A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
4Last Revised: Mar 03, 2011 - Initial Posting: Sep 13, 2006

The Community Action Partnership of Kern has developed a Framework for Economic Self-Sufficiency to support strategic planning by CAA’s with the primary purpose of cohesively fighting the causes of poverty.


The Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK) has created a Framework for Economic Self-Sufficiency  that can be used by CAA’s to help families and communities move across the continuum from being in poverty toward moving out of poverty.  This model is aligned with the origins of the War on Poverty that was about economic opportunity to be the primary purpose of Community Action as stated in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (EOA).  The basic question is whether an agency is fighting the causes of poverty or rather serving as a poverty maintenance program.

The meaning of self-sufficiency to families and communities being served is a fundamental issue to be considered.  A tool available for this type of analysis is available through the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project launched by Wider Opportunities for Women to serve as a common framework — economic self-sufficiency — to design, implement, and advocate for programs and policies that move low-income families toward economic independence.  Reports on Self-Sufficiency Standards can be accessed for many individual states (note – data in these reports may be several years old but the framework is still useful and can be modified with more recent local cost figures).

A Model of Self-SufficiencyThe Framework for Self-Sufficiency requires CAA’s to evaluate:

  • What are the causes of poverty and what do you do to fight those causes?
  • What do you do to fight the symptoms of poverty?
  • What is the difference?

Ultimately, the agency should work to build a model of self-sufficiency that involves a variety of services, programs, events, activities or other functions that will provide the opportunity for an individual or family to eventually reach and sustain self-sufficiency.  The continuum goes from In Poverty > Emerging from Poverty > Out of Poverty.  The model illustrates the systematic approach that is necessary to attain self-sufficiency for clients and the CAA itself.  It also shows structure, connectivity, process, relation to external factors, collaboration, and interaction.

As shown on a diagram, The Framework for Self-Sufficiency is comprised of the following elements:

    • Agency Purpose/Mission
    • Organization - People - Funding
    • Strategic Plan
    • Board Governance
  • THE FOUNDATION – What does the CAA do to provide the basics that mostly assist with the symptoms of poverty such as:
    • Emergency Food (Food Bank)
    • Primary Health (Community Health Clinic)
    • Nutritional Counseling (WIC Program)
    • Weatherization/Utility Assistance (LIHEAP)
    • Family Services (Head Start)
    • Emergency Shelter (SHP)
    • HIV/Substance Abuse Counseling (Substance Abuse)
    • Youth Services and Case Management
  • ADVOCACY – Starts with building access to basic services and continues throughout the model.  Examples of CAA involvement with advocacy are available through Virtual CAP.
  • THE PILLARS – What are the most important pillars for sustaining a rise out of poverty in your community such as:
    • Jobs – Examples of CAA involvement with business development and job creation are available through Virtual CAP
    • Education and Training – Examples of CAA involvement with training and CAA involvement with education are available through Virtual CAP
    • Family Stability – Examples of CAA involvement with parenting and family development are available through Virtual CAP
  • EMERGING FROM POVERTY – Plan to help sustain the working poor who are emerging from poverty so they can progress.  The CAA needs to have a coinciding plan to build the assets of the agency and sustain it.
  • ASSET ACCUMULATION – The result of achieving success with the pillars.  Examples of CAA involvement with asset building are available through Virtual CAP.
  • IMPROVED LIVING CONDITIONS – Improves and promotes the growth of self-esteem for the individual, the family, and the neighborhood.  Decent and affordable housing is a key factor and examples of CAA community development and housing initiatives are available through Virtual CAP.
  • IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIFE – Improving the low-income quality of life improves the overall quality of life of the entire community and also improves the business climate in the community.

The above framework completes the model to achieve self-sufficiency and end the cycle of poverty.  It is a comprehensive and coordinated approach that can be adapted to meet local conditions.  It provides a continuum of service outcomes with demonstrable results.  The model can be used:

  • For local community strategic planning to maximize available resources
  • To foster a regional outlook and planning to develop a comprehensive strategy and linkage of services across the social service spectrum
  • To support funding and leveraging more funds
  • Depict a simple view of your agency with all its parts
  • Demonstrate how CAA social service and economic development activities fit with other private/public activities that can result in economic self-sufficiency
  • Visually show how the social and economic conditions of low-income families can be improved through a variety of services, programs, collaborations, and cooperation from all aspects of your community – with you being the leader of this effort.  As stated in LBJ’s EOA Address, “poverty cannot be conquered by government alone.”  Accordingly, it is essential to involve all sectors of the community in a Framework for Economic Self-Sufficiency.  Various Tools for Partnerships and Collaborations are available on Virtual CAP.

The model can also be used to demonstrate the Return On Investment (ROI) through an Economic Self-Sufficiency model.  Activities/systems to promote self-sufficiency include:

  • For Families – Shift from dependency on social services to financial freedom and new opportunitiesAttain higher level of skill sets and education
    • Improve health
    • Homeownership
    • Individual Development Accounts
    • Microenterprise
  • For Agency – Shift from poverty maintenance to addressing causes of poverty and agency asset building
    • Use internal capacity/resources to develop competitive advantage in delivery of services
    • Engage in ventures with private sector
    • Social Entrepreneurship
    • Diversify funding and develop programs that generate revenue
    • Develop business mindset (hire new skills and talent)
    • Commercial/Retail development
    • Housing

The Framework for Economic Self-Sufficiency in effect addresses all six ROMA National Goals:

  • Low-Income People Become More Self-Sufficient
  • The Conditions In Which Low-Income People Live Are Improved
  • Low-Income People Own A Stake In Their Own Community
  • Partnerships Among Supporters And Providers Of Services to Low-Income People Are Achieved
  • Agencies Increase Their Capacity To Achieve Results
  • Low-Income People, Especially Vulnerable Populations, Achieve Their Potential By Strengthening Family And Other Supportive Systems

Fred Drew, Former Executive Director