Family Independence Initiative (FII) is a national nonprofit which leverages the power of information to illuminate and accelerate the initiative low-income families take to improve their lives. Using hard data and compelling stories, we are sparking a movement to transform the stereotypes, beliefs, practices, and policies that undermine families’ efforts to get ahead.
Social innovator and MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Mauricio Lim Miller founded FII in 2001. After more than 20 years of working on social service and anti-poverty issues, Mauricio became disenchanted with the social sector’s approach to “fighting poverty.” He created something new—something that would create security for low-income families rather than assuring jobs and stability to the social workers and government bureaucrats who seek to help them.
A first-generation immigrant, Mauricio was inspired to research histories of communities in the United States that managed to rise from intense poverty to middle-class standing. In his research, he found something simple, yet extraordinary: Pathways to success require a group effort. People turned to family and friends for support and resources, and followed the example of successful peers around them. From the immigrants who built the Chinatowns to the African Americans who built vibrant townships both before and after slavery, it was communities of people working together, not individuals, that made well-being and prosperity possible.
Evidence from our first partnerships with families in Oakland, San Francisco, and Boston showed the power of this family-led approach, and continues to inspire our work. By investing in their initiative, we enabled families to pursue different paths motivated by their individual interests and needs. The results were profound. Over two years, families on average increased their savings by a remarkable 240 percent, increased earnings by 23 percent, and created or expanded 33 percent more small businesses. Almost 80 percent of children reported an improvement in grades; and about 75 percent of families reported taking steps to improve their health. Families made progress in other areas, too—like dropping government subsidies, pooling resources with others, and increasing their civic engagement.
Since our founding, we have worked to explore and advance how to best invest in the initiative and strength of low-income communities. Learn more about our approach in action.