Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Works to End Poverty

I recently read a great story in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about a charity that really works to help people change their own lives. It is called, The Family Independence Initiative.

The story told of how the founder, Mr. Maurice Miller, had a dramatic change of heart and mind about how to help people get out of chronic poverty. At the time of his conversion Mr. Miller was head of a very large, very expensive, much lauded organization with numerous awards for ending poverty. What happened to change his mind?

Mr. Miller was enrolling gang members in a job-training program and had only one more spot. He gave the position to a young man who’d been in prison for armed robbery rather than the man’s friend, who had never been incarcerated.
When Mr. Miller explained why he had to make that decision—because the charity’s criteria favored people who’d been in trouble and seemed to need the most help—the chosen man nudged his friend and said, “See, you should have come on that job with me.”
It was then Mr. Miller realized the message his group was sending.

What message was his group sending? "You must become a thief and refuse to work if you expect us to help you!"

Now Mr. Miller is changing the way he works. He founded the Family Independence Initiative and started telling people how to organize themselves into self directing groups of hard working people who used their own insights, knowledge and understanding to defeat their daily problems. When someone calls the FII and asks for help, they are told to go to their group of supportive citizens first.

I learned long ago not to "Over Function" for people. In alcohol and drug treatment that is called "Co-Dependency or Enabling" and it kills addicts rather that curing them. It kills initiative, it kills hard work, it kills self esteem it keeps people in poverty.

The work of Mr. Miller and his group is inspiring, powerful, educational and it works for much less money. Read the story and weep at the cost of failing to help people. Failures are much higher than successes in financial outlay to say nothing of the human costs.

Your support of Sweeten Life Systems is support for things that work. We facilitate healthy systems, healthy networks and healthy relationships. We find doing for people distressing and enabling. We find helping them find their own answers to be liberating and empowering.


Judy said...

After witnessing so many failed attempts to pull people up from their surroundings only to find that that's really where they want to be, I totally agree with this philosophy. People need to want to change, then those around them with God's help can change lives. Thank you for all you do.

Gary Sweeten said...

Judy, your comment has a great quote in it. I would change it to say:

I seen lots of failed attempts to pull people up from their surroundings only to find that that's really where they want to be!

Pulling fish out of the water just makes them yearn for home more intensely.

I will remember your thoughts.