About

How We Started. Why We Continue.

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.

Today, 70 plus communities in 19 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.

Circles USA Team

Testimonials

“So far, the best and maybe the only program that works to employ the chronically poor and hard to employ—and has the critical elements to scale—is Circles.”  ~ Mark Lautman Community Economics Lab

Poverty Line

“Circles has taught me the deep complexities of poverty. It has made me more aware of the critical issues that people in poverty must deal with every day.” ~ Karen Bost, Ally

Poverty Line

“Circles helped me see the world and my life differently. I’ve learned how to save money and how to stop worrying so much about things that I can’t change. As a Circle Leader, I have learned how to be a better mother to my four boys.” ` Megan Wilson, Circle Leader

Poverty Line

“Lots of people in poverty don’t want to be there, and they would do what it takes to get out if they knew how … that’s what Circles provide.” ` Circle Leader, Grant County, Indiana

Scott Miller

Chief Executive Officer

Since the late 1970s, Scott has initiated projects in North America that directly help families and communities address poverty more effectively. After a decade of research and refinement of a program to address poverty head-on, Scott founded Circles USA.
He is author of the books Until It’s Gone: Ending Poverty in our Nation, in our Lifetime and The Circles Story, How Circles Can Help Your Community Find New Ways to Resolve Poverty and Thrive, Bootstraps and Benefits, What the Right and Left Understand about Poverty and How We Can Work Together for Lasting Solutions, and Transformational Heart, Mastering the Four Seasons of Transformational Change.

Ausha Jackson

National Training Director

Ausha Jackson is visionary with a reputation for making things happen. Ausha’s passion and career as a Workforce Development Professional began out of her personal experience of becoming a teen mother and raising a child in poverty. Despite her early obstacles, she went on to graduate in the top 5% of her high school class, obtain a Master’s degree, start her own business, and dedicate her life to empowering others.

Ausha served as the Executive Director of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s Circles chapter from 2010 – 2014 where she led her team to win the highest award for American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) and was recognized nationally for the way she and her team built intentional relationships across race and class lines to end poverty.

In 2014, Ausha relocated to Atlanta, GA and became a part-time consultant and National Trainer for Circles USA. She now serves full time as a CUSA National Training Director and travels the country training communities that are committed to helping families permanently move out of poverty and grow into economic stability.

Gena Atcher

National Membership Coordinator

Gena is originally from Alabama and served for eight years in the U.S. Air Force. Gena began working for Circles® USA in 2006 and works remotely while living in rural Minnesota. She coordinates calendar logistics, materials distribution, contract negotiations, invoicing, event planning and general inquiries. Gena’s long-term working relationship and knowledge is a key component of Circles’ operations. You can reach her at: 888-232-9285 or Gena@CirclesUSA.org.

Courtney Cowan

Information Systems and Design Manager

As the Information Systems and Design Manager for Circles USA, Courtney architects both IT and non-IT solutions for the organization. Courtney uses her problem-solving skills to tackle a wide variety of company-wide tasks, such as managing the data system, implementing upgrades, training and motivating chapters to use the data system, and integrating systems that help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. She also handles graphic design needs for Circles USA and chapters, including creating websites, logos, brochures, manuals, guides, and reports.

Ambassadors

Carolyn Workman and Kurt Whacker, philanthropists with social work and business backgrounds from Columbus, Ohio

Chris Tinney, strategic initiatives, helping develop and execute a sustainable, strategic plan as we pursue the “Tipping Point” in communities across the country.

Denise Rhoades, writer/ communications consultant for Hartsook Companies, Inc., Kansas

Jen Nibley, Director, Arrive Utah, Provo, UT

Julie Liske, Executive Director, Circles Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, MI

Linda Jacobs, Executive Director, Good Samaritan Ministries, Holland, MI

Lynette Fields, Executive Director, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Orlando, FL

Mark Lautman, author, and founder of Community Economics Laboratory, Albuquerque, NM

Sarah Thornburg, Executive Director, Friends In Deed, Ypsilanti, MI

Tami Trover Crosson, philanthropist, and higher education consultant, WY

Toni Taylor, Professional Certified Coach, Greenville, SC

Board of Directors

John Wilson, Chairman CUSA Board
Consultant, Chalk Hill, Pa.

Mr. Wilson served as Executive Director of Community Action Association of Pennsylvania for 37 years and brought Move the Mountain into Pennsylvania several years ago and helped launch the Circles initiatives. He now consults and has served as Interim Director for community action agencies.

Jim Masters, Treasurer/Secretary CUSA Board
President of the Center for Community Futures, Berkeley, Calif.

Mr. Masters has been a friend of Circles since its inception. He has worked with over 500 Community Action Agencies and Head Start programs since 1966. He has provided strategic planning and administrative oversight support as a board member for the past several years.

Joan Kuriansky, Vice President CUSA Board
Former Executive Director of Wider Opportunities for Women, Washington, D.C.

Ms. Kuriansky served as Executive Director of Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), working nationally to achieve economic independence for women and girls throughout their lifetime. Between 1987 and 1994, Ms. Kuriansky was Executive Director of the Older Women’s League (OWL), a national advocacy and membership organization with chapters throughout the United States that addresses economic and social issues facing women as they age. Between 1995 and 2001, Ms. Kuriansky served on President Clinton’s Advisory Council on Violence Against Women. Today, Ms. Kuriansky serves on a number of boards including Real Wealth of Nations, Justice International Connections and the Income Security Committee of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), on which she serves as a Fellow. She has received the Gloria Steinem/Ms. Foundation “A Women of Vision” award. Ms. Kuriansky holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in urban affairs from Occidental College.

Vince Gonzales,
CUSA Board & CUSA Operations Director

Vince Gonzales learned servant leadership from his family’s long tradition of helping others.  As Healthcare IT Director for Perinatal Associates of New Mexico, he uses information technology to enhance the company’s daily operations and further their goals for exemplary patient care.

Following the example of his grandfather who started Mano En Mano, a NM nonprofit that received national recognition directly from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Vince adeptly balances his professional career and family life with his commitment to serve the community.  He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his beloved wife (Sylviana) and two amazing sons (Hunter and Jerome). Vince serves as the Board President for the Rio Grande Center (RGSCL).  Under his leadership, RGSCL has embraced a results-oriented decision-making process that has resulted in a fully-staffed board, and a successful blueprint for financial stability and growth. Alongside with his wife Sylviana, who lost her father to Alzheimer’s, and son Jerome, Vince runs a Music and Memory program that provides iPods to Alzheimer’s patients.

His focus is on helping Circles USA and its chapters achieve long-term financial sustainability, establish new partnerships with business, and utilize state-of-the-art information and technology platforms.

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