By Jesús Gerena, Chief Executive Officer, FII
We have a bold vision for the country: to fundamentally change the way we see and invest in low income families who are struggling with poverty across the nation. These communities should be seen and recognized for their strengths. They should be the beneficiaries of investment for all the hard work that they are doing that is unseen. FII trusts and invests in these families. Demonstration to Adoption, FII’s Strategic Plan 2019-2022, outlines how will keep inviting our partners in government and philanthropy to join us by adopting FII’s approach.
This country has grown an industry, both in philanthropy and government, that amasses over $400 billion a year in human service funding. Families in the lower income brackets are facing a system that continuously undermines them. This industry is directive and operates through programs and services. The only way anybody can gain access to those dollars is if they are demonstrating themselves as needy and they participate in whatever program or service that those dollars are dictating.
This approach takes away the basic freedoms that many families in higher income brackets benefit from – the ability to choose for themselves, and define what success means in their lives. We have systematically put those with more money in a position where they are rewarded through public and private systems such as the tax code, lending practices, and advancement opportunities. Our challenge to the sector is to extend this same trust and investment to lower income families.
For families living in poverty in the US, about 43 million Americans, 75% of them will move above the poverty line within four years. Within five years, 50% of those families will fall right back below the poverty line. This is the cycle of poverty. Our work at FII is to recognize the strengths in these communities, invest in them, and help others see them. For the last 18 years, we’ve enrolled over 3,500 households. In that time, we have invested $13M in direct cash to families and, to date, $11 million in social capital exchanges have occurred as people are investing in one another. As a result, we see increases in income and decreases in federal subsidies.
As we publish FII’s strategy, we invite government and philanthropy to join us in creating a new system. We know that when individuals achieve success, communities and everyone around them benefit. FII’s data and learning has demonstrated positive outcomes in family-led economic mobility which are not presently recognized by the system. We know enough to adopt practices that put families in control of their decisions, recognize the initiative of communities, and put cash in their hands to invest in their own solutions.