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$1.8 Million Investment in Family Independence Initiative Reaps Life-Changing Returns

At the one-year mark, GCF’s unprecedented stake in FII is helping low-income families to chart their own paths toward greater prosperity.

With more than 179 families enrolled in the program, FII-Cincinnati is demonstrating measurable gains on multiple fronts. 

In 2017, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, together with its generous donors, made the single largest investment in its history: $1.8 million to partner with the Greenlight Fund to bring the Family Independence Initiative (FII) to Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The commitment is a reflection of GCF’s new focus on building a more equitable community and connecting people with purpose. GCF believes in the innovative FII model because it trusts and empowers families to determine their goals to move themselves out of poverty, individually and collectively through cohort groups. Cincinnati is the eighth U.S. city to participate in the FII program. Its two-year, data-driven process, backed by technology that tracks results, produces significant — even life-changing — outcomes.

A year after FII’s launching here, GCF’s deep, concentrated stake is paying powerful financial and social dividends. To date, more than 179 families — from Middletown to Alexandria, and Northgate to Bethel — have enrolled in FII, exceeding the program’s first-year goal.

FII - Cincinnati families are reporting that during the first six months of engagement, on average: 

In addition to financial progress, the cohort groups harness the value of social capital exchanges — help they give to and receive from friends, family and neighbors through such activities as child care, preparing meals and providing transportation. To date, Cincinnati-FII families have exchanged an estimated $34,000 in such social capital exchanges; that figure increases as their community engagement and relationship building grow.

Marcia Worsham and Carla Belcher, two single mothers enrolled in FII here, have made tremendous strides. “The fire inside of me has been reignited since I have been setting my goals in my monthly journal,” said Marcia. Completing those goals — including paying off debt, building emergency savings, enrolling her two children in gymnastics and obtaining a life insurance policy — has been empowering. “That just makes you want to move on to the next goal and continue to chip away at the things that seemed like mountains before.”

Carla, an artist, was inspired by her participation at the PolicyLink Equity Summit in Chicago, especially its Mobilizing Arts and Culture in the Equity Movement workshop. “I had always wanted to start my own business, not just to sell my work but to spark social change in North College Hill,” she said. “Bouncing ideas off of other workshop attendees taught me that equity can begin with subtle changes. I was inspired to go home and make my dream a reality.”

GCF’s initial investment accelerated the original commitment from 200 to 500 families. FII Cincinnati's new goal, thanks to GCF's substantial commitment along with its generous donors, is to partner with 1,000 families over four years. 

Here are ways to join GCF in advancing the transformative success of FII-Cincinnati:

  • The GreenLight Fund Cincinnati will celebrate FII at its Cinnovation: An Evening of Innovation and Inspiration event from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at Rhinegeist Brewery, 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. To attend Cinnovation as our guest, please call Venita Turner at 513-768-6162 or email
  • To learn more about supporting FII families, contact our Donor and Private Foundations Services staff. A contribution of $2,500 will directly fund a family’s participation for two years.

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