Family Independence Initiative

At a Glance

National Office: 
1203 Preservation Park Way Ste. 100
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510.452.9341

Maurice Lim Miller
Year Founded: 
2000
Tax ID: 
02-0784790

Focus area(s):

Job/Career Development
Asset Development
Economic Development

Description

The Family Independence Initiative (FII) is a national center for anti-poverty innovation offering results-based, resident-driven solutions to reducing poverty. FII's strength-based work with families in cities across the country shows that low-income people can advance together if they fortify the resource sharing, mutual support, and role modeling that historically has helped poor and immigrant families leave poverty.

Impact and Outcomes

Over a two-year period, participating families of all ethnicities in the Oakland, CA demonstration who completed the initiative increased their incomes by 27% on average. 40% bought homes within three years.
In two years, among the San Francisco cohort, households increased their income by an average of 20%, half the school-age children improved their school performance, 3 out of 5 households reduced their debt, and 3 out of 4 increased their savings, from an average of $437 to $1,433.

Mission & Goals

This country has a rich history of entire communities moving themselves out of poverty, from the immigrants that built the Chinatowns to the African Americans who built vibrant townships after slavery. It took some personal initiative, shared capital, and families helping one another. It took a sense of community.

Through its Demonstrations, FII has learned that this kind of initiative and mutuality still exists across every ethnic group in our low-income communities, but it needs to be encouraged and resourced. FII has evolved into a social laboratory, working in communities to disprove negative stereotypes about poor people and advocating for policy and funding changes that promote personal initiative and peer-to-peer support.

FII's mission is to:

  1. Create an opportunity rich environment that invests resources in low-income communities based on the strengths and initiative they demonstrate towards improving their lives and others' lives in their communities.
  2. Test and advocate for a new set of policies and practices that support community initiative while still protecting the current needs-based system for those in crisis.

Program

FII’s utilizes a two-pronged, iterative strategy

  1. On The Ground:  FII engages with a diversity of low-income families from various communities so they can demonstrate the capacity they, and others like them, have to improve their own lives and help one another.
  2. Systems Change:  FII shares the data and stories from the families with funders, policy makers, reporters etc. who are positioned to influence or implement systemic change that will make resources available to low-income communities and families as they demonstrate initiative.

FII’s role is to facilitate the interaction of these two sides so that as one side changes the other responds and vise versa.

On the Ground

1. Social Network Demonstrations

The FII approach is unique in that it doesn't provide services to families, but instead catalyze families to develop their own solutions to their challenges and lives. Families are in the best position to work on their goals and problems in an integrated approach.  They know best the challenges and opportunities that exist in their lives. They have the capacity to determine what supports and resources they need from their community or others. FII’s role is to reinforce their leadership of their own lives by refraining from providing direction or advice and by creating an environment that incentivizes initiative and supports families working together and helping each other.

Shifting the focus to the capacity and expertise of the families and reinforcing their social capital and self-determination means that families, not a program, can sustain the change they create. Utilizing this approach in four different cities with a diversity of communities FII has documented the tremendous progress families make in just two years including income, savings, home ownership, children’s grades, dropping subsidies, sense of self-efficacy, leadership development, and civic engagement.

FII is not a panacea for everyone in poverty, especially those in crisis with no viable community support.  That is why the safety net programs are needed.  But the very large majority of very low income families are not in crisis though they struggle to survive.

FII’s demonstrations with families continue to be the testing ground for many of FII’s innovative ideas and approaches. FII runs demonstrations to prove the capacity of low-income families and disprove many of the stereotypes about poor people. FII also uses the demonstrations to experiment with different kinds of resources (like loans, scholarships, and matching funds). From the data and stories we gather, FII can construct policy and practice recommendations in response to and directly informed by the actual experiences of low-income families.

2. Testing New Tools

 FII is testing several financial instruments with the families to see what works (and doesn’t) and share examples for others who can replicate and scale its concepts.

  • Individual and Community Development Accounts: Since 2001, FII has made individual development accounts (IDA) available to families enrolled in our Demonstrations. IDAs are matches on savings, generally for things like business, homeownership, and education. Families have told us that the availability of IDAs has been a significant driver for them to save money toward goals they have that are in alignment with our IDA eligibility. Moving forward, we will experiment with community development accounts as well.
  • Loan Program:In 2010, FII launched a pilot loan program that broadened traditional underwriting used by lending institutions and incorporated “character” information, mutuality, and payment history traditionally not used by banks (rent, cell phone bills, utilities, etc.). The “character” information is based on the personal relationships and knowledge that grassroots organizations like FII have of the families. The element of mutuality leverages the interpersonal relationship that a borrower has with other members of the community. These two components of the underwriting process reinforce the building of community, reputation and trust that naturally happens in communities.
  • Equity Building Loans:FII is exploring the creation of a “Family Fund Club” that allows FII communities to build their own sources of capital and maintain control over an asset base for others in the community to leverage over time.

