Neighborhood Network (NN) was launched in 2012 as a strategy to promote economic self-sufficiency among residents of a low-income neighborhood in Detroit. NN, a program convened by a nonprofit human services agency in the city, coordinates various services provided by seven nonprofit organizations and connects residents with resources that help them work toward their goals. NN Coordinators met regularly with participants to set goals, discuss progress, and connect them with appropriate resources, such as entrepreneurship training, financial literacy resources, and childcare. NN participants also had the option of participating in additional programs, including group sessions intended to strengthen relationships and build accountability among members as they make progress towards their goals. NN has served over 350 residents and facilitated significant positive changes in participants’ employment, income, and community involvement (Sobeck, Brown, & Capps, 2015). Yet, seemingly small barriers often present major obstacles that prevent NN participants from progressing toward their goals. These barriers can take many forms, including low wages, limited education, and debt. In many cases, these barriers could be overcome with relatively small amounts of money. The NN Barrier Busters (NN-BB) program was introduced as a strategy to help NN participants overcome these barriers and pursue long-term economic self- sufficiency. NN-BB provides small, one-time cash awards for residents to use as they see fit. This paper explores the NN-BB program from the perspectives of participants’ needs, goals, and the barriers they confront, as well as exploring the program’s effects on participants’ self-sufficiency. Findings suggest that programs like NN-BB may be an effective strategy for promoting self-sufficiency. (Author introduction)
Barrier Busters: Unconditional cash transfers as a strategy to promote economic self-sufficiency
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