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Mauricio Lim Miller
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Mauricio Lim Miller is an anti-poverty social innovator who, as Founder and CEO of the national Family Independence Initiative (FII), offers a new approach for families, funders, and policy makers to break the cycle of poverty.

FII’s strength-based approach, inspired by the historical successes of poor and immigrant communities in the U.S., shows that when families are provided the opportunity to access and share resources, offer mutual support, and solve their own problems—rather than taking direction from case workers—they have a deep capacity to transform their lives.

President Obama appointed Mauricio to the White House Council for Community Solutions in late 2010. Mauricio was elected a 2011 Ashoka Fellow for his pioneering approach to increasing economic mobility. He was also honored by President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who invited him to sit with her alongside Rosa Parks, Sammy Sosa, and other honorees during the President’s 1999 State of the Union Address.

Before starting FII, Mauricio spent 22 years as the executive director of Asian Neighborhood Design, a large, needs-based multi-service community development agency in San Francisco and Oakland. His experience leading this $10 million agency showed Mauricio first hand that while social services are important when people are in crisis, our needs-based system actually penalizes people once they begin to make progress and show initiative.

Mauricio’s personal history deeply informs his life’s work. He emigrated from Mexico to the United States as a child with his mother and sister. Like so many other low-income parents, Mauricio’s mother worked long hours to feed and support her children. But the effort took its toll and Mauricio lost his mother when he was in his twenties. Since his mother’s death, he has dedicated himself to battling stereotypes about poor people and supporting low-income families in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Mauricio sits on the Board of Directors of the California Endowment and the Hitachi Foundation. He has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley.

Entries by Mauricio Lim Miller

Let's Make 2015 About Investing In Local Initiative

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2015 | 10:15 AM

2014-12-31-Kamica.jpg Kamica Cooper, San Francisco resident and FII participant
During the holidays people are particularly charitable. Giving to help someone "less fortunate," "underserved," "poor" or "needy" makes us feel good. That's not a bad thing for "us" who are doing the giving, and it...
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Lessons Learned From the Mistakes and Solutions of Ordinary People

(0) Comments | Posted November 11, 2014 | 4:20 PM

In previous posts, I've written about the harm the social sector can cause from efforts that are, in effect, "paternalistic." In a society where race, class and gender biases still fuel negative stereotypes of low-income adults, top-down services fuel the misconceptions that...

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My Mother's Influence: Why We Must Recognize Personal Relationships

(0) Comments | Posted October 2, 2014 | 12:04 PM

In a three-part series I posted a few weeks ago, I shared the story of Myong, a refugee mother whom I tried to help when I ran a social service agency in the '80s.

Later I learned that we had inadvertently harmed her relationship with her teenage...

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Helping Should Strengthen Relationships, Not Hurt Them: 3 Perspectives (3 of 3)

(0) Comments | Posted September 17, 2014 | 12:21 PM

This is the last in a series of three posts sharing the story of Myong, a refugee from Vietnam who was receiving counseling from Asian Neighborhood Design, the social service agency I ran in 1983. (Read part 1 and part 2.) After one of our counseling...

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Helping Should Strengthen Relationships, Not Hurt Them: 3 Perspectives (2 of 3)

(1) Comments | Posted September 16, 2014 | 4:15 PM


Part 2 of a 3-part series

In my first post, I introduced the story of Myong, a refugee from Vietnam who was receiving counseling from the social service agency, Asian Neighborhood Design, which I ran in 1983. During what I thought...

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Helping Should Strengthen Relationships, Not Hurt Them: 3 Perspectives

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 3:37 PM

NOTE TO READER: This is the first of a three part series appearing over the next three weeks, about an incident from the 1980s when I was Executive Director of Asian Neighborhood Design, a social services agency in San Francisco, California.

It was 1983 I was running a counseling...

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A Resident-Led Approach to Realizing American Opportunity

(0) Comments | Posted August 16, 2014 | 11:30 AM


Freedom, Inc., 2013 Torchlight Prize Winners

How many times have you heard someone suggest that poor people "don't know what to do" or "don't have the motivation" to improve their lives?

