Category Archives: Featured

The Call to End Poverty is Complicated in the United States

Colin Woodard wrote a beautiful book titled American Nations, a History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. He answers the question, “Why do Americans have such a difficult time agreeing on basic issues like the meaning of freedom, the role of religion in public life, or what it means to be an American?” His primary answer is that we were settled by 11 separate nations, giving each of these diverse regions of the country their own distinguishing ideals. Colin’s book is a brilliant page turner, and I am not going to spend much time reiterating what he says. What I want to point out is this: To reduce poverty rates in America, we must understand the distinct beliefs of each region.

I was raised in what Colin calls the Midland region, which, he says, is arguably the most “American” of the 11 nations. The region was founded by the English Quakers around the values of pluralism and organized around the middle class. “. . . government has been seen as an unwelcomed intrusion and political opinion has been moderate, even apathetic . . .,” he writes.

The Midlands region stretches from its roots in the Delaware Bay throughout Middle America and the Heartland, comprising Pennsylvania, Maryland, southern New Jersey, northern Delaware, central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, northern Missouri, most of Iowa, and the eastern halves of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. It includes the cities of Chicago and St. Louis. People in this region largely believe society should be organized to benefit ordinary people; are skeptical of top-down government intervention; and are considered to hold the standard American political viewpoint, containing the key “swing vote” in every national debate. The Midlands functions as a powerful mediating force, agreeing with only some of its neighbors’ more extreme views.

I am very much a Midlander, having lived in Pennsylvania from the ages of 4 to 9. We then moved to Rochester, N.Y., the region that Colin calls Yankeedom. This region was founded in Massachusetts Bay as a religious utopia in the New England wilderness. The emphasis was on education, local political control, and the pursuit of the greater good of the community. Yankees believe, more than any other region, that government can improve lives and galvanize their resistance to aristocrats, corporations, and any other outside power. Also, very much me.  Yankeedom stretches across upper New York State, northern strips of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, parts of the eastern Dakotas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Hopefully, this brief summary has whetted your appetite to look at Colin’s book and identify your own region’s roots. He argues that it is very difficult to change the belief system of a region. In fact, people tend to migrate to regions where they feel an affinity. He has mapped out the regional identity of all of the 3007 U.S. counties, which on the one hand is helpful although overall his ideas pose a challenge to reducing poverty rates.

The Call to Adventure to address poverty has to be messaged with different talking points, depending on regional belief systems. While it would be so much simpler to characterize the conflict between red and blue states, it is obviously nuanced by regions and then within individual states in those regions. In fact, from community to community along the borders of Colin’s map of the nation, ideologies can be vastly opposed to one another.

We are unlikely to change our world views easily, but working with people who hold diverse political and religious beliefs for a common goal of supporting people out of poverty is a good starting place for maturing our narrative regarding the ultimate roles and responsibilities from each of the major sectors of community life.


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

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

Core Beliefs about Poverty

The call to adventure is influenced by one’s belief system about how the world operates. In early 2001, a national poll conducted by National Public Radio (NPR), the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School asked nearly 2,000 Americans 18 or older, “Which is the bigger cause of poverty today: that people are not doing enough to help themselves out of poverty, or that circumstances beyond their control cause them to be poor?” Respondents were roughly divided equally between “people not doing enough” (48%) and “circumstances” (45%).

Additionally, a 2016 poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and the conservative think tank American Enterprise showed similar results in terms of who or what is responsible for poverty — but with interesting nuances. For example, White blue-collar workers were more likely to blame the poor for their situation than Whites with college educations. When it comes to solutions, the study showed that more Blacks than Whites believed that government programs put people back on their feet and allowed them to get jobs and out of poverty. A majority of Whites believed that government programs create dependency and encourage people to stay poor. People in poverty believe that government programs fail primarily because not enough money has been put into them. More affluent people than working-class people believe that government programs are badly designed.


When people first get involved in Circles USA, they usually have a strong set of opinions about why someone is in poverty …


When people first get involved in Circles USA, they usually have a strong set of opinions about why someone is in poverty and what help is needed to get them out. Because of their experience with Circles, they often change their opinions over time toward the middle ground. Many people discover that it is the combination of self-responsibility and planning skills coupled with better jobs, new support systems and better designed private and public programs that can best help people escape poverty.

For example, people in Circles have said:

“I was broke, broken, and homeless with three kids. Now, I have a home, money in the bank, attend school, and most of all, I have a purpose. Circles was like a rescue team that came into my life while I was dying. They revived me, and I’m grateful.”

—LeAundrea Robinson, Circles USA Leader

“Circles has exposed me to economic and social circumstances which I knew existed, but I didn’t really understand all the personal implications…”

—Bill Mitchell, Ally


… the beginning of the end of poverty must start with understanding our current beliefs.


