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Blog Post #4:  - Bridge to a Brighter Future is a project of the Social Innovation Fund

Spanning the gaps

Bridge to a Brighter Future incentivizes goals towards a prosperous future

EMPath, a goal-setting program out of Boston that’s helped move hundreds of people out of poverty, has come to Saint John with a new name and the same aim of helping low-income families be economically independent.

 

Thanks to funding from the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10-million investment in projects exploring ways to combat generational poverty, Bridge to a Brighter Future welcomed its first clients in the summer, in a one-year pilot program to test the model here.

A client-centred approach

 

Tanya James, North End Community Connector and one of five Bridge mentors in Saint John and Sussex, appreciates its customized approach.

 

“The heart of the program is that it’s person-centric,” Tanya says. “It’s really all about the participants, and what their goals are. It’s about putting the client first and helping with their motivation.”

Tanya James is a mentor with Bridge to a Brighter Future. 

“Setting long-term goals is difficult for a person whose decision-making is reduced by their circumstances.” - Tanya James​

The five pillars

The bridge is the grounding metaphor and guiding visual reference for participants. With their mentor’s support, they work on goals in five “pillars,” including family stability and well-being, to stabilize and move forward.


“It breaks down the action steps in a way that’s easy to look at,” Tanya says. “It’s a good way to show success and show momentum.”

Financial incentives and an individualized, long-term coaching approach are hallmarks of the initiative, and key to its success.

 

“EMPath has a lot of brain science behind it on how poverty affects executive functioning,” Tanya says. “Setting long-term goals is difficult for a person whose decision-making is reduced by their circumstances. It’s overwhelming.”

 

Empowering positive change

As with any new initiative, there have been some early learnings.

 

Alexya Heelis, resource development manager at United Way, which is helping to administer Bridge to a Brighter Future, says uptake and referrals have been slower than anticipated, and there’s been a bit of attrition.

 

But for those taking part, Bridge to a Brighter Future is proving, even in its early days, powerful. One participant said having her mentor see her potential was what she needed to get motivated. She’s been taking better care of her mental and physical health. She got a credit check, which was very scary as she’s not used to dealing with banks. Turns out, her credit rating is great. She got a credit card and set more goals around responsible credit card ownership. The bank showed her how, in five years, she could qualify for a mortgage and own her own home, something she never thought possible.

 

“It’s not just about the money, it’s about the empowerment,” Alexya says. “It opens up new opportunities that that person might not have had.”

Ann-Marie Marsh is a participant in Bridge to a Brighter Future. Click here to read her story.