Category Archives: Featured

What It Means to be a Community of Practice with Kamatara Johnson

As the Chief Learning Officer for Circles USA (CUSA) and one of the key planners for our 2019 Leadership Conference, I’ve been asked quite a few times about my key takeaways and the best part of our time together. There was a lot on which to reflect:110 participants representing 24 states plus D.C., 28 breakout sessions, three featured speakers, and everything that happened in between. It really comes down to one realization for me: This conference embodied the difference between a network and a community of practice.

We insist that Circles USA is not a program–it is an initiative. Similarly, I now know from my experience at the conference: we are not a network–we truly are a community of practice.

A community of practice can be defined as the place where domain, practice, and community meet. Our domain is ending poverty. Our practice is all of the learning and innovation that continue to keep this initiative relevant and potent. Our community consists of concentric circles: local, county, neighboring communities, state, nation, and globe.

While CUSA exists in 70+ Chapters and now four Poverty Reduction Labs, locations are not a franchise. It’s not about wearing the same blue and white polo shirt; it’s not about checking a box. Each Chapter and Lab is empowered to use the model and its best practices and then customize in ways that make sense for that community. We have a dynamic (not static) domain within which to do powerful work to end poverty.

Then the practice expands and deepens as Chapters and Labs share their innovations with each other. The conference’s 28 breakout sessions were almost entirely presented by people in Circles: we have passionate and skilled experts in-house. As we say in Circles, “everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to give.” The conference held space to honor innovation, to elevate the voices of our leaders and visionaries, and to inspire each other to take risks. Ending poverty is pioneering work!

What is special about our sharing is the sense of care and attention to people in Circles give to each other. There’s support professionally and personally. I knew regardless of what we planned for the conference, the most important sessions would happen in the in-between — the unscripted time of breaks, meals, and nighttime activities. These moments build the intentional friendships that fuel Circles on every level. This bonding gives us the motivation and courage to persevere upon returning home and facing whatever obstacles may be in the way of standing in our truth and ending poverty. Our work is more potent because of each other.

And so we live the Circles model of moving communities from surviving to thriving, developing courage and skills to change the system, and supporting each other to persevere. The values of Circles is reflected in the larger structure for how Chapters and Labs function and relate to each other. Everyone in Circles USA is positively impacted.

My goal at the CUSA Headquarters is to continue to encourage this connection with each other. I aim to support innovation and to push the boundaries of what people think is possible.

It’s easy to feel busy — nose-to-the-grindstone — forgetting to look up and around. But we have a dynamic and meaningful community of practice here that is as good as you engage with it. Make time for the webinars, the monthly network calls, and the wellness calls with CUSA staff. Read the newsletters, save money in your budget to attend the next Leadership Conference, and above all, reach out to each other and know you’re not alone.

Tsuha Foundation Awards Circles USA

The Tsuha Foundation’s annual Breaking the Cycle Award celebrates the organization that has best used its funding to interrupt the cycle of poverty.

Foundation representatives noted: “Circles USA works at both a grassroots and systems level to achieve measurable results toward poverty elimination. The Tsuha Foundation admires how Circles USA exemplifies its values of respect, accountability, and engagement to create lasting change for the people and communities affected by poverty.”

Circles USA received this surprise award at the conclusion of the 2019 Leadership Conference in Greenville, SC. Here’s our team, pictured from left to right: Scott Miller, Chris Tinney, Jamie Haft, Kamatara Johnson, Gena Atcher, and Courtney Cowan. Congratulations to the entire network for creating a lasting impact by consciously building thriving communities!

2019 CUSA Leadership Conference Network Awards

Best Video #1:

Circles Newaygo, Michigan

Encapsulating what Circles is with this animated video


Best Video #2:

Circles Davis County, Utah

Highlighting the people and community in a Circles Chapter


Best Social Media:

Arrive Utah

Best Newsletter:

Circles Ashland, Virginia


Outstanding Allies:

Joyce Gale of Circles Utah Valley

Joyce Gale has been a Circles Ally for the last three years. She was matched with a Circle Leader named Menou who raised four kids as a single mom. Menou is unable to read because of a brain injury when she was young, which restricted some jobs that were open to her even though she is a hard worker, a quick learner, and a valuable employee.