Since people do not change their belief systems easily, and because our beliefs ultimately drive what we do as an individual, community, and nation about poverty, the beginning of the end of poverty must start with understanding our current beliefs. While Circles USA has books and training programs that can increase people’s awareness of their beliefs, the most important strategy of Circles USA is the opportunity to build healthy and effective relationships across socioeconomic class lines. We want people in poverty to get to know people of middle-income and upper-income means and vice versa. It is through these relationships that people challenge their assumptions and arrive at more informed views of poverty.


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

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

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 gena@circlesusa.org 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

The Empathy Table

Circles USA Executive Director Jamie Haft is included in the latest episode of The Empathy Table, along with Christy Vines (Ideos), Cheryl Cuthbertson (Children of the Nations), and Diana Oestreich (Preemptive Love). 

The conversation is about the future post-COVID-19 and what it looks like to care for the marginalized and vulnerable when we emerge from quarantine. More specifically, the group discusses building relationships and extending neighbor love to disadvantaged populations as they face increased suffering due to COVID-19. 

The group considers the ways relationships move us to go out and advocate for the good of others. Life under and beyond quarantine has a lot to do with sacrifice, and moving forward well demands inclusivity, reconciliation of brokenness, and the learning of lessons about ourselves and our own vulnerability. 

The group concludes their talk with reflections on togetherness, generosity, and how we can open ourselves to care for the wellbeing of those on the margins of society.

The Emerging Responsibility of Business

Paul Poler, CEO of Unilever, a massive multinational corporation, wrote an editorial in the Huffington Post in July 2014. Poler realized such a shift cannot happen in a vacuum. The driving force for companies cannot continue to be posting quarter-to-quarter gains. Not only is it too hard on both people and the environment and it’s not sustainable.

I have excerpted portions of this radical and optimistic call to adventure to the business community. It is worth reading the entire editorial.

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. … If business is to regain the trust of society, it must start to tackle the big social and environmental issues that confront humanity, especially at a time when governments seem increasingly to be caught in shorter and shorter election cycles and have a hard time internalizing the global challenges in an increasingly interdependent world…As I have said many times, ‘Business cannot be a mere bystander in the system that gives it life.’ The environmentalist Paul Hawken believes that if there is any deficit we are facing right now, it’s a deficit of meaning….

Organizations are embracing similar thoughts to those of Poler. The B Corps movement in the United States is gaining traction with the formal adoption of triple-bottom lines: profits, people, and the 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 more shared and durable prosperity for all.”

Circles USA has also developed its talking points, which follow, about the intersection of reducing poverty in the emerging economy. We cannot reduce poverty rates without understanding where the economy is heading. There are clear indications that the nature of work is changing, placing new demands on people to be their own contractors rather than counting on a traditional job. For the time being, there is a major opportunity for people to prepare for and secure middle-skill jobs that employers are struggling to fill. We make it too hard for people to take jobs and leave subsidy programs because of the Cliff Effect that decreases subsidies faster than income can replace these basic expenses.

1. The New On-Demand, 1099 Economy

Companies can generate more wealth with fewer workers than ever before. They are rapidly shedding U.S. blue-collar jobs through automation, artificial intelligence, and globalization. More of the working poor no longer enjoy the security of being on a company’s payroll (w2 jobs ) and must take more temporary jobs, now being described as on-demand or 1099 jobs. While this change can be exciting for middle-income and upper-income people, the working poor and those leaving welfare will need relationship programs such as Circles USA to help them navigate this new environment.

2. The Middle-Skill Gap

Baby boomers are leaving the workforce in massive numbers. However, increasing numbers of younger people are unqualified for today’s workforce, creating a temporary crisis in filling middle-skill jobs (high-school graduation required but not a college degree). We are making the argument that solving poverty is no longer just a humanitarian cause. It is an economic imperative. Circles USA understands what it takes for people with backgrounds in poverty to make it in the workplace. And we know how to recruit and train Allies to provide much-needed support both inside and outside the workplace.

3. The Phantom Workforce

Many employers are struggling to find enough qualified workers to fill their job demands. In communities with higher poverty rates than the norm, it can be difficult to attract new talent from other places. People associate high poverty rates with more crime, weak schools, and aging infrastructure, among other undesirable community conditions. Employers must mine their own local talent from the unqualified labor pool. In other words, if employers want to grow their businesses and need more qualified workers, they must work in new ways to increase the qualified local workforce.

There is an untapped “phantom workforce”—people who should work, want to work, could work, but won’t or can’t– because of the cliff effect and the lack of comprehensive programs that support people through the entire process. The phantom workforce will resist entry- and middle-skill work opportunities until the government eliminates the cliff effect in benefit programs. The cliff effect occurs when assistance programs such as childcare subsidies and Medicaid remove benefits faster than people can earn enough income to replace them. By not pro-rating the exit ramp from these programs, the government creates a financial crisis for workers as they earn more income.

