Collecting Evidence & Facilitating Adoption of a Strength-Based Approach

Our vision at UpTogether is that all people in the United States are seen and invested in for their strengths and are able to build their social and financial assets.

In order to see that vision made real, we partner with community members and policy makers across the country to uplift evidence, examples and stories about what happens when we value families with limited incomes and invest in their creativity, resourcefulness and initiative with unrestricted capital. 

The Problem with the Current System

The majority of programs and policies directed at people with limited incomes are: 

  • Generally needs-based, which disincentivizes initiative. This adds to the negative perception of families in financially under-resourced communities as liabilities rather than assets.
  • Contributors to the “cliff effect,” which disincentivizes mobility by punishing many families when they get a raise, or save more, by making them ineligible to continue receiving all or some of their public benefits. Most of the time, the increase in pay is not enough to cover the cost of what the benefits provided, leaving many families in a worse financial situation than they were before, contributing to the cycle of poverty.

Our strength-based approach

To successfully remove these barriers to economic and social mobility, UpTogether partners with local and state agencies to adopt our strength-based approach, built on:



We center our work around the strengths and initiatives of people living in financially under-resourced communities and promote the role social networks within these communities play in helping people accomplish their goals and achieve long-term socioeconomic mobility.



We invest in families with unrestricted cash in recognition of the initiatives they are taking to improve their lives.



We trust that people in financially under-resourced communities know what’s best and are capable of making decisions for themselves and their families.

“Over the last 50 years, we have tried almost everything. But the approaches we’ve taken tend to be program-centric rather than people-centric. We fund mentoring organizations who take at-risk black and brown boys on field trips, but we won’t give a black father $100 to take his own damn kid on a field trip. There’s something wrong with that dynamic. Although well-intended, the system itself has become part of the problem…We are super excited to start on this journey with UpTogether and although we have no idea where it will lead, we know it won’t be like anything we’ve done before. This is about empowering people so we’ll be asked to get out of the way and let families take the lead. That’s going to be hard for us. But it will cause us all to change.”

– Lisa Morrison Butler, Former Commissioner of City of Chicago Family and Support Services

Policy & Practice

Partner with Us

We invite local and state government agencies that provide programs and investments to families with limited incomes to re-think our social and economic systems. 

Imagine what could happen if we shifted just some of the billions of dollars spent on well-intended — but ineffective — “poverty” programs and policies and instead gave the money directly to families to fortify social connections, invest in initiative and honor self-determination.

UpTogether’s approach allows government agencies to think creatively and partner with our team to develop what a new system can look like. The UpTogether Community — our online platform — will be the catalyst for us to jointly create opportunities for families to strengthen their social networks and for government to deploy dollars directly to family-led initiatives.

Interested in partnering with us or want to learn more? 

The work that UpTogether is doing is so important because it’s challenging us to really reimagine poverty in our communities and to also rethink the assumptions we’ve made in designing our systems.

– Brion Oaks, Chief Equity Officer, City of Austin

Other Ways to Adopt a Strength-Based Approach

If you are a government official or policymaker looking for things you can do to invest in families and communities using a strength-based approach, here are a few recommendations. 

  • Reform and expand Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC)
  • Expand childcare tax credits
  • Remove asset limit test
  • Redesign tax codes to address income and wealth inequities
  • Allocate at least 20% of cannabis excise taxes towards Black and Brown communities
  • Engage in participatory budgeting
  • Reserve business tax credits for small, local and minority-owned businesses
  • Redesign the deployment of TANF dollars
  • Reallocate general fund dollars towards strength-based policies/practices

Learn more about the impact of a strength-based approach.

Policy & Practice