At their January 2021 board meeting, the Steelcase Foundation board of trustees approved a three-year $75,000 grant ($25,000 annually) to support Streams of Hope to increase capacity of its CirclesGR program. The grant will support three cohorts of Leaders for 18 months through programming and support services.

CirclesGR, part of Circles USA, is an evidence-based national initiative to reduce poverty through multi-generational curriculum and meaningful relationship building between Circles Leaders (participants) and Allies (mentors). Leaders learn and practice strategic decision-making, increase their social capital by developing connections to resources, and build critical skills in financial literacy, leadership, and job readiness. Allies are trained to provide support, encouragement, and act as accountability partners to ensure Leaders meet their personal goals along the way, and in turn helps middle- and upper-income volunteers understand the root causes of poverty and the systemic barriers facing many of their Leaders in achieving economic mobility.

The program starts with 12 weeks of leadership training, followed up 18-months of targeted support, pairing Leaders with two Allies each to help them in accomplishing financial, personal, and employment goals. During this time, CirclesGR hosts community conversations (called Big Views) to allow Leaders an opportunity to use their voice and share with Allies and each other about their journey and the barriers they have faced while trying to improve their life for their family. Throughout the programming, children of Leader and Allies engage in similar age-appropriate programming to further build relationships across socioeconomic divides and enhance the Circles community.

At the end of the programming, Leaders typically see

  • Earned income increase by 50 percent;
  • Debt decrease by 50 percent; and
  • Professional/personal network increase by 200 percent.

We’re excited to partner with CirclesGR for the next three years as it looks to support its next three cohorts of Leaders in our community.