Since 2001, Family Independence Initiative (FII) has innovated and tested new approaches to economic and social mobility that demonstrate that low-income families have the initiative and capacity to move themselves and their communities out of poverty. This happens when families have access to connections, choice, and capital.
Despite the persistent myth of the self-made man, no one makes it alone. Family, friends, and colleagues who provide support, information, advice, resources, and a sense of accountability are both a safety net and a springboard forward. From our peers, we find role models who shape our expectations of what is possible—and what is not. Social sector professionals cannot replace the value and power of mutual support within a community. Peer-to-peer supportive relationships can do more to provide relevant information, advice, and inspiration to move people forward.
Everyone needs to have a range of options and the ability to exercise those options, whether they are related to finances, housing, health, education, or other opportunities for well being. Choice means having an array of self-directed options for moving ahead. Rather than being directed or controlled, families must have control over their own choices to succeed.
The biggest difference between low-income families and upper-income families is money—not smarts or resourcefulness. Access to financial capital that allows families to leverage their initiative accelerates their mobility. Financial capital is what the well-off use to assure they have the choices they need. Access to capital would also allow low-income families to exercise choice and thus get some control over improving their lives.
We believe information is essential for growing connections, capital, and choice. By documenting and investing in the initiative shown by low-income families, we ensure that we can rebuild the American dream.