Circles USA is collaborating with organizations across the country to educate policymakers on the urgency and benefits of eliminating the cliff effect. We have built cliff effect calculators to beta test this impact. Cliff effect calculators give people the information they need to understand how increased income will affect their overall spending power as they leave benefit programs. These calculators also educate policymakers about the disincentives and harm caused by programs that do not have pro-rated exit ramps.


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

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

Q&A with Vince Gonzales, Board Chair of Circles USA

To refresh Circles USA’s vision for the future, we’ve been collecting stories from our members and partners. Here we share reflections written by Vince Gonzales.

How did you come to the work of poverty alleviation?

I grew up in a family who valued community service. When I became a member of the “over 50” club, I decided that it was time to give back to the community (Albuquerque, New Mexico) that had given me so much in regard to my professional IT career, raising two sons, and meeting the love of my life. My search for ways to accomplish this led to Circles. First, I volunteered to be Circles USA’s sole software developer for the Cliff Effect Planning Tool and then I was invited to join the Board of Directors.

Tell us about one moment that shaped your commitment to ending poverty.

In any volunteer work, I ask myself, “Am I making a difference? Are we making a difference?” In October 2017, I attended a strategy meeting in Grand Rapids, MI. When that meeting ended for the day, I stayed for the local Big View meeting. As attendees began showing up, my attention was drawn toward a mom and her three children: they walked in and lit up the room with their smiles and enthusiasm. They were introduced to me as a Circle Leader family. As I watched other folks arrive, I noticed a man in a suit stop in the doorway. Next thing, I hear a small voice, a child’s voice, from the other side of the room yelling, “You’re here! You’re here!” The eldest daughter, about ten years old, ran to the man in the doorway. When she reached him, she jumped into his open arms. This man was her family’s Circles Ally. With my eyes welling up and my heart overflowing with love, I exclaimed to myself, “This is the difference we can make. This is the difference I can make!”

What breaks your heart about poverty?

In March of 2011, I was in Washington D.C. with my wife’s family. As we toured the city on our way to Capitol Hill, we drove a few blocks from the White House. This vivid image is still in my memory: seeing homeless people living on the street with the White House clearly visible in the background. The War on Poverty was declared by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Fifty-five years later, and this is the scene only blocks from the home of our country’s leader; it’s heartbreaking.

What motivates you to continue seeking change?

Humans have a long history of coming up with ingenious ways to survive, such as vaccines for polio and smallpox. Humans have made amazing strides in technology to live “better” lives, from the steam engine to the iPhone. Now we must arrive at an understanding that our survival and desire for a better life depends on “We the People” for every human on this earth. The current political and social climates in our country will continue to raise everyone’s consciousness around how we rely on each other for health and wealth. In my lifetime, I hope to see a greater reduction of poverty for even more people.

How did you get involved with Circles USA?

Inspired by family values and my commitment to the youth in my community experiencing poverty, I began to investigate innovative ways to address poverty. I came across a book by CUSA Founder Scott Miller, The Circles Story, and I was intrigued immediately! The Circles model creates relationships between those experiencing poverty and those who are not. It offers a way to provide a loving “nudge” to someone who wants to work their way out of poverty but cannot see the opportunity or does not yet possess the skills to do so.

I met Scott in Albuquerque and he told me about some IT needs that Circles had at the time with its database and its concept for a Cliff Effect Planning Tool, and so I decided to offer my time, treasure, and talents. My IT work for Circles continued, but my heart wanted more. “I am not just an IT guy,” my heart said. I felt drawn to leadership, and that’s led to the position of Board Chair. I am excited to be serving at this level, along with my fellow board members and staff, to focus on eradicating the conditions of poverty.

What are you currently working on?

As Circles USA’s Board Chair, I’m designing plans to recruit future Board members. I care about expanding the Board to reflect those we serve and the people who volunteer their time toward our mission. This is work that must be approached carefully so as not to have “diversity for diversity’s sake” but rather to have diversity because it is the right thing to do. We are seeking those best suited to serve on the Board because of their passion, attitude, and aptitude for our mission.

What’s most meaningful to you about Circles?

Circles is about family and community. I like to remind my colleagues on the Board that we are people first: we share our New and Goods along with our not so goods, bringing our whole selves to the table. I am proud of how everyone involved in Circles collaborates. We build friendships between Circle Leaders working their way out of poverty and volunteer Allies. We also work at the legislative level, speaking to officials on both sides of the aisle. It’s inspiring to be focused on ending poverty and building thriving communities.

~ Vince Gonzales, Board Chair of Circles USA and IT Director of Perinatal Associates of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)