Monthly Archives: June 2020

Big View Policy Platform 2020


To advance systemic change, each Circles Chapter has a Big View Team with community members representing local government, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and businesses.

Earlier this year, we surveyed Big View Teams to discover all issues of concern, and these six were voted as priorities: 1) quality jobs, 2) the cliff effect, 3) access to broadband, 4) healthcare, 5) housing, and 6) transportation.

Board Member Joan Kuriansky authored our new Big View Policy Platform with two sets of recommendations – Local/County/State and National – for each issue.

Chapters are invited to use this document in various ways:

– Invite Circle Leaders to share their experiences about the six issues

– Convene a Big View meeting to discuss the platform and select an issue for focused work

– Engage elected officials and candidates for public office in a forum about this platform

– Send to allied organizations and use it to promote joint activities

– Share a story about your Chapter’s Big View work on one of the six issues for publication in our newsletter

This Big View Policy Platform is one outcome of our ongoing non-partisan Civic Participation Campaign. We’re especially promoting voter education, voter registration, and voter turnout on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

2 Pages: PDF | PPT      4 Pages: PDF | PPT    14 Pages: PDF | PPT

The Call to End Poverty – The Business and Education Sectors

Flexicurity is a term first used in 1995 to describe a partnership between business and government to support the citizenry as the economy continues to morph and destabilize current jobs.

Just as there was no stopping the Industrial Revolution, there is no stopping what is happening next with automation, globalization, and artificial intelligence. The composition of jobs in our economy is never going back to the way it used to be, and this fact has major ramifications for poverty rates. The top of the “food chain” in our communities is, for better or worse, the business sector. It wields the most influence on all other sectors. This was not always the case in U.S. history, but it is now.

In October 2011, I did a TedX talk. In that speech I said that poverty should be understood as an economic development problem, not just as a humanitarian problem to be fixed by nonprofits. The emerging economy is not just one of many factors affecting poverty rates; it is perhaps going to have the biggest impact of all potential factors. By 2030, half of all jobs could very well be entrepreneurial in nature. The opportunity to be on someone’s payroll in a traditional w-2 job is rapidly diminishing. Companies can generate wealth with far fewer people than ever before. For example, according to the Brookings Institute, in 2014 Google was valued at $370 billion with only 55,000 employees, a tenth the size of AT&T’s workforce in the 1960s.

The key characteristic to possess in order for anyone to survive, let alone thrive, in the emerging economy could be the ability to be nimble. While there are arguments about whether automation and artificial intelligence will displace millions or will generate new jobs to employ the displaced or will have very little impact on employment rates, there is significant concern about where things are heading with our economy and what we should do about it.

Flexicurity is a term first used in 1995 to describe a partnership between business and government to support the citizenry as the economy continues to morph and destabilize current jobs. If it is possible for the majority of goods and services to be delivered (droned, even) to our homes through a handful of super corporations such as Amazon, who buys the goods and services with what money from what jobs? A closed system must be kept intact between makers and consumers. A pure-market system economy could very likely create this closed system with fewer people, leaving a significant portion of the population on their own to survive. Taken to extremes, a Darwinian order sorts out the weak from the strong.

Fortunately, the United States is already using a hybrid economic system that mixes big multinational corporations with big government deterrents and incentives with an independent sector of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as black marketplaces that provide every imaginable good and service. Our economic sector is a complex system of forces that regulates infinite variables that result in how we personally experience economic freedom and security. Because the complexity is mind-boggling, the desire to over-simplify solutions to sell to the mass public for political and financial reasons is strong. The desire to repeal and replace Obamacare, for example, affects one-sixth of this massive economy. As I write this, Congress is finding it increasingly difficult to find the votes to repeal it and replace it with something else that can be presented in a sound bite to the American public as a better alternative.

The Call to Adventure for the economic and education sectors is to look around the globe and learn. It is time for us to let go of the arrogant notion that we are the best nation on Earth, and therefore we should be mentoring everybody else, end of story. Far from it. As I suggested, the new global metrics of happiness, low crime, low poverty rates, and high life satisfaction tell us that we are losing ground to nations that are getting smarter about their economies and educational systems.

Paul Poler, CEO of the massive multinational corporation Unilever, wrote an editorial that was featured in the Huffington Post in July 2014. I have excerpted portions of this radical and optimistic call to adventure to the business community. It is worth reading the entire editorial. The following excerpts reinforce my assumptions about what the true call is for the economic sector:

“It was Winston Churchill who famously said that ‘democracy was the worst form of government apart from all the others that had been tried.’ Much the same can be said for capitalism, particularly the form of capitalism that has been practiced over the past 20 years. . .. “

“. . . capitalism, with all its faults, is the only game in town. The task confronting the present generation of leaders is to improve on it, to build on its strengths and eradicate its weaknesses. . .. “

“. . . Addressing the weaknesses of capitalism will require us, above all, to do two things: first, to take a long-term perspective; and second, to re-set the priorities of business. . .. “

“. . . The requirement to report back to investors every ninety days distorts behavior and priorities. It is absurd for complex multinational companies to have to invest huge amounts of time preparing detailed income and margin statements every quarter. . .. “

“. . . It is nothing less than a new business model. One that focuses on the long term. One that sees business as part of society, not separate from it. One where companies seek to address the big social and environmental issues that threaten social stability. One where the needs of citizens and communities carry the same weight as the demands of shareholders. . ..”

