Together, Mauricio Miller, founder of the Family Independence Initiative (FII) and author of The Alternative, and Root Change are working to catalyze a movement called the Community Independence Initiative (CII). CII is a peer-driven change model that invests in the talents, strengths, and ingenuity of people living in low-income communities.
Earlier this year, we shared an exciting new effort to pilot CII in Colombia, Liberia, Mexico, and the Philippines. Today, we are thrilled to announce an ongoing collaboration between Mauricio Miller and Root Change that aims to share this powerful model with hundreds of activists and organizations who believe that people in low income communities know what is best for their families and have the capacity to find and implement solutions that will improve their lives and those of others in their community.
We invite you to share in this journey with us by contributing your feedback, ideas, and opportunities for collaboration, starting with a webinar to introduce the Community Independence Initiative on Thursday, July 30 at 11 am EDT. Register here.
The Origins of CII
In 2001, Mauricio launched the Family Independence Initiative (FII) to recognize, encourage, and elevate mutuality–the idea that families living below the poverty line look to others in their own network for ideas and support on how to thrive. The original FII model creates an environment in which families set their own goals and receive support from a group of peers throughout their journey. As they take initiative, families receive more, not less, access to resources that can accelerate their efforts.. Two years in, families report a 27% increase in their annual income, 36% decrease in government subsidies, and that 88% of their children, on average, have excellent, good, or improved grades.
We launched CII to bring the original FII model to low-income countries around the world. In 2019, the first CII pilot launched in Liberia with 100 families, and later that year, Mauricio and Root Change teamed up with Children International to pilot CII with 300 families in three more countries–Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines.
How Does CII Work?
CII offers no services or advice to families. Instead, it provides a structure within which families set their own goals and strengthen social networks that support their progress. Families share monthly data about income, employment, education, quality of living, and more in the form of monthly “journal entries.” Staff analyze the data and share it back with families, who use it to inform decisions about their own lives and conversations with their peers.
In small peer groups, families exchange information and stories about ways that they are improving their lives, making visible what people are doing that works, whether that means starting up an informal business or making sure their children are getting the education they need. In this model, peers are the ones exchanging support, contacts, and expertise, as opposed to educated helpers from the outside.
After an initial data collection period, CII invests in families with positively deviant strategies to accelerate economic mobility. Families continue to track and report their progress and, over time, make their own investments in new families by bringing them into the initiative.
What We’re Learning
Despite Covid-19, families in Liberia, Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines have continued to submit monthly journals and meet regularly through WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Zoom to encourage and support one another.
In just a few short months, we’ve already started to hear stories similar to those that have emerged from FII in the U.S. In Mexico, families are helping each other cope with the pandemic by exchanging information about government support and sharing clean water, food, healthy recipes, and wifi connections to enable their children to access virtual education. In the Philippines, families are connecting one another with opportunities to earn an income, such as planting mahogany, laundry, carpentry, and growing vegetables. Liberian participants report saving a portion of their income as part of community savings groups and supporting each other with business plans and referrals to suppliers. In Liberian neighborhoods across Paynesville and Buchanan, people are harnessing their ideas and collectively helping one another climb the income ladder.
What’s Next For This Alliance
CII start-ups in Mexico, Colombia, Liberia, and the Philippines are just the beginning. For too long, funders and INGOs have underestimated the potential and resourcefulness of families and communities to improve their wellbeing. We’re calling on our friends, colleagues, and peers in the international development sector to join us in trusting and investing in families, and the solutions they discover on their own.
Please sign up to share your input during the Community Independence Initiative Launch Webinar on Thursday, July 30 at 11 am EDT. Register here.