About Circles

Circles™ is a supportive, intentional, reciprocal, befriending relationship comprised of a Circle Leader, a family working to get out of poverty, and two to four community Allies, middle class people who are willing to befriend the family and support their way out of poverty.

The Circles™ Campaign promotes the vision to end poverty in the County of Lambton by:

  •  Building intentional relationships across class and race lines
  • Identifying barriers that keep people in poverty
  • Implementing innovative solutions
  • Creating effective partnerships to help families
  • Changing the goals of the system to support families and economic change

Circle Leaders are required to complete a step-by-step, life-planning workbook, Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, that explores the hidden rules of economic class and the impact poverty has had on their lives. Individuals examine their own lives, identify their individual needs and create new future stories. Participants complete a self assessment, making plans to build supports and resources that will assist in reaching specific career, educational or employment goals.

Circle Allies are required to attend Bridges Out of Poverty – Strategies for Professionals and Communities, a one-day workshop based on the innovative work of educator Dr. Ruby Payne, PhD which will help foster a deeper understanding of the challenges and strengths of people living in poverty. Delivered by Certified Bridges Trainer, Gayle Montgomery, this training helps people from all economic classes to work together to create opportunities for success. The training will:

  • Examine the impact of poverty on families
  • Explore the hidden rules of economic class
  • Identify ways to improve relationships
  • Develop new tools to better address individuals’ needs

The History of Lambton's Circles™ Initiative

In 2006 County of Lambton staff prepared a report about child poverty that reviewed various local socio-economic data including housing, income and child care. It was determined that 1.09 out of every six children (18.16%) in Sarnia-Lambton live below the Low Income Cut Off  (LICO) for the area, consistent with the provincial average. The Child Poverty Task Force was formed in early 2007 to reduce this concern. The task force determined that the Circles™ Initiative is the most appropriate model to address reducing child poverty in the County of Lambton.

Circles™ is an initiative of the Move the Mountain Leadership Center in Ames, Iowa. CirclesTM initiatives have three primary goals:

  1. Invite the community to join the human service system in helping people out of poverty.
  2. Inspire and equip the community to eradicate poverty.
  3. Develop genuine and lasting relationships across socioeconomic class lines with an intention to facilitate low-income people moving permanently out of poverty.

In September 2008, Lambton County Council approved the implementation of Circles TM as the community based model for reducing the number of people living in poverty in the County of Lambton. 

Lambton's CirclesTM initiatives was launched in January of 2009 making Sarnia Lambton the first site in Canada to implement a CirclesTM initiative.