06.20.2019

Aisha Nyandoro on Social Welfare Programs

Alicia Menendez sits down with Aisha Nyandoro, CEO of non-profit Springboard to Opportunities, to discuss her radical new plan for how social welfare programs operate.

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SO TELL ME, WHAT IS THE

SO TELL ME, WHAT IS THE MAGNOLIA MOTHER'S TRUST?

MAGNOLIA MOTHER'S TRUST?

MAGNOLIA MOTHER'S TRUST?

YEAH, THE MAGNOLIA MOTHER'S

YEAH, THE MAGNOLIA MOTHER'S TRUST IS THIS MAGICAL PROGRAM THAT REALLY IS ABOUT RESTORING DIGNITY INTO THE LIVES OF LOW INCOME AFRICAN-AMERICAN MOTHERS AND IT HAD BEEN THE PREMISE THAT YOU GIVE INDIVIDUALS CASH AND TRUST THAT THEY HAVE AGENCY AND KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THOSE RESOURCES, SO THE MECHANICS OF THIS PROGRAM IS THAT WE'RE PROVIDING A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH FOR 12 MONTHS TO LOW INCOME AFRICAN-AMERICAN MOTHERS WHO LIVE IN FEDERALLY SUBSIDIZED AFFORDABLE HOUSING WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED, UNDERSTANDING THAT WE TRUST THEM, WE SEE THEM, THEY UNDERSTAND BETTER THAN ANYONE WHAT IT IS THAT THEY NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THEIR LIVES, AND JUST ALLOWING THAT AGENCY TO GO OUT AND MAKE THOSE DREAMS ACTUALIZED.

WHY TARGET THAT SPECIFIC DEMOGRAPHIC.

WE TRULY BELIEVE WHEN YOU INVEST IN THE MOST VULNERABLE IN SOCIETY, SOCIETY AS A WHOLE FLOURISHES, BECAUSE OF SOME OF THE INCOME AND GENDER INEQUALITIES THAT RELATES TO WAGES AND THE PUNITIVE ACCESS OF THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET SYSTEM, AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN HAVE BECOME THE MOST VULNERABLE IN THIS COMMUNITY.

WE ARE SAYING THAT IF WE INVEST IN THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN MOST TARGETED BY SOME OF THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF THE SOCIAL SAFETY NETWORK AS WELL AS REALLY THE WAGES WITHIN THIS COUNTRY, WE CAN SEE WHAT HAPPENS AS A WHOLE AND IT BENEFITS ALL OF US JUST NOT THESE FAMILIES BECAUSE THE DATA IS REALLY CLEAR WHEN INDIVIDUALS HAVE RESOURCES, COMMUNITIES FLOURISH, LONG-TERM, EDUCATION FLOURISHES, SO WE ARE JUST, WE'RE TRYING IT, AND WE'RE GOING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

UNPACK SOMETHING FOR ME THAT YOU'RE SAYING WHICH IS THE SAFETY NET, WHAT ARE THOSE, HOW DO THEY MANIFEST.

THANK YOU.

THAT'S A VERY GOOD QUESTION.

SO A LOT OF INDIVIDUALS DO NOT REALIZE THE VARIOUS STEPS WITHIN OUR SOCIAL SAFETY NET SYSTEM AND THE PUNITIVE ASPECT OF IT, AND SO WHAT I MEAN WITH THE PUNITIVE ASPECT IS THAT WHENEVER YOUR INCOME INCREASES, YOUR BENEFITS IMMEDIATELY DECREASE, NOT ALLOWING YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET SETTLED OR TO REALLY FIGURE OUT HOW TO NAVIGATE WHAT IT NOW MEANS TO HAVE ADDITIONAL INCOME, AND NOT ONLY IS THE PUNITIVE IN THAT REGARD, IT ALSO TAKES AWAY YOUR DIGNITY AS AN INDIVIDUAL BECAUSE NONE OF THESE SYSTEMS ARE CONNECTED.

