Solutions for Progress is now Communally - Generocity Philly

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Sep. 12, 2017 12:55 pm

Solutions for Progress is now Communally

Following a rebrand, the civic tech company is keeping up its fight to end poverty. Here's why and how it made the change.

Communally CEO Christopher Jacobs in the company's renovated office.

(Courtesy photo)

What’s in a name? A whole lot, according to Christopher Jacobs, CEO of the company formerly known as Solution for Progress (SfP), which has just ended a “soul-searching” rebranding process that can offer lessons for other Philly organizations.

SfP, the mission-driven company that Jacobs said aims to “end poverty, not to manage it more neatly,” has changed tremendously since its founding 25 years ago, and it was becoming clear to Jacobs that people didn’t quite understand what the company was.

“Solutions for Progress is one of those names where you go, ‘What chemicals do you produce?’” he said from the company’s newly renovated office near 12th and Walnut streets.

The civic tech company settled with the new name Communally, which Jacobs said reflects the idea of being an ally that helps community-based organizations eradicate poverty. “We came to the idea of community and partner — or ally — and thus, Communally,” Jacobs said.

Despite being around for more than two decades, Communally has always flown under the radar. The company’s two flagship services are MyBudgetCoach and The Benefit Bank (TBB).

Communally partners with community-based organizations to offer TBB, a benefits eligibility screener, application filer and tax assistance service that helps low-income people enroll in public benefits programs like SNAP and Medicaid.

Once a family is stabilized, Communally offers them MyBudgetCoach, a cloud-based program that improves families’ ability to budget and make well-informed financial decisions.

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Here’s what Communally, one of the first companies in the state to register as a B Corp, learned in the rebranding process:

  • Think about the future — A critical part of the process, Jacobs said, was trying to name not just who the company was, but who it aspires to be five to 10 years from now.
  • Realize it’ll be a long haul — The company began discussing the name change in July 2016, so the whole process took more than a year — not the six months originally envisioned.
  • Get a little help from your friends — Jacobs and the company worked closely with Message Agency, a Philly website design company and fellow B Corp. Founder Marcus Iannozzi challenged the company with questions about who it wanted to be as a company and how the new name would reflect that.
  • Make the process inclusive — Communally’s six-person management team constituted the branding committee. But the company also did focus groups with middle management, and Jacobs deliberately didn’t attend so the team could get a sense of how different (or similar) the managers’ views of the company were.
  • Think about your culture, too — Jacobs said the name Communally also reflects the company’s culture, which is a small, inclusive community of its own. The company offers six weeks of paid sabbatical after five years, and Jacobs even dislikes the term “human resources,” which smacks of thinking of people as a consumable resource.

Jacobs said the new name represents more clearly where the company fits and what its relationship to its partners is. The company started as a public policy consulting firm 25 years ago, but now it’s fundamentally a tech company and a B Corp.

So why not emphasize tech in the name? The team thought of that, and therefore decided on the updated URL of communally.tech.

Communally is excited about the future. B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies B Corps, today announced the company is being honored on its 2017 “Best for the World” awards for Best Overall, Best for Customers and Best for the Long Term, as well as the annual Changemakers list. The company has also recently expanded My Budget Coach into South Africa, and it’s having conversations with potential affiliates in Canada.

Jacobs said the company’s win will “allow other people to see that we genuinely can be a triple-bottom-line company.”

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Nick Pipitone

Nick Pipitone was born and raised in Delaware County, where he lives and writes now. He graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree, and he currently works as a business writer. He enjoys writing, books and Phillies baseball (no matter what their record is).

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