ISDA advertises and explains its work promoting financial literacy in Ajo: “…Using Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers as our models for successful behavior change, we agreed on a peer-support process [8-week workshop program] to money management …We found that many of our workshop participants had started saving as a result of their experience, but without using a traditional savings account. They devised savings schemes that fit their needs and provide rewards that are relevant to them. Examples include putting change in water bottles, putting cash in envelopes and leaving it home when going shopping, buying i-Tunes gift cards to save for a music program, and riding a bike and putting the money that they would have needed to spend on gas in a drawer… [These workshops are] a radical departure from traditional financial literacy programs that have been promoted for decades across the country- these ‘mainstream’ programs have resulted in increased financial knowledge in millions of households across the country, but too seldom have produced lasting changes in financial behaviors (ISDA Pamphlet 2017).
ISDA begins to describe its financial literacy program by comparing it to AA and Weight Watchers and discussing the need for ‘behavior change’ in relation to finances. This type of language and program model may actually encourage program participants and others to view their needs with a deficit mindset in which their main financial worries are the result of their personal inadequacies and behavioral flaws rather than recognizing them as being at least partially influenced by situational factors and/or structural issues impacting financial standing and amount of disposable income. In addition, the program prides itself on its peer support model; however, it hardly mentions efforts at increasing financial literacy or providing participants with new information. Rather the primary benefits appear to be social in nature and based solely on the individual changing his/her problematic financial behaviors. ISDA acknowledges that this program differs from others and criticizes those other methodologies for not producing lasting change in financial behaviors. However, ISDA does not provide evidence that its program does better, nor does it acknowledge that program participants may have other financial needs, such as more information about finances/taxes, money management, etc., which may not be well-addressed through this model.