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WASHINGTON, DC, February 13, 2018–The Urban Institute has selected Ricki Granetz Lowitz, cofounder and CEO of the national nonprofit Working Credit NFP, for the 2018 Janice Nittoli Practitioner Fellowship. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Nittoli fellowship pairs leading practitioners with senior researchers at Urban to advance evidence-based solutions that alleviate inequalities.
“Ricki is an innovator with over 25 years of experience designing and implementing financial wellness and employment programs for low-income working families,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute. “We’re excited to work with her and generate new, capacity-building insights so Working Credit and others in the field can provide innovations that allow low-wage workers to get ahead.”
The fellowship honors the late Janice Nittoli, former associate vice president and managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation.
“Janice Nittoli was a brilliant, passionate advocate for low-wage workers,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. “In her time at the Rockefeller Foundation, she embodied our mission to bring greater equity and opportunity to all people by leading efforts to build better tools and options to help low-wage workers grow and manage savings in the United States. She would be deeply moved to know this honor is being bestowed upon a leader and innovator who shares that commitment so strongly.”
In 2014, Lowitz cofounded Working Credit NFP, a nonprofit organization that partners with employers to provide tools and information that help advance their employees’ financial circumstances. The organization provides a flexible, scalable employee benefit to help low-wage workers build and sustain strong credit scores. Located in Chicago, Illinois, Working Credit partners with corporate, nonprofit, and public-sector employers and has implemented its program throughout the US.
Working Credit has been tracking data and outcomes on program participants since its inception, but it has had limited in-house abilities to tap into these data fully. A team of Urban researchers, led by senior researcher Diana Elliott, will work with Lowitz and her staff to explore the data and examine how variations in program delivery matter for participant success.
"This is an incredible opportunity for Working Credit,” said Lowitz. “Our group has been following Urban’s work on the credit health of cities, and so we’re thrilled to have this chance to explore together how a scalable low-cost model can help US workers build strong scores – and then use improved credit to lower their expenses, access better quality rental housing, and qualify for mortgages."
Before launching Working Credit NFP, Lowitz served as the director of economic opportunities for Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Chicago. There, she created the organization’s first network of Financial Opportunity Centers—a model LISC replicated in 13 US cities, and for which LISC received a federal Social Innovation Fund award in 2010. Before joining LISC, Lowitz crafted neighborhood-focused employment initiatives for the Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program (CCRP) in the South Bronx. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Columbia University in New York.
The Janice Nittoli Practitioner Fellowship committee selects one practitioner each year whose work focuses on inequality and economic and social mobility. Practitioners pose a critical question about their work to be answered—or at least advanced—by the research, evidence-based analysis, and evaluation done at Urban.
Throughout her career, Nittoli combined a strong commitment to removing barriers to opportunity with an abiding belief that rigorous research and evidence-based decisionmaking could contribute to that cause. To honor her life’s work, the Nittoli Fellowship supports practitioners working toward social change and provides them with research and strategies to improve their workplace and communities of practice.
The nonprofit Urban Institute is a leading research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities. For 50 years, Urban has been the trusted source for rigorous analysis of complex social and economic issues; strategic advice to policymakers, philanthropists, and practitioners; and new, promising ideas that expand opportunities for all. Our work inspires effective decisions that advance fairness and enhance the well-being of people and places.