Joyce befriended Menou and went right to work to help Menou overcome this obstacle by doing research on this kind of disability, finding a doctor who would donate the therapy she needed. Joyce went with Menou to the appointments and supported Menou through these, explaining the confusing items that Menou couldn’t read for herself. Most importantly, Joyce was a steady friend in helping Menou navigate things. With the help of Joyce, Menou graduated from Circles last month at 200% of FPG!

Circles owes much of its success to allies like Joyce. Joyce says, “My life has been blessed because I know Menou. She is my friend. I love her and want to help her in any way I can. Because of Circles I have gained greater compassion and understanding of those in poverty. Since joining Circles, I am a better friend to everyone I meet, and I am confident to offer kindness and helpfulness to others. I have a better understanding of how to help and support people and how to allow them to become their best selves.”

Beth Young of Circles Davis County, Utah

“Beth brings an energy to our group that is contagious in driving change. Her ability to pinpoint a person’s skills, ability, and uniqueness has brought hope to everyone that she meets. Her love and enthusiasm for life is not only felt but seen by her actions and willingness to listen and encourage.Beth is often one of the first to the meeting as she helps with set up and prepares to greet each individual coming to Circles. She also arrives early to our events and helps pull the event together. Whether a staff, participant, or visitor, they feel her love and true concern for them as not only a member of our Circles family but as a person.

Our meetings often start with Beth having a hug for everyone and a name tag as she works to unify our meetings. During the meeting, her smile of encouragement to all participants and kind words encourage and support us during vulnerable moments, bringing a feeling of safety. Our chapter, staff, and participants are all better off due to her contribution to our Circles family.”

 


Outstanding Circle Leaders:

Autumn Hendrickson of Circles Utah Valley

Our first outstanding Circle Leader is a single mother of three who, in just four years, raised her income 540%. Hendrickson gives credit to her Circles Allies who had confidence in her and helped with her own confidence. She now plans to buy a home! Congratulations on your success Autumn and Circles Utah Valley. Click here for the full article.

Jess and Cameron Lyman of Circles Davis County, Utah

Our second outstanding Circle Leader actually goes to a couple who joined Circles in December of 2018, got connected with the Small Business Development Center, and began their dream of operating a food truck. With the help of Circles Davis County, Utah and especially Lamont, Circle Leaders Jess and Cameron Lyman became a great hit with their food truck. They now earn in one event what they used to earn in a week. Congratulations to Jess and Cameron Lyman and Circles Davis County Utah.

 

The Cliff Effect: Policy Recommendations for Advocates, Leaders, and Stakeholders

This report integrates research by Circles USA concerning the Cliff Effect, data from Michigan households utilizing public support, and three hypothetical family cases to develop both general and program-specific policy recommendations. These policy recommendations aim to mitigate the impact of the Cliff Effect on families receiving public assistance as they transition to economic self-sufficiency. The report focuses on the Cliff Effect from Michigan’s Family Independence Program (FIP), Food Assistance Program (FAP), and Child Development and Care Program (CDC). Policy-level recommendations focus on bringing awareness to key stakeholders (public officials, community leaders, and Michigan employers) about the impact of the Cliff Effect on families seeking economic self-sufficiency, development of community assistance programs to help families avoid cliffs, and the development of employment training programs to help displaced workers in Michigan.

Based on the most recent Census reports, the poverty rate in Michigan is 16.3%. The majority of those affected are single-parent (typically female-headed) households with one or more children.37 An estimated 23% of Michigan’s children current live in poverty, defined as less than 100% of FPLs.36 These numbers do not include an additional 25% of Michigan households who are considered “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE).” As a result, the Cliff Effect experienced by families moving off CDC benefits may be the highest priority for Michigan policy makers to address. Specific recommendations for Michigan’s CDC program include:

1. Extension of the program, at some level of benefit, to families with household incomes between 130% and at least 250% of FPLs.

2. Development of a graduated exit ramp, where the decrease in received subsidy is proportional to the amount the family’s earned income exceeds the exit criteria.

3. Development of CDC reimbursement rates categories that reflect the market rates for highly-rated daycare providers, reducing balance billing payments (the financial remainder which is passed on to parents) for families who are seeking quality care for their children.

Read More…

Q&A with Jamie Haft, Circles USA’s New Executive Director

This summer, Jamie Haft was appointed Executive Director to manage the strategic planning and operational functions of the organization. Scott Miller is continuing as Founder, advancing key partnerships and research. With a model of collaborative leadership, added capacity will expand our growing network of 70-plus locations reducing poverty. Here’s our Q&A with Jamie, who served as our Deputy Director for the last year.

