Poverty Reduction Labs

Would you rather manage poverty or end it?

A Poverty Reduction Lab is not a building — it is a coordinated community effort to examine and improve social services so more and more families can escape poverty.

Right now, communities tend to “manage” poverty. Under a poverty management system, rates remain unchanged or might increase. But when communities shift to a mindset of reducing poverty, the cycle of generational poverty is disrupted, families become self-sufficient, and the entire community experiences revitalization resulting from decreased spending on social services, a stronger tax base, and increased economic development.

Some communities that are familiar with the Circles USA model want to move beyond a Circles chapter, establishing a Poverty Reduction Lab, which will map out and analyze all of the social service programs in their community. Most often, such an analysis has never been completed in their community due to the complexity of public benefit requirements and processes. Studying your community can reveal enormous insights. The goal of a Poverty Reduction Lab is to identify and then develop more-effective ways to move families in a community into self-sufficiency.

“A river of money flows through government each year. Yet the many programs... are often fragmented, not integrated into local communities, not well connected to local employers, and the performance outcomes are rarely measured effectively. The result is wasted human potential and wasted taxpayer dollars.”
— Gary MacDougal, Circles USA supporter and trustee for the Russell Sage Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.T. Grant Foundation

In a Poverty Reduction Lab, teams of volunteers are recruited from representative government agencies, local nonprofits, and community organizations. The teams also include people receiving social services.

Volunteers receive specialized training, including the Circles USA Transformational Leadership Program. The program combines personal coaching, peer-to-peer support, and quarterly retreats — all of which are facilitated online.

With this training, the teams that make up the Poverty Reduction Lab identify service gaps and better integrate existing services to make them more user-friendly and efficient. The lab tests new ways to deliver services. And after best practices are established, they can be shared in other communities to move more families out of poverty.


Contact us to learn more about creating a Poverty Reduction Lab in your community.