Systems Change

FII’s seeks to create large-scale change in how this country addresses poverty and low-income communities. FII sees changing policy and practice as a key strategy to increasing economic mobility and opportunities for low-income families.

Creating New Approaches To Fund Resident Initiative

FII is convening small groups of funders as part of a collaboration that is applying FII’s principle’s to develop and advocate for a new approach to funding low-income communities that breaks down siloed funding and gets funds more directly to families based on their initiative. The intention is that these funders will be examples to philanthropy and, ultimately, government, of how to implement FII’s principles through funding practices.

Impact

The significant outcomes from every FII project evidence the great potential for large-scale community impact. More than 2000  individuals from over 400 families have participated in one of FII’s demonstration projects in cities across the nation.  Each participant determines their own goals and a sample of results from various demonstrations include:

  Boston San Francisco Hawaii Oakland
Income Change +13% +20% +18% +27%
Savings Change +225% +250% +377% +141%
New Homeowners 0 3 1 9
New Business 12 10 6 22
Grade Improvement 22% 77% 40% 27%
Months w/ FII 12 24 20 24
Households 35 65 18 25
Adults/Children 152 310 86 121

 

Other outcomes include: catalyzing local leaders, families leaving welfare, and increased civic engagement. Follow-up surveys show that this trajectory of progress continues after families complete the two-year commitment.

Growth Plan

FII is at an inflection point organizationally where tremendous opportunities exist for making great strides toward realizing its mission of demonstrating the strengths in low-income communities and realigning resources and practices to invest in the initiative of these communities. As FII looks to scale its efforts, they are developing two complimentary avenues to meet family and organizational demand for its approach.

  • Family Association: This is an evolution of the current FII model, which will allow it to engage thousands of additional families by utilizing technology. FII has developed a community building website, a major component of the Association.
  • Leadership Academy: The demand for FII’s approach has grown tremendously. Moving forward FII will develop the capacity to provide technical assistance, training, and leadership development to resident leaders and nonprofit executives who want to implement FII’s approach in their communities. Participants in the Academy will receive ongoing monitoring to ensure adherence to the model and its principles. 

Location of Sites

National Office: 
1203 Preservation Park Way Ste. 100
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510.452.9341
List of locations

To make a contribution to a program site:

  1. Click on the "Make a Contribution Now" button and include the name, city and state of the program you would like to support, in the "notes" text box on the organization's donation form, if available.
  2. If a "notes" or "designation" box is not available, write the city and state on your check in the "notes" section or call the national office to designate your contribution to a local program site.

Locations in the following states:

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Financials

Most Recent Budget

Year Ended:

2011

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$0
Foundation Grants: 
$3,022,919
Government Funding: 
$0
Contributions from Individuals: 
$64,494
Special Events: 
$0
Program Services Fees: 
$0
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$1,103
Total Revenue: 
$3,088,516

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$1,396,105
Occupancy: 
$82,272
Travel & Entertainment: 
$91,922
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$16,678
Telephone & Communications: 
$15,242
Payments to Affiliates: 
$864,408
Other Expenses: 
$27,243
Other Expenses (Description): 

Accounting, Legal, insurance, other: $59,000

Program specific expenses: $624,000

Other Expenses (Description): 

Total Expenses: 
$2,493,870

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain/Loss: 
$594,646

Prior Year Actuals

Year Ended:

2010

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$0
Foundation Grants: 
$4,819,051
Government Funding: 
$280,000
Contributions from Individuals: 
$67,207
Program Services Fees: 
$0
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$614
Special Events: 
$0
Total Revenue: 
$5,166,872

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$1,572,072
Occupancy: 
$62,529
Travel & Entertainment: 
$77,405
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$14,651
Telephone & Communication: 
$17,232
Payments to Affiliates: 
$635,875
Other Expenses: 
$24,788
Other Expenses (Description): 

Accounting, Legal, insurance, other: $70,000 Program specific expenses: $495,000

Total Expenses: 
$2,404,552

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain / Loss: 
$2,762,320

Major Funders

New Profit, Inc.

GreenLight Fund

Peery Foundation

Kellogg Foundation

Boston Foundation

Boston Rising

Levi Strauss Foundation

Walter S. Johnson Foundation

Mayer-Phillips Foundation

Burt Family Foundation

Friedman Family Foundation

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Johnson Family Foundation

Ashoka Fellowship

Full Circle Fund (plus tech assist)