Humane: Do Some Good
Circling Poverty. Radiating a Solution.
In the most recent issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, there’s an article entitled, “Rethinking Poverty” which discusses the effect that poverty has on the brain. The research describes how those entrenched in poverty remain hunkered down in mental trenches dug deep on the battlefield of poverty.
You can read an article like this, and admire the research that points out the realities for those who find themselves caught in the mind trap of poverty, but then, as you finish reading it, you might wonder why the problem of poverty remains. Perhaps we just don’t care, after all, the old adage, “The poor will always be with you” validates a common belief that poverty is a choice.
President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” turned fifty years old a few weeks ago. How’s that war going? Rather than depress you with statistics that repeatedly spark headlines on poverty, such as, 59% of the children in Detroit live in poverty, or, 25% of children under the age of five in the USA live below the poverty line compared to less than 2% in Finland... here is a workable solution from an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that I remembered reading back in 2012, “Personal Attention Reduces Poverty". It’s about a successful community program called “Circles” that provides one-on-one mentoring that helps those caught in the trap of poverty find their way toward financial freedom. Here is a little about the program from their website:
Oftentimes, success in nearly any endeavor is influenced by the people and resources that surround us—our circle of friends, our sphere of influence, the cyclical nature of habits, and even the sweeping hands of a clock. When we encircle ourselves with positive support through mentorships, education and training, and the right resources anything is possible. That’s what the circles represent. Each circle is a continual source of influence, each linking to the other and creating the greatest impact.
Circles® USA is the result of more than 20 years of research and the development of leadership tools for communities by Move the Mountain Leadership Center. The Circles model was developed after the organization discovered that social service agencies could reach only a small portion of the population living in poverty with real long-term solutions.
Since that time, Circles has worked to address poverty by increasing the capacity of communities. Our approach combines best practices in several disciplines including community organizing, case management, grassroots leadership, S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, financial literacy, mentoring, peer-to-peer counseling and learning, and child/youth development.
Our mission has always been to inspire and equip families and communities to thrive and resolve poverty. We believe strongly that responsibility for both poverty and prosperity rests not only in the hands of individuals, but also with societies, institutions, and communities. It’s the underlying foundation of the Circles model – engage people and organizations in the community to end poverty.
“Disconnection is why poverty endures. Connection and commitment are how we will end it.”
Dr. Mark Bergel, Founder and Executive Director, A Wider Circle, Washington, D.C.
Today, 75 plus communities in 23 states and parts of Canada have joined the Circles network. We’re inspired by the work that occurs at each location and by the passion and commitment of both our volunteers and participants. Their stories of success demonstrate what we’ve believed all along – when communities come together and the right techniques are utilized, great change can occur.
Our work has drawn national attention by inspiring families and communities to commit to long-term solutions for addressing poverty. The Circles model has been implemented by many well-known organizations such as United Way, Goodwill, United Methodist Church, Lutheran Social Services, Community Action Partnerships, and Catholic Charities. It’s also been adapted by community colleges, housing corporations, workforce development centers, human service systems, community neighborhood centers, and hospitals. And we’re proud that our work is supported financially by more than 300 foundations, major donors, corporations, and United Way chapters. It’s a testament to the need and to the results we continue to see.
Here’s how you can start a Circle in your community.
For those of you who may need more fuel to stoke your reading habit, let me suggest the Stanford Social Innovation Review. A quick scan of their featured articles will send you on a discovery of the latest in social endeavors, philanthropic trends, and innovative ways to help humanity.