The Family Independence Initiative (FII) is set up to demonstrate how the current approach in social services has to change in order to close the income and wealth gap in our societies. First, most social services are not cost effective—the actual amount received by families is only a small fraction of the total cost of running the programme. Second, social change is swift and far reaching when families work together to improve their lives—this is more effective than more programmes or policies and legislations. Finally, FII focuses on the resourcefulness of low-income families instead of their deficits.
FII is an alternative system which places these low-income families at the centre in trying to move them out of poverty. They are regarded as their own biggest driver of chan. They are encouraged to take initiative, co-operate with one another and build bonds of mutuality in trying to improve their lives. Instead of focusing on what these families lack and playing up that sense of inadequacy, FII focuses on bringing out their ingenuity, skills, motivation and collective resources. FII expects families to set goals and come up with solutions on their own rather than have those imposed by outsiders or experts. This fosters a sense of empowerment, pride and self-confidence, which are necessary to sustaining upward mobility.
Also necessary are the support of friends and families. Encouraging mutuality is thus important, as getting out of poverty necessitates drawing on existing social networks within the community. “Positive deviants” (i.e., those with unique strategies that allow them to succeed in comparison to their peers while facing the same set of constraints) become role models, and their success stories inspire and encourage others to follow their example (e.g., if you can buy a house and sustain the payments for it while not starving yourself, I can do so too.).
Consequently, FII’s approach is to step back and function as a “follower-leader”, where its position, privilege and access to money are used to bolster the families’ initiatives. It supports the efforts of families by tracking their progress over time, using data provided monthly by these families themselves. FII’s data analysis then identifies when available capital resources, e.g., giving scholarships or providing a loan to start a business, should be made to families to see through the initiatives the latter has come up with.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mauricio Lim Miller is author of