What the Right and Left Understand about Poverty and

How We Can Work Together for Lasting Solutions

By Scott C. Miller, Founder of Circles USA, and Denise D. Rhoades, Hartsook Companies, Inc.

This book, co-authored by Scott C. Miller, founder of Circles USA and Circles ABQ Start-Up Team member, is a great introduction to what there is to do to end poverty. Here's an overview of what you can learn, chapter by chapter.


This book explores how we all can work together for the common cause of eradicating poverty. Simply defined:

  • Bootstraps are persons inclined to focus on what individuals can do to improve their own circumstances.

  • Benefits are persons inclined to focus on what society can do to improve the circumstances of groups of people.

Chapter 1: Going in Circles

“We do not have to agree on everything to do something, but we do need a framework of

understanding—or we will spend the next 50 years spinning our wheels” (37).

Chapter 2: Endgame

“Taking a Bootstraps and Benefits approach means starting with a shared endgame, not a hidden agenda—no matter how noble we believe our intentions and agendas to be.

To have a shared endgame, we establish specific goals, define the terms, measure the outcomes, and adapt the procedures based on the findings” (42).

Chapter 3: Assumptions and Allegations

“When we feel drawn into conflict, we can ask ourselves: “Am I fact finding or fault finding?” In a challenging moment, it may feel easier to find fault, but fanning conflict is more stressful in the long run, and it is not part of the Circles culture” (59).

Chapter 4: Targeting 200% of the FPG

“The Federal Poverty Guidelines is not an ideal standard for assessing economic stability, but it serves as a metric for calculating a family’s movement out of poverty. Circles uses the 200% target because it represents what most people really need to be self-sufficient, depending on the region of the country and whether people live in urban or rural communities” (67).

Chapter 5: Targeting a 10% Reduction in Poverty

“The endgame of Circles is to develop a critical mass of Circles around the country that are

committed to reducing poverty by 10% in their area by helping Circle Leaders move toward 200% of the FPG” (77).

Chapter 6: The Cliff Effect

“The Cliff Effect represents one of the biggest barriers for individuals striving to move out of

poverty. It creates a phantom workforce where individuals work fewer hours or below their

potential because benefits from assistance programs drop off at a faster rate than increases in earned income” (84).

Chapter 7: About Circles

“Circles USA is an initiative with 70 chapters in over 20 states and parts of Canada, and it is still growing. Circles offers a unique relationship-based strategy that engages the entire community to move from poverty management to collaborative ownership of the solutions to poverty” (97).

Chapter 8: Begin the End of Poverty

“If you are ready to take the next step to end poverty in your community one family at a time, we invite you to join us” (112).

If you'd like to read the entire book, you can order a copy here:


Training is now underway, as all 26 Ally applicants were emailed their online training access codes last week. Scott Miller and Candace Sestric will be facilitating in-person debrief sessions in the Labyrinth Building on the ABQ CSL campus, after each training module, starting on June 21 at 4:00 PM.

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HELPNM Partners with New Poverty Reduction Non-Profit, Circles® ABQ

Albuquerque, NM, April 15, 2021: A program to help lift families out of poverty is launching in Albuquerque and getting some significant start-up help from HELP NEW MEXICO, INC. (HELPNM). The pilot program of Circles ABQ starts with 10 local families this spring.

Families chosen for the program take a 12-week course on life and financial skills. After that, participants are matched with community volunteers, who serve as allies and mentors. The teams then meet weekly, with dinner and childcare provided (once COVID protocols allow) for an 18-month program. The other 79 Circles communities in the US and Canada have been meeting virtually throughout the pandemic.

Circles USA founder and Albuquerque resident Scott Miller said the program has had good results: “If you’ve been with us for 24 months, your income has gone up, on average, $11,306, and your government assistance has, cumulatively, gone down $26,688.”

Annaliza Gourneau, Vice President of the Office of Strategy and Community Engagement for HELPNM, adds: “Circles ABQ is the most recent strategic partner that HELPNM has aligned with to further our mission of empowering families through education and employment. Lending a hand up for working families is what HELPNM has been doing for 56 years throughout the state.”

Circles ABQ is currently seeking volunteers and recruiting participants from families with children enrolled at Inez Elementary School, with the assistance of Rachelle Ford, Community School Coordinator, Children’s Choice.


HELPNM has collectively improved the lives of many New Mexicans for over 56 years.

Through 25 offices across the state and with more than 200 employees, HELPNM works diligently to change lives and improve the communities that the agency serves. They focus on six pillars of service that includes varied programming for Employment, Education and Cognitive Development, Income and Asset Building, Housing, Health and Social/Behavioral Development, Civic Engagement and Community Involvement. HELPNM provides a delivery strategy that produces high levels of integration.

Circles® ABQ, sponsored by the Albuquerque Center for Spiritual Living, is a new chapter of Circles® USA, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide opportunities that inspire and equip families and communities to resolve poverty and thrive. Circles ABQ’s vision is that everyone has enough money, meaning, and friends to thrive. For more information, contact Julie Cason (831) 915-0879.

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