THERE'S A LOT OF BUREAUCRACY INVOLVED IN GOING TO MULTIPLE OFFICES TO GET CERTIFICATION OR RECERTIFIED AND REALLY HAVING TO PROVE THAT YOU ARE POOR ENOUGH TO RECEIVE THESE BENEFITS, SO IT'S A DEHUMANIZING PROCESS THAT REALLY DOESN'T ALLOW INDIVIDUALS TO SHOW UP IN THEIR FULL SELVES.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING THIS PROGRAM.

I HAVE BEEN RUNNING THE SPRING BOARD OPPORTUNITIES FOR SEVEN YEARS NOW.

THE MAGNOLIA MOTHER'S TRUST LAUNCHED THIS PAST DECEMBER AND WE HAVE BEEN IN THIS PILOT PHASE FOR THE LAST SEVEN MONTHS, WORKING ALONGSIDE OUR FAMILIES AND REALLY BEING ON THIS MAGICAL TRANSFORMATION WITH THEM?

AND THE RESULTS?

THE RESULTS HAVE BEEN ABOVE AND BEYOND ANYTHING THAT WE EXPECTED.

THESE WOMEN UNDERSTAND THE URGENCY OF THIS MOMENT AND IT HAS BEEN AN IMMEDIATE RETURN ON INVESTMENT FOR US AS AN ORGANIZATION AND FOR THEM WITHIN THEIR LIVES.

WE HAVE SEEN AS A WHOLE COLLECTIVELY THE 20 WOMEN IN THIS PILOT HAVE PAID OFF ABOUT $10,000 IN DEBT, AND NOT ONLY THAT, YOU KNOW, INDIVIDUALS ON AVERAGE HAVE SAVED ABOUT $500.

WHICH MAKES THEM BETTER OFF THAN A LOT OF INDIVIDUALS THAT WE'RE SEEING WHEN WE KNOW THAT VERY FEW AMERICANS HAVE $400 SAVED TO DEAL WITH AN EMERGENCY, SO THEY'RE SAVING, THEY'VE PLANNING.

WE HAVE SEEN WOMEN GO BACK TO SCHOOL.

WE HAVE SEEN WOMEN NOW ACTUALLY COMPLETE THEIR COMMUNITY COLLEGE DEGREES BECAUSE THEY NOW HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE TIME OFF FOR WORK OR WORK LESS HOURS KNOWING THAT THEY HAVE THIS INCOME.

BUT NOT ONLY ARE WE SEEING THESE DIFFERENCES MANIFESTED IN THESE LARGE WAYS THAT WILL IMPACT THEIR LIFE IN MUCH BETTER WAYS DOWN THE ROAD, WE'RE JUST SEEING THEM SHOW UP DIFFERENTLY EVERY DAY.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, SHOW UP DIFFERENTLY?

THAT MEANS THEY ARE ABLE TO PARENT DIFFERENTLY, THEY ARE NOT STRESSED, THEY CAN BE INVOLVED WITH THEIR KIDS LIVES MORE, THAT THEY HAVE JOY, THAT THEY CAN PLAN WEEKEND EXCURSIONS BECAUSE THEY HAVE THOSE FINANCIAL RESOURCES SO IT'S BEEN BEAUTIFUL TO WATCH IT UNFOLD BECAUSE IT REALLY IS SEEING THEM BLOSSOM AND RECOGNIZE THAT THEY ACTUALLY CAN NOT ONLY JUST DREAM, THAT THEY NOW CAN HAVE THEIR RESOURCES AND THE BAND WIDTH TO PUT THOSE DREAMS INTO ACTUALIZATION.

TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE STORIES THAT STAND OUT TO YOU MOST IN THE COURSE OF THE LAST SEVEN MONTHS.

ONE OF THE STORIES THAT COMES TO MIND TO ME THE MOST IS ONE OF OUR MOMS, AND HER NAME IS ZAKIAH, SHE HAS PAID OFF $1,800 IN DEBT, AND $1,800 IN QUITE FRANKLY PREDATORY COMMUNITY COLLEGE DEBT THAT SHE WAS FEEDING WHEN SHE WAS TRYING TO BETTER HER LIFE.

