Circles® is a nationally-known, proven, and innovative way of connecting people across socioeconomic lines to move people & families out of poverty. Yes, out of poverty!
Circles® has over 80 chapters in North America and provides a curriculum and strategy to meet the challenge of poverty. Circles provides an approach that empowers motivated low-income participants to permanently move from poverty, along with the opportunity for community leaders and residents and faithful people to take collective action to resolve systemic barriers that interfere with low-income individuals attaining economic stability.
Our society has been successful at creating programs that manage poverty, but this approach is about the longer term, harder work of moving people out of poverty. Good jobs, saving, investing and changing lives and families for good.
The Circles® approach is not a 4-week class, and it’s not a handout…it’s a lot of work for everyone involved. But it works.
The 2017 Circles® USA Impact Report shows:
- Circle Leaders earned 41% more income after six months, 60% more after one year and 88% more after 18 months
- 39% decrease in unemployment, 14% increase in part-time employment,
- 44% increase in full-time employment and a 60% increase in self-employment
- Home ownership increased by 38%
We are working to have these kinds of results in Richmond.
To read the full report, click here (Circles USA Impact Report)
To read a summary, click here (Circles USA Summary Report)
How does Circles® Work?
The Circles® model centers on a “Circle Leader,” someone living at 150% or less of the federal poverty guideline, who wants to move out of poverty. Circle Leaders create an actionable life-plan and define their goals. They build financial, emotional and social resources through a required 12-week training curriculum. They are equipped for their journey by the provision of discipline, motivation, relationship building tools and the leadership skills they will need to be successful. A Circle ‘class’ starts with approximately 25 Circle Leaders. The entire coaching process lasts 18 to 24 months. The Circles model does not permit direct financial assistance to Circle Leaders.
The “Circle” consists of volunteer Circle Allies and Resource Teams who support the Circle Leader for the duration of their involvement in the program. The volunteers’ primary aim is to expand the Circle Leader’s networks – helping them gain access to resources, navigate bureaucracies, and leverage social relationships and networks they might not otherwise have access to – whatever is needed to help them meet their life-plan and personal goals. This concept of bridging social capital is a foundational element in Circles’ theory of change. The primary program outcome is defined as a Circle Leader achieving an income 200% of the poverty level, which is considered the equivalent of a living wage.
Circle Allies and Resource Team volunteers are trained and continually coached on how to build healthy relationships with Circle Leaders and their families. The approach emphasizes that all relationships are based on mutual respect, where everyone has an opportunity to give back in some meaningful way.
Circle Leaders and their Allies meet regularly during the 18 to 24-month period to continuously focus on the Circle Leader’s life plan journey and goal fulfillment. There is a monthly “Big View” meeting, which focuses firstly on educating the community about systemic barriers to breaking the cycle of poverty, and secondly on mobilizing civic action to break down those barriers.
Circles RVA anticipates supporting 25 individuals and their families per class. Once the first class of Circle Leaders is matched with their Circle Allies, the next Circles class convenes and the cycle of the 12-week training program, followed by long-term coaching, begins again. Circles RVA envisions supporting two Circles classes per year after the program is operating at full capacity to serve a total of approximately 50 new Circle Leaders and their families annually.
We are a chapter of Circles USA.