Connective’s 2023 Year in Review

6 min readDec 19, 2023
The Connective team celebrating five years.

It’s been a tough but hopeful year across the Greater Houston Area. As the area has ebbed and flowed with challenging events over the years, so have we– responding to disasters, connecting communities, discovering new ways of delivering social services, and fortifying our partnerships and collaborations.

As we reflect on 2023 and what lies ahead, we think about what it means to evolve and all we can do together if we commit to a shared purpose.

This year, we’ve collectively worked on:

Transforming homeownership access

At the end of 2022, we joined the Harris County Homeownership Collaborative to expand homeownership access to Harris County residents of color using a $7.5 million grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation. This initiative led to the creation of Own The HOU, a local campaign dedicated to bridging the homeownership gap for communities of color in Houston and Harris County. As part of this initiative, Connective is developing a homebuyer portal that aims to connect homebuyers with relevant homebuyer and homeownership opportunities and resources. Connective is also leading human-centered research sprints along with the participating Housing Counseling Agencies to improve how residents access their programs and assistance.

Transforming renter stability

Houston has a growing eviction problem, with over 80,000 filings in 2022. As COVID-era assistance winds down, our community must address housing stability issues head-on. Thousands of Harris County area residents face this struggle yearly due to high rents, low wages, and a lack of affordable housing. Eviction disproportionately affects communities of color, with 75% of eviction filings in Harris County against Black and Hispanic renters who are more likely to experience systemic racism and discrimination in the housing market, and it disrupts children’s education and social networks due to frequent moves, resulting in long-term consequences for their future success.

From February through June, Connective led an eviction diversion pilot program in six JP courts in partnership with The Alliance and in collaboration with Lone Star Legal Aid. Read more in our retrospective report, “Innovation in Action, How Eviction Diversion in JP Court supports Harris County Residents.” We appreciate the participating JP courts and look forward to seeing the long-term impacts of these explorations.

Beyond Houston, we were excited to announce our collaboration with Fort Bend LINC. Through a human-centered design approach and with the investment of the George Foundation, the initiative aims to make it quicker and easier for people in Fort Bend County to apply for and receive financial assistance (primarily rental assistance). The goal is to keep vulnerable families stably housed. Through multiple sessions with various stakeholders (nonprofits, landlords, eviction court judges, and clients themselves) the Fort Bend LINC group has developed a blueprint for a new system of care for rental assistance. Connective is excited to bring this vision to reality as their technology partner.

Transforming public benefits access

In Harris County, 16.4% of residents live at or below the federal poverty line and struggle to meet their basic needs. Public assistance could bring needed relief to these families, yet it isn’t as easy to get. During our eviction intervention work, our data showed that if the average evicted family had access to $3,000- $5,000 in additional income, they could have avoided their eviction entirely. In collaboration with Benefits Data Trust, we also learned that Harris County leaves almost $1 billion in public benefits untouched. Connective is determined to close this gap by increasing access to and using public benefits in our community.

This year, in partnership with LISC Houston and Benefits Kitchen, we designed and piloted a public benefits screener in Financial Opportunity Centers. The pilot project allowed us to work with these agencies to assess individual cases, educate financial counselors on available public benefits, train staff, and reduce duplication of effort across social service systems. Other key goals of the pilot project were to research the best way to support social services and case managers guiding clients through a complex public benefits system, clarify Harris County’s public benefits underutilization, and find ways of increasing participation and streamlining enrollment.

This pilot is a building block towards our dream of a Public Benefits Hub — a one-stop shop for screening and navigating public benefits in a clear and dignified way. A Public Benefits Hub that empowers the half a million Harris County residents eligible for benefits that aren’t using them to get better access to the assistance they need.

We end the year with the great news that we have been funded by JP Morgan Chase, Episcopal Health Foundation, and Verizon to continue our Public Benefits Access work in 2024!

Transforming disaster recovery and blue-sky adaptation

We’re so proud to have made it to the Enterprise Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge finals. We spent most of 2023 working through the multiple rounds of the grant competition, pitching our Connective Disaster Hub and the work we have collectively done over the last five years. The Connective Disaster Hub is a disaster coordination system that uses technology, human-centered design, and collective action to make disaster assistance easier for those who need it and those who provide it. The Connective Disaster Hub can be customized based on the scale of the disaster, the needs, and the resources available. We believe this is the disaster recovery system designed to meet the needs of our climate future. Watch our innovation pitch here!

As climate change shifts weather patterns with increasing speed and frequency, we must have blue-sky plans to address their effects. We are proud of the work of the Northeast Collaborative supported by the HIVE fund in pushing for a just energy transition and resilience in our community, advancing advocacy and projects that focus on blue-skies home repairs, home repair to weatherization pipeline, solar investments, and household tax incentives. We look forward to co-build ecosystem infrastructure that simplifies the delivery of programs and resources that reduce our climate vulnerabilities and improve our physical and social resilience for years to come.

Transforming social services delivery

As we lift our heads from disaster response, Connective has deepened our design and advisory services for nonprofits and public sector partners this year. From human-centered research sprints focused on the experiences and needs of home-based childcare providers in Harris County to design and technology consulting services on area utility assistance programs and youth mental health services, we look forward to continuing to transform the delivery of social services during disasters and everyday life.

We couldn’t have done any of this without our partners, both old and new. This year, we marked our fifth anniversary, and in September, we celebrated all we’ve accomplished since our founding in 2018.

“Every time I’ve had the fortune of being able to say yes and support Connective, great things happen. I hope we all can continue to say yes to supporting this great organization, to supporting each other, and to focus on the mountain of work that needs to be done.”

Chris Hensman, Chief Strategy Officer, Houston Habitat for Humanity. 2023.

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We treasure the reflections and encouragement we heard that day from friends and partners, and we look forward to many more years of service to our community.

The Highlights:




Connected, empathetic and accessible social services.