Here’s something. The Philadelphia Field Project is an inter-disciplinary project out of Penn State University that looks for non-economic solutions to poverty. The theory is that there are lots of things that impede one’s ability to escape poverty, including the high costs of urban transportation, inadequate access to healthcare and nutritious food, poor schools, etc. The vision of the project is to “take an interdisciplinary substantive approach by asking why specific people in particular places spend what they do on meeting basic needs in the hope of finding less expensive, technically more benign, and ecologically less destructive ways of satisfying those needs.”
The gist seems to be that there are lots of costs associated with poverty, and that by alleviating these costs you raise one’s “effective income” – thus helping move someone out of poverty without focusing on income, savings, jobs, etc. Now I’m not entirely sure how this really differs from any approach that tackles barriers to employment or economic mobility – it seems really a matter of framing. But the way you frame a problem can have profound consequences for the solutions you come up with, so more power to them. Plus it gets lots of undergraduate students involved in applied research and community service. (My alma mater, TU, could stand to take some lessons from this for its TURC program.
Anyway the projects aren’t really overly constrained: one student taught yoga to residents of West Philadelphia. Read about the students’ projects here.