March 8, 2019

The Bay Area-based Family Independence Initiative, created in 2001 by innovator Maurice Lim Miller, is a national center for anti-poverty innovation offering results-based, community-driven solutions to reducing poverty. FII’s approach, inspired by the historical successes of poor and immigrant communities in the U.S., shifts responsibility for upward mobility away from government and into the hands of families who experience poverty.

Through FII’s strength-based approach, low-income families are encouraged to create and rely on their own networks for success, and are challenged to set high expectations for themselves. FII has proven that galvanizing social networks in poor communities, honoring the self-determination of individual families, and leveraging existing capacities results in dramatic community improvement.

The significant outcomes from every FII project evidence the great potential for large-scale community impact. The impressive ripple effect from the first wave of FII families has multiplied the impact, as hundreds of families are now involved in Boston and San Francisco. At the end of the first two years initial households in three cities showed a 23% increase in earnings and a 240% increase in savings. In San Francisco over 70% of children improved their grades, 30% of the families ran side businesses to cope with recession, and 25% of the families on subsidies have dropped public benefits CalWorks or Section 8.

Miller’s model is catching the attention of poverty fighters across the country, from Boston to the White House. FII represents a truly disruptive model, one in which the expectations for individual potential and responsibility are set much higher than our traditional poverty alleviation models.

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* This profile originally appeared on the blog of the Project on Social Innovation, an initiative of Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, which was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and was retired in 2012.

** Explore More from the Project on Social Innovation

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