Family Independence Initiative
The Family Independence Initiative (FII), based in Oakland, California, is a national center for anti-poverty innovation offering results-based, community-driven solutions to reducing poverty. The Family Independence Initiative has demonstration projects in Oahu, Hawaii; Oakland, California; San Francisco, California; and now Boston, Massachusetts. The Initiative's philosophy on poverty reduction and some lessons include:
- Low-income people have the capacity to construct their own pathways out of poverty. This has been proven by the generations of immigrant, migrant, and indigenous communities in the United States who succeeded in moving their families from intense poverty to a more stable middle-class standing. What they need is access to the resources to do so. FII provides families with financial support when they commit to self-organize and support each other in overcoming poverty. The FII model does not use case workers, but rather FII families design their own approaches to achieving self-sufficiency and report their successes and challenges back to FII. Missteps may be made, but a tightly knit social network can help families to move past them.
- Participating families want to share with each other and learn from each other. For example, FII created a yelp.com-like platform for participating families to rate the social services they utilized on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, which informed the decisions of other families who use the services. Also, participating families orient new families and networks to the initiative and train them on reporting procedures, meaning they are more invested in the initiative and there is less work for FII staff.
- A 2-year outcome evaluation revealed a 23% increase in income, 240% increase in savings, and a 25% reduction in the number of families participating in CalWorks and Section 8. Furthermore, families who had participated reported higher expectations for themselves and their families’ future success.
- Asking participating families to report on the results of their efforts is not a burden. In fact, families said that they appreciated the opportunity to reflect on what was working and what was not working, and how they were helping their families.
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