Circles® has drawn national attention for helping families out of poverty and inspiring communities to commit to new long-term solutions for addressing this persistent issue. In January of 2007, Move the Mountain Leadership Center launched the Circles® Campaign. What started as a discussion group between welfare recipients and social workers on what is required for a family to successfully journey out of poverty, has now become a national movement involving over a thousand families and thousands of volunteers around the U.S. and in Canada.
In August of 2011, Move the Mountain transitioned the leadership of the National Circles® Campaign to Think Tank, Incorporated. Think Tank, Inc. had been Move the Mountain’s training division since 2009 and has lead a regional campaign in Ohio since 2007.
Currently there are over 1700 low income Circle Leaders who have participated in an evaluation process which includes tracking of personal income, education, assets and social networks over time. Early results show positive gains that are being made by Circle Leaders across the country.
Circles® asserts that in order for families with low income to improve their situation, they must have:
Circle Leaders are reporting an 89% increase in the number of people that they can count on for support after being involved in Circles® for one year, demonstrating that social capital is being built.
In January 2010, Esther Gonzalez made the decision to no longer live in poverty. This decision led her to become involved in Northwest Florida’s Circles® initiative. Esther was underemployed and had been just barely getting by for quite some time. Through Circles®, Esther was given the opportunity to investigate the impact poverty has had on her life, assess her resources and create a plan to achieve her dreams. As relationships developed between Esther and her Allies, she started to believe in her dreams again. The Allies provided support for Esther to achieve her goals and soon Esther was able to obtain her license in Life Insurance & Annuities.
Esther notes, "Before I started Circles®, I had already given up on my dreams and thought I was destined to live in poverty. Circles® opened my eyes and restored my belief that if I set goals for myself, along with help from my Allies, I can achieve them." Today, Esther is working and saving for college through an Individual Development Account. She is also giving to others in her community impacted by poverty by volunteering at a homeless shelter and being a lead voice for Circles® through the local Speakers Bureau.