Our BlackHer Shero of the Week is Aisha Nyandoro, chief executive officer of Springboard to Opportunities. Nyandoro also leads The Magnolia Mother’s Trust, a Springboard program, which provides guaranteed income to mothers with low incomes.
We’ve been following The Magnolia Mother’s Trust and your success in providing guaranteed income to mothers. Can you tell us about it?
It has been a year of intense fundraising. We raised several million dollars to move from our pilot to a demonstration. In 2020, we’ll be providing guaranteed income to 75 mothers! Each woman will receive $1,000 per month for 12 months, effectively doubling her income. Per the word trust in our name. We trust the women to use the capital as they see fit to live their best lives.
How does the program work exactly?
Our mothers get a physical check on the second Friday of every month. If they aren’t banked, we set them up with a bank account. We don’t want them to engage with predatory institutions, like check cashers. We also set up a Children’s Savings Account for each mom. We’re all about helping to create wealth for the entire family. Finally, we connect the participants in the program to each other so that they can develop “social capital.” In 2020, we’re working with our moms and Akaya Windwood to develop a curriculum to help them grow and learn together.
That’s amazing. Cash transfers seem like such a common sense and effective solution to ameliorate poverty. Are more philanthropists embracing them?
Giving money to people who live in poverty challenges our biases and ideologies about being poor. At a fundamental level, we don’t trust people who are experiencing poverty. We think we have to do for them or protect them from themselves.
At Springboard, we believe that this narrative is fundamentally wrong. It’s the systems and policies in place that keep individuals poor. Also, ending poverty is not about us helping them. It’s about challenging our own beliefs about why poverty exists and how to end it.
Amen! That said, the idea that people are poor because they did something wrong or because they deserve it, is deeply embedded in the DNA of this country. How do you counter that narrative?
In addition to challenging the narrative around poverty, we also have to change the narrator. We need to invite people living in poverty to tell their own stories. This may help those of us with resources to change how we view and talk about women with low incomes.
It’s really hard to be poor. You are constantly worried about your finances. And in order to get help, you have to continually prove that you are experiencing poverty.
Through The Magnolia Mother’s Trust, we aim to liberate as much capital as we can to serve our community members. We’re doing the heavy lifting and hope that others will use our findings to replicate the work in their communities, cities, and states.
Let’s talk a little more about how we change the narrative about poverty. What should our narrative about poverty be?
For folks who aren’t convinced that our model works, we need to share the data. Through our evaluations, we can show the high return on investment that can be achieved through guaranteed income. Currently, in the U.S., we spend billions of dollars on social safety net programs that are hard to navigate, can disincentivize savings, and don’t always work. We can get a better return on our tax dollars if we provide folks in poverty what they need most – cash. In addition to helping folks financially, guaranteed income is a psychological boost that increases feelings of self-efficacy and reduces stress.
I think that storytelling is also important. We assume we know our neighbors but often we don’t. That means that our ideas about poverty are shaped by the media. We need to be introduced to and listen to one another and realize that we are our neighbor’s keepers.
Who are your BlackHer Sheroes?
My granny, L.C. Dorsey was my shero and I miss her a whole lot. She gave all of the members of my family a great blueprint to follow. She taught me that love is a verb and to whom much is given, much is owed.
She inspired the name of our program. Magnolias were her favorite tree and when she moved our family from the Delta to Jackson, Mississippi, she planted a magnolia tree in the front yard. The word “trust” in our name has a dual meaning. It stands for trust, as in the financial instrument, and believing in others.
What are the policy changes we need to make right now to help Black women move out of poverty?
We need to create policies that don’t have restrictions and aren’t so time-intensive to access. There are several things legislators can do.
- Maximize TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and eliminate the restrictions on it. Today, only 2 percent of eligible Mississippians access TANF.
- Abolish work and volunteer requirements to access benefits.
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit statewide and make it opt-out instead of opt-in so that the maximum number of people can access it.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
How can BlackHer subscribers help you?
Let me ask you the miracle question. You go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and it’s March 2021 and a miracle has occurred for Black women. What happened?
Trump isn’t president! The wealth gap has been erased. Black women no longer make 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
We are lusciously and joyfully living our best financial lives!
To learn more about guaranteed income, read #BlackHer2020: Guaranteed Income.