50 Years Later …

By LIFT on January 8, 2014

Categories: News, Our Work

Kirsten Lodal

Kirsten Lodal, CEO and Co-Founder, LIFT

Dear Friend,
Today, we honor the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of an “unconditional War on Poverty,” a call to action that resulted in a groundbreaking set of policy initiatives aimed at reducing poverty in America.
As we arrive at this milestone, many are asking have we won or lost the war? Today, I challenge us to ask a different question: how are we innovating and improving as we build the framework for the next 50 years?

This anniversary offers us a time to reflect on all that we have learned over the last 50 years about what works for families striving to lift themselves out of poverty for good. Undoubtedly, debates will continue to rage in Washington about spending levels, but one thing we know we can and must do
now is listen to and learn from the people we aspire to help. Individuals and families living in or on the brink of poverty today are by far the most capable architects of our approach to expanding opportunity for all Americans in the next 50 years.
At LIFT we work one-on-one with people who are committed to finding jobs, housing, or the education they need for themselves or their kids. We take the time to get to know them so we can work with them to design a plan to lift themselves out of poverty. They own that plan, their progress, and their setbacks. We are there to listen, help them problem solve along the way, and most importantly, we are there to keep them from giving up.
15 years and 100,000 families later, we believe this approach, grounded in listening, should be at the heart of our country’s work with families in poverty. The challenges that push people off the financial cliff vary, and so do the solutions. Recognizing this reality, what can we do differently in the next 50 years?
We have tools today that we didn’t have 50 years ago, and yet in Boston, it can take 5 forms, 12 pieces of documentation, and 24 months on a waitlist for a mother to get approved for affordable housing. Why can’t the same technology that allows us to track our fitness goals or order take-out be repurposed to help families manage their documents and access services from the palms of their hands?

Or we could look to some of the best companies in the world – like Amazon and Google – who listen to and learn from their customers in order to innovate and improve. Why can’t we apply these same principles to a system to support striving families? At LIFT, we’re trying exactly this – stay tuned for the first blog post by our Chief Program Officer, Maria Peña, which introduces you to our Member Voice initiative and shares what we are learning.

Today is an important day for reflection. Let’s learn from the past and use tools of the future to build a system that can help families get back on their feet. We welcome your partnership in our continued efforts to chart a new course for the next 50 years.

Kirsten Lodal

CEO & Co-founder, LIFT