New Hope Project Records, 1985-1999


The New Hope Project was developed and initially designed by the Congress for a Working America (CFWA) in 1988. As an economic independence advocacy and action group, CFWA introduced the New Hope Project, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, as a means to provide poor people with an incentive to work their way out of welfare. The New Hope Project was designed with the intention of demonstrating that economically disadvantaged people do have the desire to work and be financially independent, but have not been provided with the proper incentives by the classic conception of welfare. As a result, participants must have been employed at least thirty hours a week to receive New Hope benefits. The benefits themselves would come from private local fundraising and grants from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor.

In order to provide incentives to work, the New Hope Project proposed four inter-related benefits. It sought to provide help for those seeking jobs, including the arrangement of Community Service Jobs for those participants unable to find work in the private sector. It sought to provide Wage Supplements that would put workers' families beyond 150% of the poverty level while not disadvantaging them with unworkable tax situations. Finally, it sought to provide reasonable health and child care to those participants who did not receive these benefits from their jobs.

Following the initial design period under the auspices of CFWA, the New Hope Project recruited a National Advisory Board of nationally recognized economic and social policy experts. The New Hope Project became incorporated and developed its own Board of Directors in 1992 while continuing to maintain ties with the CFWA.

In March of 1992, a pre-pilot group of fifty-two participants received New Hope Project benefits. This pre-pilot was designed to give the governing structure of the New Hope Project a working model with which to determine the specifics of the project's design as well as to make a preliminary evaluation. The pre-pilot was initially scheduled to last until 1994, but a few economic uncertainties caused it to last until 1995. Several independent agencies made evaluations of the New Hope model and the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) was selected to be the permanent, independent evaluator of the full-scale implementation of the project.

In August of 1994, the New Hope Project began its recruitment of participants. In order to facilitate the study and evaluation of this project, a control group was also recruited. These two groups were randomly selected from two zip codes in Milwaukee, 53208 on the Northside and 53204 on the Southside. The Social Science Research Facility of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee conducted a Neighborhood Research Survey to determine the demographics and awareness of the New Hope Project in the two areas. The two groups were equivalent in size, approximately 600 members in each group, and were periodically compared in order to determine the effects of the subsidies of the project.

The three year project began in December of 1995 and finished in December 1998. The project gained nationwide attention as the search for a viable replacement for welfare became more intense in the late 1990s. Several articles and independent reports have been created documenting the results and progress of the New Hope Project, and the MDRC continued to study the project and issues reports following its completion.

Executive Directors of the New Hope Project

1992-1993 Donald Sykes
1993-1997 Sharon Schulz
1997-2008 Julie Kerksick