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A new way up

10/25/2011, 2:37 p.m.
“We got to get it right.” ...
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A new way up

 

Boston Rising recently established the Grove Hall Trust as a community-led foundation.  

With the protest “Occupy Wall Street” entering its second month, more people are becoming aware of the great disparity in income among Americans. The slogan “99 percenters” indicates that protest supporters are not among the 1 percent of taxpayers that receive more than 20 percent of all revenue reported.

Not far from the site of “Occupy Boston,” an encampment of those engaged in opposition to the country’s financial practices, is the office of Boston Rising. This not-for-profit organization has launched a new strategy to help people rise from poverty to affluence.

Several years ago, a group of well-intentioned successful businessmen decided to use their economic acumen to help resolve the problem of poverty in Boston. From their perspective the problem was simple. It is clear that poverty results from the absence of money. They believed that if you provide the cash, then the problem goes away.

It turned out not to be quite so simple. The objective is not to eliminate poverty temporarily, but to establish a sustainable approach to life that will relegate poverty to a bad memory. The Boston Rising approach concludes that real progress will come only with the effort and planning of those involved in the community.

The executives at Boston Rising certainly understand that it will take money to end the cycle of poverty, but they believe that success depends upon how the investment of funds is accomplished. Boston Rising has established the Grove Hall Trust, completely under the control of neighborhood residents, who will decide what projects to finance.

The Boston Rising strategy is based upon two fundamental principles. The first is that residents of a community know better than anyone else just what is needed to attain progress. The second is that all parties, as they say, must have some skin in the game. Progress can come only with shared responsibility.

This means that the trustees will be held accountable for the success or failure of their decisions. They must also work to generate the required community portion of the trust revenue. This arrangement appeals to Michael Williams, one of the nine community trustees. “It’s a great way for people to bring about social change on their own,” he affirmed.

Boston Rising will donate $250,000 to the trust which will generate $12,500 in annual income. Trustees are expected to raise twice that sum ($25,000) each year. That will provide a total of $37,500 per year for grants.

According to Tiziana Dearing, CEO of Boston Rising, the Grove Hall Trust is probably the first “resident-led neighborhood foundation in the country.” It is based on the belief that “people are not poor. People are rich — full of immense human potential. Because of that, breaking the cycle of poverty is completely doable.”

In the beginning, the administrative costs of Boston Rising will be disproportionate to the size of the Grove Hall Trust, but those expenses will be paid by Boston Rising directors. The expectation is that when the strategy proves to be successful, Boston Rising’s contribution to the trust capital can be increased and other neighborhood trusts can be established.

Many attempts to alleviate poverty are merely palliatives. Self-effort and awareness of the path up are both essential to real change.