Community Independence Initiative

Grant Details

Organization: Root Change
Country: Global
Funding Year: 2021
Project Duration: 3 years


Funding Areas

Private Sector Solutions ✓
System Change ✓
Empowerment of Individuals ✓
Teaching Freedom ✓

The primary means by which low-income populations get ahead economically, or even only survive, is through entrepreneurship and micro-business. This is especially apparent in developing countries: they sell soap, food, concrete blocks, gasoline by the jar, cut hair, and sell what they grow. History has proven that these entrepreneurs have the capacity to grow into more formal businesses in environments where people help one another, pool their funds, and grow their ideas.

This is where the Community Independence Initiative (CII) comes in to create a “mutuality” rich environment. Their approach is based on peer-driven change, acknowledging that those at the bottom of our economies are the only experts of their lives and are capable of agency. CII identifies local approaches and supports the most effective efforts by highlighting them or investing in them so that peers can follow those same paths. Low-income populations rely on families, not professional staff, to be the advisors, trainers, and role models for peers. They accomplish this work through partnerships with other organizations as well as the innovative, open source ImpactX Mutuality Platform that creates an eco-system with a core principle of working together and helping one another.

Ultimately the vision of CII is to fundamentally change current anti-poverty work of NGOs as well as UN organizations away from top-down, paternalistic approaches towards recognizing and supporting self-help efforts by low-income populations themselves. This model began in the United States under the Family Independence Initiative and is now being expanded internationally through CII by creating a naturally expanding eco-system that encourages and invests in entrepreneurial efforts that combine expectations of self-help and mutuality.


Contribution to enhancing freedom

Local entrepreneurship is one of the few avenues those living in and around poverty have as a tool to get ahead or survive. Philanthropy and government cannot fill that role for the billions struggling directly, but by investing in these self-help efforts, can grow the pie for everyone. There is untapped latent potential that can be unleashed if we treat those struggling with poverty like we treat those in more privileged situations. Rather than being treated as drains on society we need to respect this population as the future builders and makers of their own economies. We are missing the talents, ideas, and energy of 75% of the world’s population.

This project aims at both creating the evidence, backed by data, that can then communicate to a global audience, the potential of entrepreneurship and of humanity when we encourage the poor to work together as peers. CII aims to see this bottom-up practice becoming the gold standard for dealing with poverty and economic mobility.

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