Jul 20, 2017

Our Approach to Empowering Those in Poverty

Originally published on stand-together.org

In our 2016 year in review, we recently introduced our portfolio approach — how we identify and choose organizations for partnership. With thousands of organizations and businesses creating value for their communities, how do we choose the most impactful ones? Americans wrestle with various, serious societal issues — which issues do we prioritize?

In 2016, we researched over 300 organizations and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to meet with more than 100 organizations. In our extensive search to uncover the most transformative solutions to community problems, we encountered common trends at the root of poverty. Consistent with landmark research, we found five distinct, interrelated factors that fuel the cycle of poverty — the breakdown of the family, chronic unemployment, addiction and trauma, educational failure, and personal debt.

These factors don’t exist alone. Individuals and families trapped in poverty face the devastating effects of multiple factors. Essentially, someone struggling with unemployment is highly likely to also face other issues, whether addiction, family breakdown, personal debt, or lack of education. As we evaluated organizations tackling poverty from various angles, we saw the implications of this research in action. Organizational leaders confirm that each individual they serve presents a complex, unique case emerging from interconnected causes of poverty. Success in breaking the vicious cycle requires an individualized, comprehensive approach. Many times, the pathway out of poverty for an individual is complicated, compounded by generations of poverty that precede them.

Successful programs take a multifaceted, inclusive approach that considers all aspects and causes of poverty. The road to poverty is complex, and there is no simple solution.

As Stand Together has grown its capabilities, we’ve honed our focus. Our portfolio approach to our investments seeks organizations that recognize the root causes of poverty and the interconnected nature of the barriers those individuals face. By partnering with organizations that consider this global perspective of poverty, we believe we have the best chance of amplifying the most targeted solutions and helping people improve their lives. Further, many organizations address more than one area with comprehensive, wrap-around services.

Within each focus area, multiple effective solutions exist. For example, within family breakdown, organizations address foster care, anti-violence, at-risk youth, and mentoring opportunities. In response to chronic unemployment, we are investing in workforce development programs, criminal justice re-entry programs, and other remediation opportunities. For educational failure, we are seeking innovative educational models and supplemental educational approaches.

Poverty affects the whole person. It touches an individual physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. That’s why we believe in investing in local, community-driven organizations that are aligned with our principles and aid the individual holistically with tailored services.

No two stories are the same, and they all deserve to be told.

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