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.

Communities typically “manage” poverty. Under a poverty management system, services are disbursed to provide short-term relief instead of long-term stability. 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. Results of a true poverty reduction system include decreased spending on social services, a stronger tax base, and increased economic development.

Poverty Reduction Labs map out and analyze all of the social service programs in a community. The goal is to identify and develop more effective ways to move families into self-sufficiency.

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

“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

Teams receive specialized training through Circles USA’s Transformational Leadership Curriculum to develop a vision and plan for reducing poverty in the community through high-impact strategies. The process includes four stages: articulating a vision, aligning with relevant people and organizations, learning whatever is necessary to pursue the vision, and embedding the vision into policy. Poverty Reduction Labs combine personal coaching, peer-to-peer support, and annual conferences — all of which are facilitated online.

Given COVID-19, our Poverty Reduction Labs are partnering with Community Economics Lab/CELab, a think tank based in Albuquerque, to focus on economic development and connect short-term relief with long-term revitalization. The partnership is creating resources to equip low-income workers for the emerging economy and develop relationships with employers to promote strong job pathways.

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