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By believing in moms (and giving them cash), Magnolia Mother’s Trust succeeds where anti-poverty programs have failed

Winner
Aisha Nyandoro
Program
McNulty Prize
Location
United States
Year
2022
McNULTY PRIZE WINNER

Existing anti-poverty systems in the United States are designed with deep suspicion for those who apply for it. This has been particularly true for single Black mothers, who have historically been targets of anti-poor resentment, and depicted as “welfare queens.” After decades of policy focused on reducing costs and (extremely rare) fraud), welfare is hard to obtain, easy to lose, and is often only usable for “approved” items and services. Getting it often requires extensive applications and processes, and constant, time-consuming documentation that one is trying to get off it.

What if anti-poverty programs were designed around trust, instead of making people prove they deserve assistance? This is the question that led Aisha Nyandoro, PhD, to launch Magnolia Mother’s Trust. Dr. Nyandoro is the CEO of Magnolia’s parent organization, Springboard to Opportunities, which serves families living in subsidized housing in Jackson, MS. Magnolia Mother’s Trust provides families with $1000/month for one 12 month period. The result is that the time it takes families to leave public housing is cut by more than 90 percent.

When we invest in our most vulnerable, that is when society flourishes. Our program is providing critical narrative and data to move the conversation forward on universal income.

Aisha Nyandoro

2022-Headshot-2nd-4-1.jpg#asset:3122

Coming from a family legacy of public service and civil rights advocacy, Aisha Nyandoro grew up surrounded by change agents. “It was a loud house, full of love, and really thinking about: how do you use your blessings to be of service? How do you use your blessings to question the systems that allow inequities to perpetuate?” These guiding questions led Aisha to found Springboard to Opportunities in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Springboard provides a wide range of programs and services for families in federally subsidized housing. Even with all these programs, families were not able to move out of public housing despite their best efforts. What Aisha kept hearing was simple: lack of money meant any crisis would wipe out families’ gains. The random costs of normal life made stability arithmetically impossible at these income levels. Magnolia Mother’s Trust exists to prove that a simple cash subsidy is sufficient for families to get themselves into stability and aspire even further.

Graduated with a Ph.D. in Community Psychology from Michigan State University

Founding CEO of Springboard to Opportunities in 2013

A 2016 Ascend Fellow at the Aspen Institute

In 2018, Magnolia Mother's Trust launches

2022 McNulty Prize Winner

Dr. Nyandoro consciously decided MMT should work exclusively with Black mothers in public housing—intentionally picking this group to prove that they deserve trust, and to prove the effectiveness of the model. Magnolia Mother’s Trust provides these mothers with $1,000 a month for 12 months (plus a one-time $1,000 deposit into a college savings fund for their children) with no strings attached, trusting them to do what is best for themselves and their families. At the request of the mothers who helped design MMT, the program ends after one year, consciously avoiding both the risk of dependency or even the imagined appearance of it. It is a boost that helps families reach escape velocity from poverty.

The results are dramatic. Over 300 mothers have gone through the program as of Spring 2022, and they have reported their families’ lives to be improved in a number of ways. The percentage of mothers able to pay all bills on time increased from 27% to 83%. Mothers who felt like they had enough money for food rose from 64% to 81%. Families with emergency savings rose from 40% to 88%. Families with health insurance rose by 25%. Most importantly, the funds enabled these moms to improve their situations enough to leave federally subsidized housing. Instead of the 7-10 years average they were previously seeing, most families in MMT reach independence within the first six months of graduation.

1st
US guaranteed income program, focusing on Black moms
83%
of moms were finally able to pay all bills on time
100+
similar programs inspired by MMT's model

The success of Magnolia Mother’s Trust has dramatically changed the policy landscape in just a few short years. At its inception in 2018, Magnolia Mother’s Trust was the only program of its kind in the United States. Since then, MMT has produced robust evidence for this new model, directly inspiring over 100 similar programs across the country. Its success has informed key national policy initiatives like the Child Income Tax Credit, which has proven to move more children out of poverty than any other program in modern history.

While there is still a long way to go before trust-based cash assistance policies become widespread, Aisha is in it for the long haul.

A mother from the Magnolia Mother's Trust program and her child

Because of Magnolia Mother's Trust, this mom is better able to do what is best for herself and her children

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