The bottom line cannot just be quarter-to-quarter gains. The B-Corps movement in the United States is gaining traction with the formal adoption of a triple-bottom line: profits, people, and planet. From the B-Corps website: Collectively, B Corps leads a growing global movement of people using business as a force for good. Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the world, and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all. When it comes to reducing poverty rates, my bets are on the influence of this and similar movements.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

New Standards for Ending Poverty So Everyone Has Enough Money

Ending poverty in the United States means embracing a radically new economy that makes it possible for everyone to have enough money, meaning, and friends.

Circles USA is an intentional community-building process, building relationships between haves and have-nots for the purpose of giving everyone involved more peace of mind regarding money. Whether you are Libertarian, Socialist, Democrat, or Republican, one thing we do have in common is the fear of being controlled by others who may not have our best interests in mind.

Money has long been a way to control the behavior of others. One of many paths to freedom is to determine what amount of money one absolutely needs to be happy and then decide that this is enough money to have rolling in each month.

If you Google “how much money to be happy,” you will find several articles related to recent Princeton and Town and Country surveys. Bottom-line: Making about $75,000 to $95,000 a year is very satisfying to most people. After that, people are often chasing more money but getting diminishing returns on happiness from it. However, 75% of U.S. households make less than $75,000 a year. So, this means three of every four homes may want and might need to make more money. Conversely, the other 25% may do well to relax their attention on making money and find new ways to help others.

Science shows that the stress hormone cortisol goes down when we are focused on helping others. Having an economic system that incentivizes giving to others is attractive to those who want to evolve into happier beings. For those who have made a lot of money and noticed the limits of its ability to make them happy (think of the modernists described in Cultural Creatives) or for those who cannot see a pathway to making larger sums of money, shareable economies offer hopeful alternatives.

The Nature of Humans is to Evolve Consciousness.

Numerous systems have been constructed to help define various levels of consciousness. Those of us who aspire to live more like Jesus, or Buddha, or Krishna, or other spiritual masters require structures that can help us attain higher levels of consciousness. Belonging to a group, studying spiritual teachings, and walking the talk is all-important. But what about the economy that we use to meet our needs and to serve others? Is it reinforcing our spiritual goals? Perhaps it holds us back, and we should upgrade to a system that better supports the well-being of all.

Sharing economies will likely become more popular with 75% of Americans living on less than $75,000 a year and who are exhausted, discouraged, and ready to give up on the old American Dream. According to a 2017 Banking Rates survey, more than half of Americans (57 percent) have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.

We do not yet have a collective understanding of how to manage money. We have yet to formalize financial education for our citizens through the public schools. It’s like telling the people that they are going to live in the ocean, but they won’t be getting mandatory swimming lessons. Should we then be surprised that so many drown?

It’s time to align the American Dream with a newfound sense of how much is enough.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Working Together to End Poverty + Racism

“Thousands of protesters gather at the Minnesota State Capitol on Sunday to demand justice for George Floydional Guard troops secured the perimeter of the Capitol building.” (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

How can Circles USA adequately respond to racism? Let’s be in community together to listen to each other and support our way forward. Please join me on Wednesday, June 3 at 1pm Pacific, 2pm Mountain, 3pm Central, 4pm Eastern. Email for the Zoom Meeting ID and password. In the meantime, here are some of my reflections:

Changing the mindset: At Circles, we believe that human beings can eradicate the conditions of poverty. The challenge is not about finding enough resources or figuring out what systems to change, but aligning the conviction: “We can and should end poverty!” Let’s bring this same bold energy to encourage ourselves and our communities that we can make a difference in addressing racism.

Understanding this present moment: A recurring question during meetings with our board, staff, and partners: “What are you seeing/hearing/noticing about COVID-19 in relation to current trends for poverty reduction?” This week, we’ll reflect on the recent protests and social unrest. Your perspective is invited too: here’s more about our story-collection process. Gaining clarity about this present moment will inform the organization’s strategic planning, ensuring we can be nimble enough to respond to what’s most pressing. 

Addressing inequity: In U.S. history, we have been managing the symptoms of poverty but not treating the cause. Circles Chapters advance necessary systemic change through the “Big View” committee and monthly meeting. Soon, Circles USA will release a policy platform with local and national recommendations on six key issues: quality jobs, cliff effect, broadband access, healthcare, housing, and transportation. We can use a lens of race equity in each Big View issue; as we design policy solutions, we can compensate for structural biases that make marginalized communities most vulnerable. 

Voting: Circles USA has been organizing a non-partisan Civic Participation Campaign to promote voter education and voter turnout. The campaign launched with a webinar, Civic Engagement 101. On June 17, our webinar about a “candidates’ forum” will teach Chapters how to share community stories with those in a position to make change. Your voice and your vote matters.

Considering privilege: Circles USA recently upgraded training for volunteers to be more responsive to the complex context of poverty with new material on structural racism. Understanding my own privilege, as a white person, has been important to my social-justice journey. There are so many great resources, such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism and Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Reaching out: Our friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues who are Black/African-American are experiencing a lot of trauma this week. Let’s not feel so daunted by injustice that we forget to ask those around us, “How can I best support you right now?” Building relationships across lines of difference is the heart of the Circles model. In a time of such intense polarization, let’s invest in relationships.

Many thanks to our Circles Chapters for continuing to build such thriving communities. I’m looking forward to our upcoming community conversation. 

~Jamie Haft, Executive Director, Circles USA