SHE GOT INTO THIS DEBT AND WAS UNABLE TO CONTINUE HER EDUCATION, WAS TRAPPED INTO AN HOURLY WAGE JOB, JUST REALLY TRYING TO MAKE SURE SHE WAS DOING WHAT SHE NEEDED TO DO TO TAKE CARE OF HERSELF AND HER GIRLS.

NOT ONLY DID SHE PAY OFF THAT DEBT, SHE WAS ABLE TO USE SOME OF THE RESOURCES TO GET HER CERTIFICATION IN PHLEBOTOMY AND NOW SHE IS LOOKING FOR A FULL-TIME JOB AND INTERVIEWING FOR JOBS IN DOCTORS OFFICES WHERE SHE WILL HAVE BENEFITS, WHERE SHE WILL BE ABLE TO HAVE TIME OFF AND KNOW HER SCHEDULE WILL NOT BE IN FLUX EVERY WEEK BECAUSE SHE WILL HAVE JUST THE STABILITY OF A NINE-TO-FIVE JOB THAT A LOT OF INDIVIDUALS TAKE FOR GRANTED.

TAKE ME BACK TO WHEN YOU WERE CALLING THESE WOMEN AND TELLING THEM THEY WERE GOING TO BE A PART OF THIS.

THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING DAYS OF MY LIFE.

IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT WHEN WE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO CALL THE WOMEN AND LET THEM KNOW THAT THEY WERE GOING TO BE WORKING WITH US ON THIS JOURNEY FOR THIS CAREER.

WHY AM I CALLING YOU SEKOLA.

I WAS PICKED.

YOU WERE PICKED.

YAY.

YOU GAVE ME SOME EXCITING NEWS.

THANKS.

HOW DO YOU FEEL, ARE YOU EXCITED?

I'M SO EXCITE.

YOU JUST DON'T KNOW.

I'M TOO EXCITED.

HEARING THE JOY IN THEIR VOICES AND THE EXCITEMENT AND ALSO THE TEARS BECAUSE THERE WAS A LOT OF TEARS BECAUSE WHEN YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT $12,000, THIS IS A LIFE CHANGING AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR THIS POPULATION.

AND LIKE I SAID EARLIER, THESE INDIVIDUALS, A LOT OF THEM MAKE LESS THAN $11,000, SO $12,000, THAT'S DOUBLING THEIR INCOME, SO THEY UNDERSTOOD THE MAGNITUDE OF THAT MOMENT BETTER THAN ANYONE.

SO FOR ME AS A LEADER TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW THAT WE WERE ABLE TO DO WHAT WE NEEDED TO DO TO PARTNER ALONGSIDE THEM, IT WAS BEAUTIFUL BUT IT ALSO WAS HEARTBREAKING BECAUSE I HAD TO MAKE THE PHONE CALLS TO THE OTHER MOTHERS AS WELL, AND WHEN YOU ARE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH INDIVIDUALS, YOU KNOW THEIR STORIES, AND YOU KNOW WHAT THEY NEED, AND SO FOR A LOT OF THE INDIVIDUALS WHOM I HAD TO CALL, I KNEW THE PLANS THAT THEY HAD, AND I REALLY IN SOME INSTANCES FELT LIKE I WAS BREAKING THOSE DREAMS, AND THAT WAS A HARD PLACE TO SIT WITH.

AND IT'S STILL HARD WITH ME TO SIT WITH BECAUSE YOU WANT TO ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN BE DOING TO HELP SUPPORT INDIVIDUALS ACHIEVE ALL THAT THEY'RE SEEKING TO ACHIEVE WITH THEIR LIVES.

STEPPING BACK AND LOOKING AT THE CONTEXT IN WHICH THESE INDIVIDUALS ARE LIVING MORE BROADLY, WHAT SYSTEMS AND POLICIES ARE IN PLACE THAT MOST AFFECT VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES?

