A Scientific Approach to Creating and Implementing Pathways Out of Poverty

Episcopal Community Services (ECS) held its annual Forum on Justice & Opportunity last month at WHYY, with a keynote address delivered by Dr. Beth Babcock, president and CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath). 


ECS adopted EMPath’s coaching versus case management service model, Mobility Mentoring, at the local level to help community members achieve economic independence. The gap between rich and poor in the United States has been widening, at the same time, creating meaningful pathways out of poverty has become more complex. 


Dr. Babcock wanted the conference attendees to understand that the traditional ways that human service, healthcare, and educational organizations are working is not adequate to fight poverty today. “We need to use new discoveries in brain science to revolutionize our approaches and create greater program impact. This means partnering with participants to achieve their own goals in ways that builds the navigational skills that will keep them moving forward,” she explained.


Dr. Babcock’s keynote messages included: 


It was affirming for Dr. Babcock to be able to present at the ECS conference. “The attendees were wonderfully well-informed and engaged, and the panel discussion that followed my presentation, where current practitioners spoke about how they were using Mobility Mentoring to strengthen their work, was inspiring,” she said.


Dr. Babcock said EMPath works closely with ECS; they were one of the first members in EMPath’s global learning network. “The work ECS does is truly ahead of the curve, and this forum was in keeping with what they do year-round,” she said.


Dr. Babcock is so invested in Mobility Mentoring because it has a strong scientific basis that is delivering breakthrough results for low-income families. She believes it is causing everyone to reassess their perceptions of low-income families, their motivations, and what they can and do achieve when given the right supports. 


Understanding how the stresses of poverty impact our thinking and behavior is critical to designing economic mobility programs that work. “We know that the stresses of poverty swamp a person’s ability to think ahead and stick to their plans. But just as crucially, we know that such navigational skills can be learned and strengthened. Together, those facts open huge, new possibilities for families exiting poverty and the organizations that serve them,” added Dr. Babcock.


The time for complacency with our old approaches to fostering economic mobility is over. “The worlds of work and education are changing so quickly, that it is mind-numbing, and the direction of these changes are all toward higher demand for the very navigational skills that poverty saps and brain science-based coaching can build. Non-profits must either move quickly to incorporate this science in their work or resign themselves to deteriorating impacts,” she concluded.