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.
We believe low-Income families should be seen and recognized for their creativity, resourcefulness, strengths, and contributions. Like middle- and upper-class families, they should be afforded the agency over decisions that impact their lives, have access to direct investment to do with what they wish, and receive encouragement to build and strengthen social networks they can call upon for support.
Family Independence Initiative is pleased to share our 2017 Annual Report. We trust you will be encouraged by our progress with stakeholder partnerships and inspired by our families’ personal stories. We invite you to join us in celebrating the results of a busy and productive year and ask that you work with us to advance and disrupt the narrative of low-income communities across the United States.
Mauricio founded Family Independence Initiative (FII) in 2001, with a mission to support and accelerate low-income families’ own efforts to improve their social and economic mobility. He is the author of the Alternative, a book which challenges the basic assumptions across the political spectrum that low-income families are either lazy or victims needing to be saved. He includes evidence that rather than being treated as charity cases they should have access to benefits, as we provide benefits to the rich, for being contributors to society. In the book, Mauricio lays out and details his simple, evidenced-based alternative solution to poverty—to invest in people’s demonstrated strengths, rather than weaknesses.
Family Independence Initiative is pleased to share notable news of our learning, our progress, our plans, and our families’ successes in our debut Annual Report for 2016. We have much to celebrate and we encourage all of you – families, friends, and loyal supporters – to take a moment to read the report and to inspire others in your community to join the FII movement by sharing the stories you find there.
Download below to begin the celebration of Trusting and Investing in Families.
To mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of a war on poverty, the Family Independence Initiative released a report offering an unconventional, evidence based-approach to re-starting economic and social mobility in America: See low-income families through the lens of their resourcefulness, rather than their need.
The report, Through a Different Lens: The War on Poverty and a New Vision for the Future, draws from insights FII has gleaned from its engagements with more than 1,000 low-income families across the country since 2001. It suggests that while the war on poverty has not yielded a clear solution to curb poverty and rebuild the middle class, low-income families will come up with solutions that work for them – given an environment of trust, the support of peers, and access to resources.
The New America Foundation extracts key findings from FII’s work and puts forth the potential policy implications, calling on policy makers and advocates to examine FII’s philosophical underpinnings and its approaches, and consider how similar models could be implemented into state or national programs.
In this paper, published by the New America Foundation, FII Founder and CEO Mauricio Lim Miller outlines FII’s model for breaking the cycle of poverty, which shows promising results in three separate demonstration projects. As Lim Miller looks to grow his idea, he has found that this approach—which puts the target families and individuals in the driver’s seat of their own progress, does not require professional social service workers, and relies more on the assets of the families themselves—is not only a tough sell to public and private funders, but has faced direct opposition from incumbent service providers. In this essay, Miller explores a range of barriers and roadblocks to growing or scaling social innovations.
In June of 2010 152 individuals, including 81 children, from 35 families enrolled in FII’s Boston demonstration project. This report shares and examines the extraordinary results of the first six months. In that time the families worked together and made tremendous progress toward the goals they set for themselves.
FII’s approach to alleviating poverty begins with the assumption that we have underestimated the capacity of families in low-income neighborhoods to improve their financial and general well-being. FII is structured around the idea that what families most need to lift themselves out of poverty is a sense of control over their daily lives, an awareness of the options available to them, a diverse and active social network that provides support, and expands those options. Rather than import these assets into a community, FII begins by identifying where they already exist.
FII’s rationale for its approach makes intuitive sense, but the organization is interested in aligning its approach with what we currently understand about human motivation and behavior. To address this issue, See Change conducted a literature review, and prepared this paper.
FII is designed to learn how low-income and working poor families build economic and social mobility to move out of poverty toward middle-class stability. Families within the FII network set their own priorities and drive their own efforts to improve their lives, within an environment of strong social connections and access to initiative-based resources. FII encourages families to form groups that meet regularly for mutual support. Families are able to access FII’s resource bank, which includes a social networking website, matches to savings, and low-interest loans.
The study, conducted by the evaluation firm See Change Evaluation, collected interviews, surveys, and financial data from 34 families (148 individuals) that have been involved with FII’s Boston project over a two-year period, along with a newer group of 175 families who have been involved for one year.
A 2012, third-party, independent evaluation at FII’s Boston site showed that within two years of joining, one out of every two families living below the federal poverty line at the outset moved above the poverty line, increased average household earned income 27%, and increased savings an average of 187%. At enrollment in FII, only 27% of family members reported having “a lot of people I can count on.” After two years, 91% of families felt they could count on others for help and support if needed, and considered other FII group members as “family.” 56% of families had at least one adult enroll in post-secondary education during the two-year period. In 2012, out of a pool of 160 families in FII-Boston, 53 FII-family owned businesses created a total of 80 FTE in jobs.