In this video interview, Family Independence Initiative’s Mauricio Miller introduces a more effective alternative to imposing "solutions" on families in poverty.
“When you’re poor, you’re in a box.” Mauricio Lim Miller knows this from long experience, including his decades of social work, his own family background, and the data gathered by the Family Independence Initiative (FII), which he founded in 2001. FII, a Heron investee, partners with low-income families who provide data about their lives and the initiative they take to make improvements. They are a national nonprofit organization that leverages that data to dispel stereotypes, advance families, and shift how this country views and responds to low-income communities.
The MacArthur-award-winning Miller delves into his personal life story about his “mother who emigrated from Mexico with two kids, wanted the American dream, and struggled a lot.” His work against the War on Poverty and at FII is inspired by the help that could have been provided to his family and others in more helpful and effective ways. FII’s mission is to change attitudes of families so that money goes “straight to them without a bunch of intermediaries telling them what to do.” This is important because “by offering them this direct access to the resources that they need as opposed to social workers and employment specialists...they can lead their own change.” Watch and read more below.
Our mission is to highlight the resourcefulness and the reliability of the families themselves so they can lead their own change. It’s been a part of our history. It’s been a dichotomy that has been a fight between the right and the left, kind of forgetting our biggest asset is that our families are resourceful and that actually we should invest in them. ... We’re trying to say to them it’s your life, it’s your family, your community, your culture. You’re the experts in it. So I feel it’s been more rewarding not giving people directions and my ideas and actually watching theirs. That’s more rewarding than my 20 years of social services where I was the director and kept coming up with solutions for everybody else. It’s been a cool period.
Check out more from thought leaders in impact investing and philanthropy in our Influencer Series. This video was shot during a retreat for some of Heron’s investees in 2014.