Award: Multnomah Idea Lab

May 9, 2019

Innovations in American Government Awards

  • AWARD WON: 2018 Top 25
  • AWARDEE: Multnomah Idea Lab
  • DESIGNEE: County of Multnomah, OR
  • JURISDICTION: County of Multnomah, OR

The Department of County Human Services (DCHS) within Multnomah County in Oregon created a dedicated team to apply the disciplines and processes of innovation to address those structures within government that widen economic disparities and impede economic mobility for people and communities of color. The Multnomah Idea Lab (MIL) employs human-centered design processes, critical policy and program analysis, and applied research as the cornerstones of its approach. At the intersections of racism and poverty are vexing questions of economic mobility and equity, requiring smart risk-taking to test new ideas in order to see change. For example, the MIL conducted a study to see what working families who earn very low incomes would do with an unconditional asset transfer. When evidence demonstrated that people used the cash in a manner consistent with their use of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the program was transitioned to the DCHS Youth and Family Services Division to be included in their collaboration with the Healthy Birth Initiative, which now provides asset transfers to African American families who have recently had children.