What’s your personal connection to this work?

I vividly remember the first time I witnessed global poverty. I was 20 years old and had won a college scholarship to study in India. When I arrived in Mumbai, I saw a station so crowded that people were riding on the outside of the train cars, gripping for their lives. Our guide explained how workers needing money must reach their city jobs at the expense of their safety. I felt sick sensing the desperation of their circumstances, and so I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing the suffering caused by poverty.

Why was I born into a life with access to education, among other freedoms, while others are struggling to get by? Growing up, my family often discussed inequality. My grandfather, Harry Haft, was violently persecuted during the Holocaust before emigrating to the United States. In my Jewish culture, there is an imperative to repair the world, called tikkun olam. After college, I became a community organizer and worked in communities across the United States, which eventually led me to Circles.

What’s your favorite aspect of Circles?

The relationship between Circle Leaders and Allies is so important. During a difficult time in my own life, I could not imagine a way forward, but I was fortunate to have allies who listened to me and encouraged me to find new strength. That’s why I’m passionate about experiences that expand our imagination about what’s possible for our lives. I appreciate that the goal in Circles is to create heart-felt relationships and personal growth for all involved.

Plus, community leaders are empowered through Circles to tackle the systemic issues that prevent people from getting out of poverty. They are pursuing solutions to the chronic problems of affordable housing, childcare, transportation, healthcare, financial literacy, the cliff effect, and quality jobs. Through Circles, people expand imagination about what’s possible for their community’s future.

How will you approach the job of Executive Director?

I’ve been influenced from studying the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and especially Ella Baker’s philosophy: humbly listen to those doing the work and support them into positions of power. In that spirit, my priority is to listen closely to Circles USA’s longtime members and partners and see what our office can do next to support them. My role is inviting dialogue, bringing what’s heard into a shared vision, and directing operations to meet our collective goals.

Our Chapters have been the heart of this organization for 20 years, and we will soon launch new multimedia tools and training programs. In the coming year, I’ll focus on enabling Chapters to become Regional Hubs. Additionally, I’ll continue developing our pilot Poverty Reduction Lab initiative, which is already leading systemic change in three states.

What has surprised you about Circles USA?

I was thrilled to discover Circles USA’s attention to changing the narrative about poverty. My bachelor’s degree is in theater and my master’s degree is in public relations, so I want to draw on this experience to gain a national commitment for ending poverty. As Founder, Scott Miller’s books and methods have called for the eradication of poverty so that everyone has enough money, meaning, and friends for a sustainable future. I’m excited to collaborate with a new generation of leaders to expand this call with as much urgency and creativity as possible. To do so, I’m developing a communications campaign with leaders from Circles and our partners. We will create multimedia publications about how solving poverty also solves problems with the economy, health, justice, and the environment. We will offer our success stories with practical strategies for reducing poverty rates across North America.

What are some of your ideas for Circles USA’s future?

Most important to me is supporting leadership throughout our network. For Circles USA to adequately build an inclusive community for ending poverty, I believe the organization must reflect this country’s cultural diversity, with attention to ethnicity, gender, age, geography, disability, and sexual orientation. The Haas Institute’s framework of Othering and Belonging is a great resource. As an activist for LGBTQ+ rights, I am acutely aware of the need to provide safety, visibility, and economic opportunity to those who have been marginalized in our society.

I’m proud of how we incorporated these values into the recent development of our new multimedia training materials for Circle Leaders and Allies. Because our 2018 Impact Report revealed that 79% of Circle Leaders identify as female, we added new content about gender equity. We also added new content on structural racism and white privilege in support of race equity.

Long term, I want Circles USA to more intentionally address issues facing women, survivors of domestic and sexual violence, people of color, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ communities. Let’s have Circle Chapters and Poverty Reduction Labs created with, by, and for these communities. We’re currently establishing relationships with new partners who are committed to social justice. Our upcoming Leadership Conference – October 14-17 in Greenville, SC – will feature some of these organizations. I’m looking forward to meeting you there!

To share your aspirations for the organization’s future and to get involved, contact jamie@circlesusa.org.

What is Circles USA’s Response to Potential Food Stamps Cut?

The Trump administration has proposed a new rule for the Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which could potentially eliminate eligibility for three million families. Circles USA’s Founder Scott Miller wrote this response. The administration is collecting feedback through this Monday, September 23; instructions for commenting can be found here. Our appreciation goes to the Circles Washtenaw Big View Team for their inspiring civic-engagement efforts.

