Our Theory of Change

Urban Upbound TOC - v3

At Urban Upbound we believe in helping participants lift themselves out of poverty. In order to achieve this goal, our Theory of Change highlights three important long-term outcomes for our participants: achieving economic security and self-sufficiency, transferring intergenerational wealth, and fostering community revitalization.

Urban Upbound’s process is founded on the Jobs-Plus model, an evidence-based process that integrates employment services, financial incentives and community investment for disenfranchised communities. A rigorous evaluation of the Jobs-Plus model from 1998-2003 found the process to be successful in increasing savings, increasing employment, and having a positive impact on long-term financial behavior. Through staff and volunteers, community partners and evidence-based approaches, our Theory of Change captures how Urban Upbound funnels resources, including contributed and earned revenue, into five comprehensive programs geared towards helping low-income individuals and their families become self-sufficient.

Fundamental to our vision is that higher education is necessary in order to break generational cycles of poverty. This begins with our youth. It has been demonstrated that college graduates earn more than their peers who hold only high school diplomas. Through our College Access program, Urban Upbound increases academic and career readiness for students. Financial aid education and SAT prep give our students and their parents the tools needed to apply for college. Internship opportunities teach our students valuable life skills that will carry over into college and beyond. The Urban Upbound College Access Alumni Network supports our students through the many challenges they face during college. Together, these program components teach our students to adopt positive long-term behaviors that enhance their college experiences, and promote college retention and graduation.

At Urban Upbound, we also believe that in order to achieve economic security, participants need to develop and improve their employability and financial habits. In order to achieve these goals, Urban Upbound offers Workforce Development services to improve employment skills and establish career plans that make job security possible. Through our Workforce Development program, Urban Upbound supports jobs seekers to; obtain skills that will help secure and retain long-term employment, access jobs with career growing opportunities, and utilize all other Urban Upbound services. We also work directly with employers to first understand their needs, and then subsequently meet them by matching them with high quality candidates.

We also provide financial counseling services so individuals can improve credit, increase their net worth and change their overall behaviors and attitudes to reflect keen financial habits that will lead to economic security. Studies have shown that having greater savings increases the chances of intergenerational upward mobility for those at the bottom of the income ladder. Intra-generational mobility is also made more plausible through greater savings.

Urban Upbound aims to facilitate inter-generational wealth and foster community revitalization through organizing all the social networks in our communities to provide optimal service delivery. To do this, Urban Upbound brings together resident leaders, community-based organizations, clergy, local businesses and elected officials in our communities. Urban Upbound is the only organization in Queens specifically focused on strengthening public housing neighborhoods. We do not see other local stakeholders as competitors; we view them as partners and treat them as such. Urban Upbound has established a Community Advisory Board comprised of tenant association presidents, which meet monthly, to ensure that our services are meeting the needs of public housing residents. In addition, as the leader of the Queens Community Partnership Network, Urban Upbound serves as the anchor for community partners in Western Queens.

The final component of our Theory of Change is the Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union, the first new credit union in Queens in over thirty years, which now serves as an anchor in our under-banked and under-resourced community. The Credit Union offers its members affordable banking services, credit building tools, and promotes income – generating activities, all of which increase community wealth.


Susan Blank & Donna Wharton-Fields, “Helping Public Housing Residents Find and Keep Jobs: A Guide for Practitioners Based on the Jobs-Plus Demonstration,” MDRC, 1 (December 2008): 1-87.

James A. Riccio, “Sustained Earnings Gains for Residents in a Public Housing Jobs Program: Seven Year Findings From The Jobs-Plus Demonstration,” MDRC, 3-4 (January 2010): 1-8.

Daniel Cooper, Reid Cramer, Maria Lenguo-Prado, & Rourke O’Brien, “A Penny Saved is Mobility Earned: Advancing Economic Mobility Through Savings,” Economic Mobility Project, 9 (November 2009): 1-67.