Collecting Stories to Guide Circles USA’s Future

For more than 20 years, the Circles USA network has pursued this mission: to inspire and equip families and communities to end poverty and thrive.

As a fairly new executive director joining an established organization with a respected history, I’ve been learning about the challenges and successes in our past. Now, I’m inviting you to join me in a reflective process to refresh our vision for the future.

Guiding questions:

  • What is the nature of this unique present moment — the zeitgeist — as it relates to poverty?
  • What social, cultural, political, and economic forces are shaping how we understand poverty in this unique moment?
  • What experiences from our work illuminate what’s most important for responding to poverty today and in the future?

To probe these questions, we’re collecting stories from Circles USA members and partners. Stories are integral to the Circles method. We ask all of our Circle Leaders to consider their own stories as they develop a unique plan to escape poverty. So, gathering stories from our entire network to guide us into the future is consistent with the method. From these stories, we aim to identify new ways to support the next generation of diverse leaders committed to ending poverty.

Your story can be submitted in writing or other media like video/audio recording or photo collage. To be interviewed, to submit your written or multimedia story, or to nominate someone with an important story to participate, email me at Thanks in advance for your engagement and vision!

Story prompts:

Participants can choose to answer any combination of questions that resonate. Here are questions about your personal journey and aspirations:

  • How did you come to the work of poverty alleviation?
  • Tell us about one moment that shaped your commitment to ending poverty.
  • What breaks your heart about the issue?
  • What motivates you to continue seeking change?
  • Paint a picture of poverty five years from now: Is it worse or better? What has changed – any why?

And these prompts ask about your relationship to Circles USA (CUSA), if relevant:

  • How did you come to be involved in CUSA?
  • What does the organization mean to you?
  • What words or language would you use to describe the CUSA organization (its mission, values, culture, and leadership)? Is there an experience or story you can share that speaks to your response?
  • How might the CUSA network expand to more fully reflect the diverse demographics of those experiencing poverty across the U.S.? And how can the CUSA Board and/or leadership better reflect that diversity?
  • Paint a picture of CUSA five years from now. What does the organization look like? How might it be different from today? What has changed – and why?

~Jamie Haft, Executive Director, Circles USA

PS: Thanks to Christy Vines of the Ideos Institute for collaborating on this strategic planning project.