The concept of mutual responsibility has always guided our poverty-reduction work at Circles USA. We inspire and equip individuals to take control of their lives and do whatever they can to become economically stable, no matter the external conditions. Likewise, we advise government and community-based program leaders to take responsibility for adding value to these individual efforts by building coherent systems to support and reward all those seeking economic stability.

We currently have a poverty management system that is not accountable to reducing poverty rates. (At best, it keeps people experiencing poverty safe.) While it is tempting to cut benefits to reduce a perceived “dependency,” this alone will not reduce poverty in our nation. We first need a poverty reduction system that is designed to support people out of poverty. Second, we need this new system to converge with the emerging economy, not an outdated notion of job creation. If we don’t generate enough quality jobs to overcome rapid changes in the use of automation, artificial intelligence, and global outsourcing, then we must create new jobs and reimagine the social safety net so that everyone has enough money to thrive.

Before we make cuts in our safety net, let’s first transform our programs to support people all of the way out of poverty and into economic stability. Let’s address the “Cliff Effect” that reduces benefits for basic needs faster than people can replace them with new earned income. Let’s make sure our local, state, and national economic-development programs are generating a robust economy that provides enough jobs, so people don’t need as much work-subsidy programs like food stamps. Once we have all these in place, we are better positioned to assess whether or not it is time to reduce programs like food stamps.

Featured Speakers Announced for Circles USA Leadership Conference 2019

3 Powerful Women Ready to Share their Vision with the Network

Dr. MarYam Hamedani
Tuesday’s Featured Speaker
MarYam Hamedani, Ph.D., is Managing Director and Senior Research Scientist at Stanford SPARQ. SPARQ (Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions ) is a “do tank” that partners with industry leaders to tackle disparities and inspire culture change in criminal justice, economic mobility, education, and health using insights from behavioral science.
At SPARQ, Dr. Hamedani studies and puts into practice strategies to help people live, work, and thrive in today’s increasingly diverse and divided world. She works on improving police-community relations, promoting racial literacy, educating people about social differences, and designing empowering schools and programs for underrepresented students.
The former Associate Director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), Dr. Hamedani is also a Stanford Ph.D. alum in psychology. Her work has been published in leading journals such as  Psychological Science, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,  and  Perspectives on Psychological Science,  and has been covered by national media outlets like  National Public Radio, The New York Times, ABC News, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic,  and  The Huffington Post.

Lisa Marsh Ryerson
Wednesday’s Featured Speaker
Lisa Marsh Ryerson is president of AARP Foundation, the charitable affiliate of AARP.
A bold, disciplined and collaborative leader, she sets the Foundation’s strategic direction and steers its efforts to realize an audacious vision: a country free of poverty, where no older person feels vulnerable.
Since she took the helm, AARP Foundation has developed pioneering initiatives, explored new avenues for collaboration, and secured unprecedented funding to support programs and services that truly change lives.
Ms. Ryerson has spearheaded innovative partnerships with other organizations to create and advance effective solutions that help vulnerable older adults increase their economic opportunity and social connectedness. Before joining AARP Foundation, Ms. Ryerson served as the president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, N.Y.

Diana Dollar
Thursday’s Featured Speaker
Driven by a deep, life-long commitment to fairness and justice, Diana came into her role as the founding Executive Director of The Prosperity Agenda dedicated to transforming big, complex systems in order to drive meaningful, sustainable change.
“In large systems, it’s easy to inadvertently optimize for cost, number of people served, simplicity, or throughput, but not to focus on what really matters: the experience of the individuals and families who are impacted by poverty and have no reasonable way out.”
With more than 20 years of leadership experience in human, workforce, and economic development systems, Diana now focuses her attention on transforming traditional approaches to poverty by leading The Prosperity Agenda toward  solutions that honor the lived experiences of families impacted by poverty and which give families the equity, dignity, security, and choice they deserve.

Circles USA cited as a high-impact approach by the Director of the Office of Family Assistance, US Health and Human Services

Clarence H. Carter,  the director of the Office of Family Assistance and the acting director of the Office of Community Services at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, wrote a blog post titled “Strong social networks help to eliminate barriers to economic opportunity” speaking on how Circles USA and Open Table aim to boost the social capital of individuals in order to help them work toward self-sufficiency. Read about it here

Circles USA in Marshall, MN, offers crisis management, education, job placement and social networking to economically disadvantaged and underserved communities.

