Building Economic Strength Together (B.E.S.T.) Project
Building Economic Strength Together (B.E.S.T.) Project introduces self-advocates, service professionals and other community based organizations to key strategies on how to build the financial capability of persons with disabilities. The B.E.S.T. Project model introduces financial capability concepts, tools and resources through a peer to peer learning environment and connecting existing financial and tax services, business start-up, financial planning, credit/debt counseling programs and employment networks to the disability community.
The objectives of the B.E.S.T. Project are to:
- Increase awareness and use of available asset building tools including a relationship with a financial institution for people with disabilities. (Individual Outcome)
- Create a system change within the financial and community-based organizations that promotes inclusion and access for customers with disabilities. (System Outcome)
- Adopt the innovative interactive model being piloted that relies on community experts and skilled based volunteers to connect individuals and systems to networks in the community for customers with and without disabilities. (Program Development)
The Building Economic Strength Together (B.E.S.T.) Project has been implemented in two communities.
Building Economic Strength Together (B.E.S.T.) Project – Washington, DC
The Building Economic Strength Together (B.E.S.T.) Project is funded by the District of Columbia Developmental Disabilities Council to provide training on financial capability strategies for persons with developmental disabilities. The B.E.S.T. Project DC provided training to:
- Service Professionals: Two train the trainer sessions were provided for teachers, transition specialists, service providers, and other professionals who work with students and adults with developmental disabilities in the District of Columbia. This training focused on how to implement the curriculum in to their delivery of services at their organization. Over 40 service professionals were trained through this program.
- Self-Advocates: Self-Advocates attended a series of trainings using modules from NDIs curriculum. Over 80 self-advocates were trained through this program.
- Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities received a series of trainings on Steps to Achieve My American Dream. The students also attended a field trip to the US Bureau of Engraving to build the students familiarity with understanding money and how it is made. Twenty-five students participated in the trainings.
Building Economic Strength Together (B.E.S.T.) Project - Jacksonville, Florida
The B.E.S.T. Project was implemented as a pilot project in Jacksonville, Florida in 2009 with support from Bank of America Charitable Foundation. The inaugural B.E.S.T. Project introduced individuals to local experts and resources pertaining to the needs of the group; for example, individuals received information directly from the Internal Revenue Service on local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Sites and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The B.E.S.T. Project - Jacksonville included the following target audiences.
- Students with intellectual disabilities (ages 18 - 22) participating in the University of North Florida pilot where the students audited two courses and participated in campus life. 21 students participated in the six-month (12 hour) course on asset building.
- Veterans with disabilities attending the Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville, Florida. 20 Warriors received a six-month (12 hour) course on asset building. NDI surveyed the warriors and designed the course content to meet their needs and connect them to services and potential employers.
- Community Providers working with customers with disabilities and other low-income individuals. Over 25 agencies met monthly over six months to learn about community-based services that are providing tax and financial services for low-income individuals and how to best connect their customers to this work.
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