YEAH, SO FOR OUR POPULATION, IT IS EXTREMELY LOW INCOME INDIVIDUALS, SO TO PUT THAT IN CONTEXT EVEN FURTHER, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT INDIVIDUALS WHO MAKE ABOUT -- WHO LIVE 200% BELOW THE POVERTY INDEX.

TO PUT THAT IN CONTEXT EVEN FURTHER, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT INDIVIDUALS WHO ON AVERAGE MAKE $11,000 ANNUALLY.

SO WHEN YOU ARE MAKING THAT LITTLE AMOUNT OF INCOME AND RAISING A FAMILY, THERE ARE VARIOUS SYSTEMS THAT CONVERGE ON YOUR LIFE SIMULTANEOUSLY.

THERE'S A SYSTEM OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING WHERE YOUR RENT IS SUBSIDIZE ASKED YOU RECEIVE A VOUCHER.

THERE'S A SNAP WHICH PROVIDES THE OPPORTUNITY TO FEED YOUR FAMILY.

THERE'S MEDICARE OR MEDICAID OR SOME COMBINATION OF BOTH, YOU MAY RECEIVE CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE OR THAT VOUCHER.

THERE IS TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES, SO THERE ARE ALL OF THESE VARIOUS PIECES THAT ARE NOT INTERCONNECTED BUT ALL HAVE A SAY IN HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE AND WHAT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

THIS IS A PROGRAM THAT IS DONE BY A LOTTERY, BUT IT IS STILL OFTEN MEANING THAT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE COMING FOR YOU, THEY KNOW ABOUT THE PROGRAM.

THEY ACTIVELY WANT TO PARTICIPATE.

DOES HAVING THAT TYPE OF PARTICIPANT SKEW THE RESULTS?

I DON'T THINK SO BECAUSE INDIVIDUALS -- BECAUSE NOT ALL INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE LOTTERY ARE THE SAME.

YOU KNOW, WE HAVE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN IN THE LOTTERY, WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE LOTTERY, WHO HAD NOT WORKED FOR YEARS.

WHERE SOME OF OUR OTHER MOMS WHO, YOU KNOW, PARTICIPATED IN THE LOTTERY HAD WORKED FULL-TIME FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS.

MINIMUM WAGE JOBS AND NOT HAVING AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET THEIR FOOTING, SO I DON'T KNOW IF THE RESULTS WILL BE SKEWED BASED ON THAT BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT THERE WAS A LOTTERY THAT WAS OPEN TO THE INDIVIDUALS WHO LIVE IN THE COMMUNITIES THAT WE WORK IN, AND THOSE INDIVIDUALS ARE VERY DIFFERENT.

IT'S NOT JUST ONE DEMOCRACY OF WOMEN.

WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL ACCESS POINT FOR UNDERSTANDING THESE CHALLENGES?

I TRULY UNDERSTAND THAT ACCEPT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD, MY GRANDMOTHER HAD MY MOM WHEN SHE WAS 17 IN THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA AND SHE HAD TO DROP OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL, AND SHE HAD MY AUNTIES AND UNCLES AND ALL OF THESE OTHER INDIVIDUALS IN HER MID-20s, AND SO MY MOM GREW UP IN DEEP POVERTY, AND MY GRANDMOTHER GREW UP IN DEEP POVERTY AND THANKS TO VARIOUS SUPPORTS THAT THEY HAD, THAT WAS NOT THE NARRATIVE THAT MY LIFE TOOK, BUT THEY NEVER SHIELDED ME FROM THAT REALITY, AND SO MY GRANDMOTHER WAS A VETERAN OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.

SHE WAS VERY ACTIVE IN THAT, SO I GREW UP FIRSTHAND SEEING THAT AND WORKING IN COMMUNITIES AND UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO BE AN ADVOCATE WITH INDIVIDUALS AND NOT TRYING TO HOLD POWER OVER.

