The Family Independence Initiative is a national center for innovating and testing approaches to economic and social mobility that strengthen social networks, respond to initiative, and respect low-income families’ ability to lead their own lives.
Since 2001, FII has demonstrated that investing in people’s strengths and initiative delivers more powerful, sustainable, and cost effective outcomes for low-income families than our current system. Our strength-based approach—as old and as radical as our democracy—is inspired by the historical successes of poor communities in the U.S.
To reduce poverty and create more social and economic mobility nation-wide we need an approach that encourages people to work together, offers resources in response to initiative, and keeps low-income people in the driver's seat. FII has tested this approach with a sample of low-income families across the country and the results are powerful.
We envision a system—an Opportunity Platform—where resources are available to low-income families at their discretion; where products, policies, and practices are designed to meet the consumer demand of low-income families, and access is available to the full spectrum of families who are taking action to build their own paths toward self-sufficiency.
To develop and advance the Opportunity Platform we:
- Incubate: FII develops and tests innovative tools to change the way our country makes resources, information, and support available to low-income families.
- Demonstrate: FII’s successful Demonstrations showcase the tremendous impact FII's approach can have in supporting family-led progress.
- Communicate: FII counters misconceptions about low-income people with hard data, powerful stories, and compelling case studies to create a deep shift in how this country views and responds to low-income communities.
After working in social services for more than 20 years, Maurice Lim Miller was challenged by then-Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown to create something new: something that instead of assuring jobs and stability to social workers and government bureaucrats would assure jobs and security for the low-income families these professionals seek to help.
After reflecting on his own family's story of climbing out of poverty he researched the histories of immigrant, migrant, and indigenous communities in the United States who managed to move from intense poverty to a more stable middle-class standing. The common thread was that people turned to family and friends, pooled resources, and followed the example of those they knew who began to succeed. The Family Independence Initiative (FII) is based on this premise: mutuality and self-determination are key in achieving self-sufficiency.