Family Independence Initiative

We Believe

FII’s work with cohorts of families in cities across the country shows that low-income people can advance together if we:

  • Make resources and funding available more directly to people, not just institutions
  • Allow families the freedom to determine their own paths, instead of taking direction from case managers and social workers
  • Encourage and reward personal initiative, instead of penalizing or reducing eligibility for help if a family makes progress
  • Support and promote mutuality and building social capital, instead of helping individuals outside of the context of their families and communities
  • Honor resident leadership and expertise, instead of professionals and outside intervention
  • View families as consumers with valuable feedback entitled to hold services and programs accountable, instead of needy victims
  • Direct Outcomes From FII’s Approach 

FII’s approach has been demonstrated in several cities across the country. Families in these projects show significant near- and long- term economic gains as well as a host of other outcomes that show increased control over their lives and choices for the future.

In Boston:

In June of 2010 152 individuals, including 81 children, from 35 families enrolled in FII’s Boston demonstration project. In just six months by working together they made tremendous progress toward the goals they set for themselves. Outcomes include:

  • 13% increase in average household income (excluding subsidies and FII payments)
  • 22% increase in average savings
  • 25% of children improved grades
  • 20% improved attendance

The families are pursuing a range of initiatives to move forward and are focused on quality of life issues like more time with their kids, for themselves, building relationships, better access to food, self care, and education. The families reported over 500 initiatives and positive “sparks” from June to December of 2010. Families are also taking steps to raise their credit rating by getting financial counseling, paying bills on time, and reducing debt. 

Read more about FII–Boston

Control & Choice

Everyone wants control over their circumstances and a reasonable set of choices for their children's futures. FII operates under the assumption that, like most middle and upper class people, most low-income families are capable of taking tangible steps towards establishing control and choice in their lives. What these families lack is sufficient capital and access to opportunities and information that are more readily available to the middle and upper income.

Mission Statement

Where the personal story can be safely explored and expressed.

Ashlar Center for Narrative Arts is an arts driven non-profit organization designed to serve the Personal Story. In our workshops people create their narratives in various media. Additionally, we have a selection of easily adapted self-care practices that are necessary to foster resilience. 

We have learned over the years that  the most powerful and underused resource in our communities are its "ordinary"  people. So, our goal is  empowering  people to create the means to tell and share their stories in a culturally relevant way -- a collaborative model one in which we are all students and learners. Learning about and respecting cultural practices is very important and is our  growing edge.  We are very interested in how different communities and  cultures meet the challenges of being human. We, community members and Ashlar associates  come together to create supportive and sustainable life affirming models based in telling and honoring the personal story. 

 Our goal is to nurture relationship, encourage learning and teaching through community involvement. We are committed to creating a climate of  well-being and providing  lay people the means to become Narrative Arts Facilitators where it would best serve them and their communities.  

 Stay tuned and continue to look through the site.