Our Approach in Action

In 2001, Family Independence Initiative (FII) began partnering with low-income families to learn what would happen if the families, not social sector professionals, were given control over their paths forward. We also wanted to learn from families what works—and what doesn’t—as they endeavor to improve their lives. In partnership with families, we have launched Demonstration Projects in six cities across the U.S.: Oakland, San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, and Fresno.

 

Strengthening Connections

Our Demonstration Projects are built to strengthen the relationships people have with their friends and families. Families who want to partner with us create groups with their friends. They are also in charge of recruiting others. In some instances, groups are intentional about meeting regularly; in others they already connect frequently and may not have regular meetings. What’s important is that they use their time together as an opportunity to support each other, hold each other accountable, and share resources, ideas, and advice.

 

Stepping Back So Families Step Forward

FII’s Liaisons are not case managers or social workers. They don’t provide any direction or advice—they just listen and sometimes ask questions to gather stories and deepen our understanding of their lives. Families set their own direction and take action as they determine. We believe that, collectively, families have the knowledge, initiative, and the capacity to lead themselves.

 

Data Tracking Through an Online Journal

Each family enrolled in FII has access to our online data system. That system allows us to collect a rich body of data on the initiative of each household while also providing each family a tool for self-reflection. Each month families log into their online journals to input information about income and savings, health, education and skills, housing, leadership, and connections. Families can easily track their progress and evaluate priorities, and we pay them in exchange for sharing their data with us.

 

Resources that Leverage Initiative

By fostering data collection that showcases initiative and progress, we can learn what families truly need to get ahead. We then take those real insights and transform them into resources that are tailored to the unique needs of the families we work with.  Examples of resources families have leveraged include: IDAs (match to savings), scholarship funds, social club funds, access to Mission Asset Fund’s lending circle program and KivaZip loans.