When I was City Council President, I was invited by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to an Asset Building Conference, where I joined a team of colleagues from Jacksonville. We were challenged to set a bold goal around poverty in our community. We decided that our goal had to be big – we chose 1,000 people – and our goal had to have a time limit – we chose 1,000 days and that is how 1,000 in 1,000 was born.
I assumed that this initiative would be like most, where a group comes up with some great ideas, but then we get back home our good intentions wither. But Team Jacksonville was different. We completed research on the latest learnings on poverty, including literature reviews and national site visits. We ran pilots, working with 100 families over 3 years, to determine what specific strategies were the most powerful for building assets.
We learned from the families directly. They told us that their top goal was to provide a better life for their children than their own. They wanted a job that paid a living wage and were willing to work for it, but needed child care and reliable transportation to get to job training. They emphasized the need for life management skills, including goal setting, budgeting, parenting andinterpersonal skills. Families were frank that many of them had a past criminal arrest or conviction, but for relatively minor offenses that were still classified as a felony, such as bouncing a check or driving with a suspended license.
Poverty is everyone's problem. I am justifiably proud of our community for examining poverty through the magnifying glass of our collective vision.