 

Systems-Thinking and Continuous Quality Improvement

Poverty and many societal problems faced today in the United States and around the globe are complex and interconnected. For example, children living in poverty are at greater risk for poor academic performance and retention; abuse and neglect; and behavioral, socio-emotional, and physical health problems (1). As we know, the challenges faced by individuals and families living in poverty rarely arise individually. And yet, our institutions and programs historically were designed to address a specific need or limited subset of poverty-related challenges. This approach has resulted in a collection of siloed poverty management programs instead of a true poverty reduction system.

Furthermore, change is a natural phenomenon we experience daily. Many of us can still remember when phones were tethered to the wall and mobility while on the phone was limited to the length of a telephone cord. We, as consumers, rapidly change our preferences, demanding increased technological innovation in support of improving the effectiveness or efficiency of our activities of daily living. The ongoing pressure for technological innovation, in consequence, drives global competition, transforming local economies and the nature of available jobs. In a world of complexity and constant change, linear thinking is insufficient.

Systems thinking is a foundational requirement for transformational leadership. Systems thinking is based on theory and methods used to optimize the performance of any collection of objects (e.g., in nature, society, or science) that are interdependent and work together to produce an outcome or result.(2) Optimization in systems thinking generally focuses on increasing the efficiency and/or effectiveness of a system in pursuit of a specific outcome or goal (e.g., reducing child poverty by 10% and having families reach 200% of the Federal Poverty Levels).

Systems theory explicitly acknowledges that perfect performance at the system level is unobtainable. Our goal, therefore, should be the creation of a learning system that is continually working to improve. System thinking, when more broadly viewed as a philosophy, can lead positive disruption towards changing the culture of an organization or system. Peter Senge described a learning organization as one “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.” (3)

In the Poverty Reduction Lab program, participants receive training and coaching to become adept at applying Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) principals, methods, and tools. CQI, as a discipline, is fundamentally grounded in systems theory and the principles of creating a learning organization.

W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, is one of the fathers of systems thinking and its application to continual improvement of quality in industrial systems. His early work, starting in 1950 in Japan, is credited as a primary driver of Japan’s post-World War II industrial recovery. His work directly contributed to Japan becoming a world economic power. (4) As an engineer, Deming focused on manufacturing applications. Today, CQI principles and methods are standard practice in industry. CQI methods and tools are used to ensure planes take off and land safely, our food and medicines are safe, and a size 12 pair of women’s slacks has a consistent waist circumference (OK, maybe more work is needed for that last one!).

CQI, as a discipline and management philosophy, has also broadly been adopted by service organizations, including in the fields of education, healthcare, and public health. Consequently, there is a strong evidence base in support of the benefits of creating a culture of quality and applying CQI methods and tools to optimize system efficiency and effectiveness. However, CQI might be a relatively new concept for public agencies and nonprofit organizations, at least as compared to the decades of experience in industry and healthcare. For many public and nonprofit organizations, the introduction to CQI arrives when a desired funding source requires it as a condition of receiving a grant or other financial award.

As staunch advocates for the transformative power of systems thinking and the discipline of CQI, CQIU (5) is consulting with Circles USA on Poverty Reduction Labs and other initiatives. Our goal, with you and other regional partners, is the development of a coherent, continually improving, poverty reduction system. CQIU has a combined total of more than 30 years of experience in supporting healthcare and social care organizations and networks begin the journey of culture change and implementation of CQI methods and tools.

Today’s problems are often yesterday’s solutions.

— Peter Senge

By focusing on events, we become reactive, seeing only the tip of the iceberg.(6) Instead, systems thinking leads us to transform our mental models and redesign underlying systematic structures. This change in mind-set and approach can then be leveraged to optimize a system, even when the system is immersed in a dynamic, seemingly chaotic, environment or seems intractably broken.

In practical application, systems theory can be applied at many levels. You, yourself, reside in a system, interconnected to others through work, home, family, friends, and the religious, civic, and social organizations in which you belong and participate. By examining your life as a system, you can more efficiently and effectively work toward having a happy, balanced life that follows your values and meets your goals, simultaneous to and in alignment with the development of a poverty reduction system in your community or region.

Darcey Terris Founder and Principal Consultant of CQIU Quality Work. Quality Life.

