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Circle’s Initiative: What is it and how does it work?

The Circle’s Initiative is an approach that will equip our community to look at the hard issue of poverty and work on a long-term solution.

Scott Miller, founder of The Circle’s Initiative, states, “The strategy of the Circle’s Initiative is aimed at changing the mindset of a community so that ending poverty becomes a desired outcome; the Circle’s Initiative changes current policies and approaches to ending poverty; and will empower people in poverty to solve community problems as they work to achieve financial independence.”

Using the concept of social capital, the Circle’s Initiative assists low-income families to build relationships with families in middle, upper middle, and wealthy classes by creating support networks. Training in class barriers, coupled with these networks, is designed to help families develop a plan for raising themselves out of poverty.

A Circle is comprised of a family working to get out of poverty headed by a Circle Leader and two to four community allies — people who are willing to partner with the family and support their way out of poverty.

Groups of Circle Leaders meet together weekly on Thursday nights at the Community United Methodist Church to share a meal (child care is provided) and discuss barriers to getting out of poverty. Emphasis is placed on improving self-sufficiency, expanding social networks and enhancing academic performance of both children and parents. Allies are community volunteer members who partner with and support the Circle Leaders. With the help and friendship of their allies, the Circle Leaders set and achieve goals unique to their own needs. At the Thursday night community meetings the Circle Leaders, Circle allies and other interested community members provide support and networking opportunities. At a Big View Meeting, held once a month, the participants share information and advice about the causes of poverty in our community including systemic barriers.

This Thursday, Circle Leaders will start on a four-week review. “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ by World.” Getting Ahead is a comprehensive curriculum in which Circle Leaders learn to use the hidden rules of class to build up financial, emotional and social resources. The current Circle Leaders have researched the causes of poverty in our community. Many allies currently attending the weekly meetings have taken Bridges Out of Poverty training — a program that provides allies with community planning tools to address poverty and teaches the hidden rules of class.

The Circle’s Initiative is developed, designed and guided by a coalition composed of community leaders, low-income families, elected and appointed officials, and volunteers. The coalition works to change the mindset and policies of the community with respect to poverty. The lead agency, Community United Methodist Church, is responsible for staffing, operational oversight and for contributing resources to each Circle’s Initiative.

Do you want to get involved as an ally, on the guiding coalition, or as a Circle Leader? If so, call Karen at 264-5517.

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