Community Aspirations Hub (CAH) is an initiative of the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab (SIELab) within the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We collaborate with communities, organizations, subject matter experts, and people with lived experience of poverty to explore innovative community-driven solutions to multi-dimensional poverty. In partnership with public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and their service beneficiaries, we have adapted a global poverty methodology for use in our local North Carolina context.
CAH members utilize Aspire, an application-based, interactive self-assessment tool and coaching model, to work with individuals and families to achieve their wellbeing goals and to overcome poverty.
Strong and thriving communities supported by a culture of collaboration to support the well-being of families.
Supporting communities in eradicating poverty in all forms, within all dimensions, via collaboration, diligence, and innovation.
Collaboration: Complex problems can’t be solved in silos. We must work together across systems to address poverty. Top-down solutions have not worked. Individuals and communities must be the drivers of poverty elimination initiatives, rather than systems or professional experts. People with lived experience of poverty, and direct workers who interface with families daily are a vital part of the collaborative process.
Relationships: Relationships are vital to systems change work. We must work to build relationships – with people, ideas, and systems – before leaping to technical solutions, if we are to achieve real change.
Trust: Families and communities know what they need and what is best for them. We trust that they are the experts in their own lives. We strive to be a trustworthy partner to the communities we engage with and serve.
Human Potential: All people have the potential to grow, to improve their lives, and to thrive, when given the tools and support they need.
Equity: Recognizing the long and devastating history of racism and discrimination in our country, we believe policies must directly address the structural factors that systematically disadvantage people of color, to ensure that all families can meet their basic needs.
Focus on Strengths: We focus on enhancing wellbeing rather than eliminating poverty. People living in poverty face stigma and judgment. Even the systems that are meant to help them can reinforce self-blame by focusing primarily on “problem areas” and perceived deficits. All of us have inherent strengths that should be nurtured as internal resources. We believe success is more likely when starting from a strengths-based rather than a problem-focused perspective.
Agency: A core component of wellbeing is the feeling that we have agency over our own lives. That means that we can choose what we want for ourselves, and we have the ability and freedom to act on those choices. We believe that strengthening agency helps people feel more ownership over their lives, greater self-efficacy, and more internal motivation to make changes in their lives for the better. Our work intends to approach and serve people in ways that enhance their sense of agency.
The Poverty Stoplight program was created based on Fundación Paraguaya’s (aka Paraguay Foundation) experiences in the fields of microfinance, entrepreneurship, and training. From the beginning, it has been both theory- and evidence-driven. Through an agreement with Paraguay Foundation, SIELab established a Poverty Stoplight Hub. Adopting the name “Community Aspirations Hub,” we facilitated the adaptation of the Poverty Stoplight assessment to fit North Carolina’s context and gave the adapted tool the name Aspire. We trained pilot partners to administer the tool and to provide effective coaching, coordinated feedback from partner agencies and Aspire users, facilitated an adaptive learning network of partners, and conducted data analysis. Paraguay Foundation provided constant support throughout the implementation of the methodology. We renamed the tool “Aspire” to remove the stigmatizing reference to poverty and shift to a focus on holistic well-being, which encompasses economic mobility and is broader than our traditional income-based understanding of poverty.