Fighting Stereotypes with Data, Stories, and Case Studies
Negative stereotypes about poor people and communities shape and justify U.S. poverty policies and practices. Policies that insist we must manage and direct the poor assume that poor people are helpless and lack knowledge or talents. Controlling policies aimed at weeding out cheaters assume that low-income people are lazy and untrustworthy. We need to challenge these erroneous assumptions to make room for a new approach to economic and social mobility that is based on people’s real strengths instead of presumed deficits.
FII recognizes that most low-income families, like most people, work hard and want the best for themselves and their families. FII gathers and shares data and stories that show the tremendous contributions low-income people make to this country as innovators, consumers, leaders, job creators, and supporters to one another.
FII innovates and tests various tools with the low-income families with whom we partner. Through our extensive data collection and feedback from the families, we are able to determine what works—and what doesn’t—as they endeavor to move their lives forward. We write case studies and articles so others can replicate these innovations.
New Approaches To Funding Resident Initiative
FII is working with a small group of philanthropic and other leaders to create a new funding approach that applies FII's mobility principles to funding and resourcing low-income communities.
This new funding approach is an alternative to funding silos that specify whether resources are dedicated to housing, job development, or education, for example. While all of these areas are important, siloed funding structures prevent families from setting their own priorities. FII’s approach delivers funding based on community priorities, not pre-established silos.
In our current system, professionals develop interventions to “solve” problems identified for requests from funders, either ignoring or never seeking solutions that are developed by residents who are the true experts on their lives. Our new approach also focuses on finding solutions that are developed by residents in low-income communities and funding them directly.
For a more in-depth exploration of the obstacles in our current approaches and some solutions read The Uphill Battle to Scale an Innovative Antipoverty Approach by Maurice Lim Miller and published by the New America Foundation.
Spotlight Resident-led Solutions
The Family Independence Initiative established the Torchlight Prize in 2012 to recognize and reward groups of families, friends, or community members who have self-organized to strengthen their communities or neighborhoods.
At the heart of FII’s efforts are strategies that increase the control and choice that low-income people hold in their lives and strategies that reinforce community and reward initiative. For those of us looking to impact these communities it’s time to recognize and invest directly in the problem-solving capacities, ingenuity, and ambitions that these self-organized groups demonstrate. The solutions generated by the people in communities present the most sustainable and scalable route to social and economic mobility. Learn more about the Torchlight Prize.