When Olivia Ainsworth graduated from college in 2010, she was a single mother trying to find a job in a bad job market and struggling economy. She ended up working an entry-level position that paid $23,000 a year, and after monthly payments on her student debt, rent, and childcare, she didn’t have any money left. She realized she needed help.
She scoured government and nonprofit websites — searching for things like temporary aid, continuing education opportunities, food stamp availability, daycare assistance.
“I was bounced around from faulty numbers to information and websites that were outdated. I kind of gave up. I filled out a few applications, and I made a little bit too much money to qualify for some of the resources. I remember thinking there is no help out there for me, just hard work, prayer, maybe some good luck,” said Ainsworth.
Several years later, she moved up in the corporate world and got involved in affordable housing, where she discovered a surprising abundance of available resources. Based on her experience, she decided to create Free Resource Navigation, an app that connects individuals to personalized and reputable leads to resources.
Creating a Culture of Health in Mississippi with Information
“My inspiration to create the app was my little boy and the time I spent as a single mother really struggling. I decided when I saw the abundance of resources and the disconnect, it would be so nice to have personalized help and access to assistance. The needs in Mississippi are so diverse. There is not one story or one situation that is exactly the same,” said Ainsworth.
The mobile app connects individuals to government, for profit and nonprofit organizations, based upon a series of socio-demographic questions in the hopes of facilitating a better life for its users. The app works as a lead system to give individuals an all-encompassing view of applicable services in categories such as housing, finance, education, wellness, etc.
For example, if you are a single father, resources that only apply to single mothers would not benefit you. Or, if you are in a certain income level, there are resources available based strictly on your income, so if you fall outside of that income category, you wouldn’t benefit. Free Resource Navigation personalizes resources based on specific needs.
“The real disconnect and the real issue is not providing people with the tools they need to succeed, and that just starts with basic facts. Whether that’s health and education or any different category, it’s really just giving people the knowledge and letting them take control of their future. That’s the disconnect I see in Mississippi,” said Ainsworth.
According to the State Health Assessment, access to information promoting the culture of health is an issue that has room for improvement in Mississippi, as well as communication between government and nonprofit organizations and the community they represent.
Free Resource Navigation is working to change that. If you want to work to improve the culture of health in Mississippi, check out these tips for success from Ainsworth:
- Take it a day at a time — there will always be issues when developing an app or starting a business
- Connections are important– create relationships use those connections to expand your network
- Consistency is key — put the work in and don’t give up
- Don’t reinvent the wheel, unless absolutely necessary — ask people who have done this kind of work before questions, and take notes from them
Relationship building and finding people who understand the value of working for the greater good has been Ainsworth’s main goal, and her techniques for finding partners has all changed since COVID began. She went from shaking hands to acquiring partners over the phone and through social media. One of her biggest partners is the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy, who have worked with Ainsworth to get multiple members on board.
Free Resource Navigation is available on Apple and Google Play and is free to download.