CSD congratulates its research partner, Seoul Welfare Foundation (SWF), for winning the 2010 United Nations Public Service Award in the category of “Improving the delivery of public services” for its leadership of the Seoul Hope-Plus Savings Accounts project. This award recognizes SWF’s excellence in serving the public interest and its significant contribution to the improvement of public administration in South Korea.
According to the UN, the United Nations Public Service Award “is the most prestigious international recognition of excellence in public service.” The award will be presented to SWF at a ceremony in Barcelona, Spain on June 23, 2010.
The Seoul Hope-Plus Savings Account Project
Launched in late 2008, this three-year pilot program aims to assist working poor families to save for home purchase, education, and micro-enterprise in Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). As of December 2009, the Hope-Plus program had grown to 20,000 accounts, with plans to add 10,000 additional accounts in 2010. The program is managed by SWF with funding from the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Community Chest of Korea.
Each participant in Hope-Plus is required to deposit 200,000 Korean Won (US $200) per month for three consecutive years to remain in the program and receive public and private matching funds. Participants are expected to have accumulated nearly $20,000 at the end of the three-year program.
The success of the Hope-Plus project has influenced four other cities in South Korea to implement asset-building programs for low-income households in their respective cities.
In a letter to the United Nations recommending SWF for the award, CSD’s Michael Sherraden called the Hope-Plus project “an energetic and successful public innovation that is improving the lives of low-income people in Seoul. During an era when the public sector does not always get full credit for its accomplishments, the Hope-Plus Account initiative in Seoul stands as a shining example of public vision, wise use of resources, and good governance.”
A Program Design and Research Partnership
CSD has consulted on the program and research design of the Hope-Plus project. Program design occurred following CSD visits to Seoul and several conferences since 2004. Since July, 2009, CSD and the SWF have collaborated on research that aims to evaluate the impacts of the accounts on low-income households in Seoul. In addition, during a visit to Korea in 2009, CSD’s Gena Gunn and Margaret Sherraden met with case managers from the program.
Dr. Lee Seong-gyu, president of SWF, acknowledged the importance of this partnership for the success of the Hope-Plus initiative, noting: “It is the sprit and dedication of people like Michael Sherraden as well as his wonderful colleagues at CSD that have made this success possible. We hope to continue working on collaborative research and strengthening international cooperation with CSD to promote and develop the IDA program in Seoul.”