic, social, or cultural groupings, the team revealed key relationships between low-income housing tenants and their communities. The tangible outcome of the framework and observations is a suite of tools named “Ways and Means,” a radical approach to the integration of socio-economic resources within communities. The approach leverages the power of networks and empowers residents to create their own paths toward financial success. The tools aim to transform TCB’s properties from places of residence to arenas of value creation by reorienting offerings from service-based programs to demand-driven opportunities.

Since the conclusion of the project, TCB ordered 200 of the Ways and Means platform binders and has partnered with consulting firm Bridgespan, to develop a detailed new site operating practice based on Ways and Means.

Download The Promise of Mixed Income Communities
Download Ways & Means

Project date: 2007



Download the Ways & Means Toolkit

Download The Promise of Mixed Income Communities
Download Ways & Means