The Circles® model was designed to engage local community members in efforts to increase the economic stability and vitality of struggling households. Each Circle is comprised of two to four volunteer community “Allies” and one family or person with a goal to leave poverty. Allies are community volunteers with stable financial resources who want to be intentional friends and accountability partners to someone enrolled in the initiative.
Allies work alongside participating family members to focus on reaching family-prioritized goals of:
1) increasing income,
2) acquiring needed education or training, and
3) enhancing personal social capital. A successful Circle can help to generate creative solutions to family dilemmas not addressed through social service programs.
Circles is a community engagement strategy designed to reduce and end poverty by building both individual and community assets. While traditional “safety net” social service programs are critical to help provide for families’ most basic needs, these programs usually do not engage the broader community in developing relationships with households who have a focused goal to get out of poverty.
A unique aspect of the Circles model is that two dynamic actions occur simultaneously:
1) Low-income people receive personalized support from community volunteers, increase their ability to access community resources and opportunities, and develop hope for their futures; while
2) Community volunteers (Allies) learn what it takes for people to leave poverty permanently.
Volunteer Allies learn to identify and address the policies and systems that need to change in order to make “leaving poverty” possible. This successful model provides a framework for a local community to build relationships across class and race lines and enables neighbors to work together to advocate for positive change in their communities.