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The content for this Blog Series is drawn from the Poverty Reduction Lab program, a collaboration with CQIU.

The program’s focus includes:

    • Dismantling the poverty management system,
    • Leading your community through the four stages of change, and
    • Creating a pathway to end poverty.

To stay tuned, sign-up for The Big View Newsletter, our monthly bulletin about poverty research and policy change.

1 “Effects of Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness on Children and Youth,” American Psychological Association, available at: www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty.aspx.

2 Systems theory, as a general area of study, originated in part through the work of an Austrian biologist named Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

3 Source: “The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge,” 1990 (updated in 2010). New York, NY: Random House.

4 Deming is often called the “father of the third wave of the industrial revolution.” The Deming Institute, www.deming.org.

5 CQIU includes the “U” in their name, as CQI is a universal approach that can be applied to address many of the seemingly intractable societal issues that public agencies, nonprofits, and businesses face on a regular basis.

6 Source: Adapted from “The Iceberg Model” by M. Goodman, 2002. Hopkinton, MA: Innovation Associates Organizational Learning.

A Tipping Point to End Poverty

During more than 20 years of speaking to communities throughout the United States and Canada, I have been making the statement that we can and should end poverty. I have never encountered any resistance to the idea that we should end poverty. It’s the “we can end poverty” that causes people to bring up their objections with statements such as, “We have been fighting the War on Poverty over 50 years, and it’s only gotten worse.” But have we really been fighting all these years? I would say no; we haven’t had a national goal to eliminate poverty.

First, the war in Vietnam increasingly distracted the Johnson administration’s focus from the War on Poverty. Some safety nets were implemented, such as the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Social Security Act of 1965 that created Medicare and Medicaid. However, these safety nets created an array of allopathic remedies. Some would argue these remedies make people too busy with paperwork, getting their basic needs met and lessening the urgency of finding a job. This is a poverty management system.

Furthermore, there are no financial incentives from federal agencies for long-term results of supporting people out of poverty and increasing economic stability. The baby boomers provided such a substantial labor pool that local economies did not need to worry about qualifying those in poverty for the workforce. Without pressure from business, poverty management continues in government and with community-based organizations addressing various needs of small target populations.

My strong belief is that human beings can eradicate the condition of poverty. The challenge is not if we have enough resources to do it – because we have enough. It is not if we know how to make the necessary systemic changes – because we know enough. First and foremost, the challenge is aligning the conviction that we can and should end it.

Because society could be easily overwhelmed by the massive task of ending poverty in the face of realities described above, I have found value in an article by scientists on tipping points. They discovered that when just 10% of a network’s population holds an unshakable belief, the majority of that network of people will adopt that belief. As Boleslaw Szymanski at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has elaborated:

“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10%, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority. Once that number grows above 10%, the idea spreads like flame.”

We have all seen in our time social movements that reached a tipping point and fundamentally changed society. How can we intentionally lead in a manner that causes a tipping point in our society? Achieving a tipping point is the goal that focuses Circles USA’s work to inspire and equip leaders to build Poverty Reduction Labs and Circles Chapters to support 10% of households in their communities to climb out of poverty. The theoretical potential of a tipping point is that once 10% is reached, momentum will take over, and the process of reducing poverty will become easier as more people embrace the effort.

Meeting resistance from within our own minds, as well as from those in our communities, we will need to align our intention to be transformational leaders. We need to follow our conviction about ending poverty, no matter what we confront along the way. Otherwise, we will be vulnerable to conforming to the status quo and colluding with a poverty management system that maintains poverty.

The guiding principle for the Transformational Leadership Program is to “become the change you want to see happen.” (“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, although Wikiquote attributes the principle to Arleen Lorrance, at the Teleos Institute.) We are each hard-wired to want to make a difference in the world. If you assert the belief that we can support 10% of children out of poverty, you will eventually find others to join you. Together, you can build your own momentum toward a tipping point of people who will mobilize a new poverty reduction system around that goal in your community.

Warm regards,

Scott. C. Miller, Founder and CEO, Circles USA

The content for this Blog Series is drawn from the Poverty Reduction Lab program, a collaboration with CQIU. The program’s focus includes:

  • Dismantling the poverty management system,
  • Leading your community through the four stages of change, and
  • Creating a pathway to end poverty.

To stay tuned, sign-up for The Big View Newsletter, our monthly bulletin about poverty research and policy change.