Collaboration among three nonprofit organizations has helped nearly 150 participants achieve economic mobility and move toward self-sufficiency by partnering individuals and families with mentors who help address and overcome barriers to employment.
Catholic Family Center, Action for a Better Community and Community Place of Greater Rochester led Bridges to Success, which pairs individuals with a mentor to identify goals and overcome roadblocks to employment, and the Family Independence Initiative, which helps families create social support networks that helped move them toward their financial goals.
These programs are in the final stages of a two-year pilot period. The impact was measured and tracked against national averages. Bridges to Success was run as a randomized control trial, undergoing analysis by social science researchers from the University of Notre Dame. Both programs show progress in moving individuals toward self-sufficiency.
In the Bridges to Success program, 80.6% of participants advanced from “crisis” or “at-risk” to “stable” in at least one major area. The average household income increased by 107.5%. The average number of FII participants employed increased by 24.4%.
“We embarked on this journey in partnerships with Catholic Family Center, Community Place and RMAPI because it was in line with our mission, particularly because it takes a village to make a change within our community,” said Shawn Futch, focus on self-sufficiency director at Action for a Better Community.
“By helping families better navigate and access all the local services that already exist, they were able to make significant progress toward their financial goals,” said Ron Rizzo, director of family prosperity programs at Catholic Family Center. “These programs helped remove the roadblocks in our service delivery system, and participants were able to find and keep employment, save money for emergencies and make progress toward their lifelong goals, like homeownership.”
The programs were selected in 2015 as the first implementation strategy from the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, which united stakeholders to develop a comprehensive approach to poverty reduction. This group determined a program helping adults navigate the service delivery system was the best place to start.
“We’re excited at the results from these programs, but it’s about more than just helping individuals move toward self-sufficiency,” said Leonard Brock, RMAPI executive director. “The adult mentoring strategy is meant to serve as an example of what can happen when we remove barriers for people. It is a demonstration of the need for systemic changes.
“This is more than a programmatic success. While there are no magic bullets in the fight against poverty, the adult mentoring programs are a model of navigation and systemic barrier reduction that can be used across more than just these three service providers. It also shows that efforts to bring about long-term, systemic changes are the right approach and will yield more comprehensive poverty reduction in the coming years.”
The Bridges to Success program will expand within the three original partner agencies, including work to secure additional funding. New participants are welcome. Visit for information.
The Family Independence Initiative Rochester pilot led to a 32% increase in average household income. Future expansion of FII Rochester will be considered once the next version of the FII National approach is defined.