These misguided assumptions are behind the fundamentally flawed anti-poverty plan...

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The War on Poverty and a New Vision for the Future

(0) Comments | Posted January 7, 2014 | 2:11 PM

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's declaration of a war on poverty. Despite this gloomy milestone, I feel hopeful. That's because I know -- from my own personal experience, and from the work we've been doing at the Family Independence Initiative -- that this...

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Mr. President, Here's What Your Economy Speech Was Missing

(2) Comments | Posted December 5, 2013 | 9:00 AM

Today, I want to respond to an important address President Obama made this week about what he calls the "defining challenge of our time: Making sure our economy works for every working American." While I agree wholeheartedly with the urgency behind the president's remarks, I would argue that...

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Strengthening America's Communities From the Inside Out: Celebrating the 2013 Torchlight Prize Winners

(0) Comments | Posted June 7, 2013 | 6:47 PM

Through my work with the Family Independence Initiative, I know that families have a remarkable ability to support one another, especially in times of need; working together to create something better for themselves and their families. Whether rallying collective voices to create positive action on an issue, or...

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Igniting Economic and Social Mobility

(1) Comments | Posted March 13, 2013 | 7:10 PM

Jeb Bush recently declared that we are no longer a nation defined by social mobility. He described widening income disparities as a "structural problem" and said that it's "un-American" that the probability of being rich or poor is determined not by one's own efforts, but by the class one is...

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How Are Communities Better Off When They Work Together?

(0) Comments | Posted February 12, 2013 | 6:46 PM

Social networks play a critical, though often unappreciated, role in people's efforts to improve their lives. In my work at the Family Independence Initiative, I regularly see the positive impact of community on the lives of the families with whom we partner. I see how they support, and...

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Consumer Feedback and Market Demand

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2013 | 12:12 PM

Markets for Good recently published this piece I wrote in which I assert that collecting and responding to consumer feedback and market demand in low-income communities is critical to spurring economic and social mobility.

How can data best be used in the interest of those...
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Turning Charitable Contributions Into Investments for Mobility

(1) Comments | Posted December 14, 2012 | 3:38 PM

The current fiscal cliff debate is a welcome opportunity to talk about how tax incentives for giving can be better structured to fuel economic mobility. The president's approach to avoiding the fiscal cliff, which includes increased taxes for the wealthiest along with capping deductions only for those making over $250,000...

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Blue-Print for Economic Mobility

(0) Comments | Posted November 8, 2012 | 4:14 PM

After the election dust settles, one thing we need -- regardless of who is in the White House -- is a new approach to reignite this country's economic mobility. Recently, I wrote an op-ed, A Blue Print for Economic Mobility, for the Boston Globe. I'm hoping you will...

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Taking Initiative

(3) Comments | Posted July 5, 2012 | 7:30 PM

I was thrilled to have the work of Family Independence Initiative featured in a recent segment of PBS Need To Know. The show took an in-depth look at Solving Poverty in America, examining FII's self-help model and our insistence that low-income families should be in charge of their...

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Investing in Homegrown Solutions

(0) Comments | Posted May 31, 2012 | 7:05 PM

When my organization, the Family Independence Initiative, was considering starting a project in Boston to partner with low-income families, I was told numerous stories of some of the tougher neighborhoods where unemployment is high, people do not venture out of their apartments at night, they distrust the police,...

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When Helping Doesn't Help

(11) Comments | Posted May 7, 2012 | 2:53 PM

If you log on to most any social services website you'll see testimonials of people who overcame huge odds to improve their lives. The stories have a similar cadence of intervention: "My mother was poor/a drug addict/beat me, but this teacher/social worker/community organizer took me under her wing and gave...

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The Power of Social Networks to Break the Cycle of Poverty

(6) Comments | Posted December 13, 2011 | 2:40 PM

With more Americans than ever in poverty and with funding for social services dropping day by day, the nation's attention is rightly focused on scrutinizing the status quo. Some of us are also looking critically at our failed poverty-fighting efforts. As we consider what to do to move our nation...

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