Our Work

Changing Systems that Perpetuate Poverty


After listening to and learning from tens of thousands of families over the past 20+ years, at UpTogether, we know people can and will move up together when they are recognized for their initiative, supported for their self-determination and where access to resources is determined by strengths, not deficits.

But too many systems in our society have been set up to prevent people experiencing financial hardship from moving up, both economically and socially.

Those systems also ensure certain communities remain financially under-resourced and create governmental and charitable policies and practices that overlook:

The power of communities to create their own solutions to challenges they face

The creative ways people stretch their limited incomes and invest in themselves

The ways access to capital, without outrageous interest rates or strings attached, can fuel the initiatives people and communities are already taking to accomplish their goals and dreams

That’s why together, with our members and partners, we are championing a nationwide movement to change systems so all people in the United States are seen and invested in for their strengths and are able to build power, reinforce their autonomy, and drive their own economic and social mobility.

What is Systems Change?

To understand how UpTogether defines “systems change,” let’s first talk about what a system is. A system is a network of relationships between individuals, groups and institutions. There are many types of systems including education, government, healthcare and criminal justice.

“Systems change” means making significant and lasting improvements to how a system operates in order to achieve a desired outcome. 

UpTogether hopes to change government and philanthropic systems from investing in costly programs to directly investing in people. 

We envision a nation where government and philanthropy provide unrestricted and unconditional cash to communities, trusting families to make their own choices about how to utilize these resources.

Some examples of systems change that would move us closer to that vision include a government agency or department implementing permanent guaranteed income for their residents, a philanthropic organization encouraging donors/donor-advised funds to invest in direct cash initiatives, reinstating the expanded Federal Child Tax Credit and increasing the gross income limit for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). 

Systems change is a complex process that doesn’t happen overnight. It involves many stakeholders, a coordinated effort and a clear understanding of the challenges of the current systems.

“From disability, I get $864 a month. It’s not enough to live on. It’s not. The reason they tell me that amount is because they’re basing it off of what I’ve made in my lifetime of being employed. I became disabled very young. I became disabled at 33 years old. So I didn’t have all these years to build up that amount, to give for it, to be able to support me more.”

– Christina, UpTogether Member in Texas

Our Strategy for Systems Change

Changing systems is a bold goal that won’t happen overnight. We have a three-pronged strategy to make it happen. Together, with our members, partners, community organizations and other supporters, we:

  1. Invest in families and individuals with limited incomes by providing them with cash they can use however they wish, no strings attached
  2. Amplify stories to change the narrative and tell the true lived experiences of people facing financial hardship and financially under-resourced communities
  3. Mobilize around state and local policies and practices that support and accelerate socioeconomic mobility

Because of our belief in the power of community, we also created an online community called UpTogether Connect where people share resources, support and help each other accomplish their goals. 

On UpTogether Connect, members can:

  • Get access to cash offers from our funding partners
    • When money is available and you meet eligibility requirements such as city or household income
    • True to our approach, members may use the cash offer however they choose and don’t have to pay it back.
  • Join social groups to connect to other members virtually.
    • Virtual groups are also encouraged to connect in-person
  • Take surveys to show how community, cash and choice help individuals and families experiencing financial hardship accomplish their goals and improve their overall well-being
  • Share stories about your lived experiences to counter stereotypes, change the narrative and inspire others.