AND SO MY ACCESS POINT AS A WOMAN OF COLOR, OR AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN LIVING IN THIS COUNTRY, UNDERSTANDING WHAT THOSE CHALLENGES ARE BUT NOT EVER SAYING MY CHALLENGE IS THEIR CHALLENGE BECAUSE OUR LIVES HAVE BEEN TREMENDOUSLY DIFFERENT BUT I SEE THEM, AND I UNDERSTAND THEM, AND SO THAT'S MY ACCESS POINT AND SO IT REALLY IS JUST AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A VESSEL AND TO, YOU KNOW, REALLY QUITE FRANKLY HAVE THE HONOR OF BEING THEIR VOICE AT THE TABLE.

BECAUSE IN SO MANY INSTANCES, THEY DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THOSE TABLES.

THERE'S A LOT OF BUZZ RIGHT NOW AROUND THE CONCEPT OF UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME AND THAT IS A PROGRAM THAT CAN TAKE MANY FORMS BUT AT ITS CORE IS A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH FOR INDIVIDUALS OVER THE AGE OF 18 IN PERPETUITY THAT YOU GET TO OPT INTO.

WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT THAN UBI?

AT THE END OF THE DAY, THE PREMISES ARE THE SAME, YOU KNOW, ABOUT THE DIGNITY, ECONOMY AND TRUSTING IN INDIVIDUALS AND MAKING SURE FOLKS HAVE THE RESOURCES THEY NEED TO LIVE THEIR BEST LIVES SO OUR DEALS ARE SIMILAR REGARDING THAT FRAMING OF THE DIGNITY THAT CASH PROVIDES, BUT THIS IS DIFFERENT IN REGARD TO OUR POPULATION, REALLY ARE SAYING, OKAY, THIS IS ABOUT ECONOMIC AND RACIAL JUSTICE AND UNDERSTANDING THAT FOR THIS POPULATION SPECIFICALLY THE NARRATIVE HAS BEEN SO NEGATIVE, HOW DO WE GO ABOUT REFRAMING THAT NARRATIVE, RESTORING DIGNITY, AND PROVIDING THE CASH WITHOUT ANY STRINGS ATTACHED.

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY INSTANCES WHERE THIS PILOT HAS FAILED?

SO I WILL SAY THAT THERE ARE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE STRUGGLING AND I THINK THAT THE RATIONALE FOR THAT IS THAT WHEN WE ARE LOOKING AT EVEN WITH THE PILOT OF 20 INDIVIDUALS THIS PILOT OF 20 INDIVIDUALS REPRESENTS THE LARGER DYNAMICS THAT OCCUR WITHIN COMMUNITY AND SOCIETY.

SO INDIVIDUALS WERE ALREADY STRUGGLING, THESE ARE FOLKS WHO LIVE IN HIGH POVERTY, TRAUMATIZED COMMUNITIES, SO TO BELIEVE THAT A THOUSAND DOLLARS IS A MAGIC BULLET THAT ABSOLVES ALL OF THOSE ILLS, IS NOT RATIONAL.

SO YES, THERE ARE STRUGGLES, I WILL NOT SIT HERE AND SAY EVERYONE IS GOING TO TIPTOE OFF INTO THE TULIPS WHEN WE GET TO DECEMBER, BUT WHAT I WILL SAY IS THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT OUTWEIGHS THOSE STRUGGLES AND FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE STILL TRYING TO FIND THEIR FOOTING THAT THEY WOULD EVEN ARGUE THAT THEY ARE BETTER OFF BECAUSE THEY HAVE HOPE AND THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SIT IN DIGNITY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

About This Episode EXPAND

Adel al-Jubeir speaks with Christiane Amanpour about Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Gerard Araud joins the program to discuss the role of America’s European allies in tense Iran-U.S. relations. Violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman joins Christiane to discuss the next generation of violinists. Alicia Menendez speaks with Aisha Nyandoro, CEO of Springboard To Opportunities.

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