Poverty is a complex problem — it has no magic bullet, no easy solution. Interrupting poverty is more than an issue of income redistribution. It requires re-thinking the way we organize ourselves, the investments we make in our community, and the way we value our most precious assets — the individuals, families, and children who live, work or play in our communities. A recent grant to Family Independence Initiative speaks to a fundamental commitment to strong and thriving families. This grant invests in the capacity of low-income families to generate their own strategies and solutions, turning access to resources and existing social networks into improved outcomes. Goals for FII families include increasing incomes, building savings, supporting children in school and strengthening civic participation and social networks.
New and emerging research from fields ranging from behavioral economics to neuroscience and informed by studies that engage people living in poverty are broadening the understanding of poverty. A current formulation by ideas42.org, a consortium of social scientists with a mission to “use the power of behavioral science to design scalable solutions to some of society’s most difficult problems” states that: “The absence of material wealth … is closely linked to the absence of other forms of capital: human capital (one’s level of education, skills, and experiences), social capital (one’s network of interpersonal connections and relationships), and health capital (one’s physical and mental well-being). To permanently escape poverty, families must build capital in all of these various forms”.
Influenced by such research and belief in the grit and determination of families, our approach is captured in the following guiding principles:
- Build the human, social, civic and health capital of families in poverty
- Intervene early to influence positive outcomes and prevent the need for remediation
- Respect the dignity of the people being served and engage them in program planning and evaluation
Despite the economic well-being of Cambridge, poverty appears to be a persistent problem. According to the 2010-2012 American Community Survey 14.4% of all Cambridge residents and 9.9% of all families had incomes below the federal poverty line. Among families 13.5% of those with children under the age of 18 and 36.1% of female headed families with children under 18 fell below the poverty line, affecting 17% (2,100) of all local children; and 63% (1,300) for children in single parent households. As in other parts of urban America, poverty in Cambridge is concentrated both geographically and racially. Five census tracts account for over fifty five percent of all people living in poverty of whom 30% (2,600) are African-American, 27% (1,400) Hispanic and almost 20% speak English as a second language.
2020 GOAL: 20% (340) of the 1,700 low income families are engaged in building their income, assets, and efficacy
2016 GOAL: 100 Families are enrolled.
Signature investment: Family Independence Initiative