7. EXPECT more individual responsibility

“Most providers are passionate about helping the poor but many don’t actually believe that the poor can help themselves, either individually or collectively. This has created a service mentality that creates dependency and the notion among recipients that they can’t be held responsible for their own behavior.”
Judith Kurland, Chief of Programs and Partnerships, City of Boston

Another important strategy for the social innovator is based on an understanding that progress requires citizens to move from passive recipients of public services to active participants in civic life. As an innovator, you can do this by giving citizens—as clients—a greater voice in determining and evaluating the services they receive. As important, ensure that these same individuals are included in both identifying problems and in solving them.

Below are some relevant tips and tools at the innovator’s disposal:

Replace patronizing systems

  • Don’t assume those seeking assistance will always be in need.
  • Give citizens choices and hold them high expectations.
  • Ask for feedback on servicesand take that feedback seriously.

“Client” Choice

  • Allow choice to promote greater personal responsibility and engagement.
  • Promote competition to incentivize and enforce quality.
  • Address challenges of choice programs, especially in education.

Curing the Expectation Gap

  • Raise expectations for individual lives and the communities in which clients live.
  • See the potential in individuals that can be fulfilled once barriers are removed.
  • Leverage the power of social networks of family and friends.

In Action

Innovator Maurice Miller has created a powerful locally-based model for setting high expectations for individuals and families and giving them the space to take full responsibility for their actions and future. Turning the traditional “needs-based” approach that rewards and reinforces the negative on its head, Miller’s Family Independence Initiative (FII) has established a unique system based on citizen choice, personal responsibility, family and friend relationships and positive incentives.

Families that are living paycheck to paycheck and at risk of failing are encouraged to create their own networks to solve problems and to work together to build toward greater economic independence, educational success  and decreased dependence on government.

Learn more about FII, which started in San Francisco and recently launched in Boston, here.

Next: OPEN space for new ideas