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On The Path To Self-Sufficiency – Our Updated Guiding Principles

One key tenet of Women’s Bean Project’s philosophy is that we exist to support women to create lasting change in their lives by establishing steppingstones to self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency means one can sustain oneself without outside aid. For the women we hire, becoming self-sufficient is an important goal. However, thinking of self-sufficiency as merely an endpoint risks ignoring all the great things that happen along the way.

Our program is focused on meeting the women we serve where they are and helping them access the services and tools most appropriate for them to create paths to greater self-sufficiency. Though we have a program curriculum in which every woman participates, she can take from it what she needs to build her life into the one she wants. I believe the power that comes from this self-determination is the most crucial aspect of what we do.

With the dignity and hope that results from each woman proving to herself she can move toward self-sufficiency, whole families are changed. At the Bean Project, we see our role as being the helper in the short term with a goal of being unnecessary in the long term. We believe that the best service we can provide is to help women help themselves. We provide opportunities for our participants to discover their talents and develop skills to join the workforce and build better lives. We can be a partner for change, but making the change is up to the women we serve. Using the tools we provide, we intend for the women to be empowered to change their own lives.

In his book Toxic Charity, Robert D. Lupton talks about how handouts only lead to needing more handouts. Teaching people and allowing them to help themselves is what makes lasting, positive change possible. In our view the adage, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime,” could not be truer. Handing out the resources – housing, childcare, health care, the next job – to the women we employ is temporary. Teaching her to access the resources herself is permanent. The most compassionate approach to our work is to help each woman help herself.

That is why we measure the changes in self-sufficiency the women in our program experience. Using the Arizona Self-Sufficiency Matrix, we assess 18 aspects of self-sufficiency and help each woman home in on where to focus her efforts so she can get closer to achieving self-sufficiency. She begins to see herself differently, understands she can effect change in her own life, and sees that she is worthy of a better life for herself and her family. That is where the magic happens. The more success she has, the more she wants. The pride each woman feels when she is taking the steppingstones to self-sufficiency is the greatest outcome.

Written by Tamra Ryan, CEO.

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