In the Fight Against Poverty
It’s Time for a Revolution
In his January 12, 2012 opinion piece, “In the Fight Against Poverty, It’s Time for a Revolution”, posted on The New York Times’ website, David Bornstein writes about the need to look to a new way of addressing the decline of social mobility and a fragmented social services system in the U.S. As an alternative, he highlights the innovative LIFT program which using empowering working principles and technology to mobilize volunteers to work with low-income families looking for a way to improve their lives.
Mr. Bronstein states:
But there is a problem: the system of social services that has been built up over past generations isn’t designed to increase poor people’s “capacity to aspire” and pursue their goals. Social services aren’t treated as part of an integrated process of human development. Just the opposite. Services are fragmented and clients are regularly shunted from agency to agency. Caseworkers serving people who are applying for public benefits don’t have the time, or the discretion, to get to know their clients, let alone brainstorm with them about problem solving.
But that’s what’s required. Many Americans struggling in poverty today need more than financial assistance; they need help figuring out how to plug into a changing economy. They need help devising a plan forward. One of the most innovative organizations working to re-imagine poverty alleviation along these lines is called LIFT. It was founded by college students in 1998, and most of the work is still conducted by student volunteers. Last year, LIFT mobilized 674 volunteers who contributed 126,000 volunteer hours and assisted about 10,000 families. If the American Dream is to be resuscitated for many of nation’s poor, there is a great deal that we can learn from them.