top of page

The Mutual Responsibility is Missing

The essence of a mutual responsibility approach is that it will take the whole of society working in concert to achieve change. And in the context of a reimagined safety net, mutual responsibility has two primary players: Society and the Individual. The role of society is to collectively support the conditions needed to grow people beyond vulnerability to reduce their dependence on public support. On the other hand, each person’s role is to be ultimately responsible for their future by being a participant in their own well-being and ability to be a positive contributor to their community.

The word “responsibility” means the ability to take control and respond to circumstances occurring in life. Mutual responsibility is a recognition that all persons have networks of friends and organizations that support them and come alongside them as they operationalize their individual responsibility. Systems and friends either work or don’t work to inspire and equip individuals to exercise individual responsibility. Good systems lead to people taking responsibility in ways that align with the intended outcomes of the system. A mutual responsibility system is capable of brokering services from crisis intervention to stabilization to readiness for the workforce to work placement and finally advancement into jobs that generate economic security and bring fulfillment to the individual.

Screenshot 2023-11-05 at 12.59.51 PM.png

People take more responsibility when they are accountable to others. From the heads of government to CEOs of major corporations to caseworkers on the front line and eventually to those trying to get out of poverty, accountability is a major source of motivation to achieve goals. In the same way a society should be accountable to its citizens to do all it can to facilitate opportunity for growth, progress, and advancement, while individuals are responsible and accountable for taking advantage of the opportunities when provided.

The goals of a poverty management system are to deliver a certain number of units of services, subsidies, and/or “stuff” to meet the goals of their funders. The organization is obligated to, first and foremost, keep the lights on to provide to the “poor.” This is not being accountable to the “poor”. Rather it is demeaning and stifling. On the other hand, if funding sources require that services, subsidies, and/or stuff contribute to a plan for getting people out of poverty and into economic stability, then organizations and systems will not only be acting responsibly but also will be showing accountability to those who should receive every opportunity possible to succeed. This is mutual responsibility in a poverty alleviation system.

When funding sources reward concrete progress made in long-term plans to increase household incomes up to an economic self-sufficiency level, such as 200% or more of the federal poverty guidelines, then mutual responsibility shifts from survival at all costs to stability. Individuals no longer feel the need to game the system to make ends meet, and organizations no longer feel the need to focus on short-term inputs to keep the doors open. Both parties can establish a mutual accountability for a long-term plan out of poverty.

bottom of page