At first glance, Maurice Lim Miller’s formula for fighting poverty sounds disconcertingly simple – if not downright utopian. Give people on low incomes a financial incentive to work together and they will build strong local networks that help lift them out of poverty. A plain speaker who is pleasingly devoid of professional jargon, Lim Miller says his approach is common sense. “You have to let families deal with [the problem] in their own way.”
As chief executive and driving force behind the Family Independence Initiative (FII), an anti-poverty, not-for-profit organisation based in Oakland, California, the former youth worker has been assiduously rewriting the rulebook on combating entrenched poverty. He has been garnering considerable attention in the process from policymakers and the media, which was fuelled further when he was awarded a coveted MacArthur “genius” fellowship this month. And with the latest figures showing that one in five children in the US live in poverty, he stands to attract even more interest in the months ahead.