What is Circles

Circles® National

The traditional model for fighting poverty has long focused on providing for a person’s immediate needs for food, clothing and shelter. Since 2000, the Circles® USA program has taken these efforts a step further across North America. Circles® accomplishes this by establishing a strong social foundation, giving poor families access to people in the community who posses the power and influence needed to assist them to rise above poverty.

Circles® Mission

To inspire and equip families and communities to resolve poverty and thrive.  We believe that responsibility for both poverty and prosperity rests not only in the hands of individuals, but also with societies, institutions, and communities.

The Circles® model is a way to increase a communities’ capacity to address poverty.  The Circles approach combines best practices in several disciplines including community organizing, case management, grassroots leadership, SMART goal setting, financial literacy, mentoring, peer-to-peer counseling and learning, and child/youth development.

Circles® Solution

Circles® engages entire communities in owning the solution to poverty.

  • Mobilizing families to achieve economic stability through the long-term and consistent support of peers and volunteers from the community
  • Developing the leadership of people moving out of poverty to inform community-wide solutions to addressing poverty
  • Addressing the community and program barriers faced by families trying to move out of poverty

Circles® is an action plan that brings together the best efforts and resources of individuals, organizations, communities, and government in a program proven to raise people out of poverty.

The core of a Circles® program is the Circle Leader. The Leader is a member of a low income family who is actively working to get out of poverty. This individual sets the direction for all activities that will, ultimately, move them to financial stability.

Circle Leaders receive 10 to 12 weeks of comprehensive training to learn new tools that help them to build employment, financial, emotional and social resources. Additionally, they create an Economic Stability Plan to set goals for themselves. Families develop a sense of empowerment through their training. Training modules presented to adult leaders, include financial planning, nutrition, cooking, and parenting.

Each Circle Leader is paired with two to four trained middle to high-income community volunteers called “Allies”. These Allies befriend the family and provide ongoing support to help them implement their Economic Stability Plan. The Allies help the Circle Leader to overcome a multitude of challenges, expanding their social networks and connecting with others outside their comfort zone in ways that help bridge opportunity gaps. Allies primary responsibility is to help Circle leaders access the many community services already available to the poor. Leaders and Allies have weekly group meetings which include a) shared strategies for attaining prosperity, b) mutual support to complete the Circle Leaders’ self-sufficiency goals, c) child and family care, d) a community meal.

Circles® Track Record: Nationwide, there are currently over 1200 low income Circle Leaders who have participated in an evaluation process which includes tracking of personal income, education, assets and social networks over time. Results show positive gains are being made by Circle Leaders across the country. Additionally, results demonstrate that for every $1 spent on the program, $2 in welfare and food stamp subsidies were returned to the state, and $4 to the community as new earned income.