We believe that an important tool in the toolbox necessary to get out and stay out of poverty is social capital!
Have you ever found yourself in a new situation, good or bad that you had no idea how to manage? You knew that you had to make a change but you had no idea how to maneuver this new environment? No idea what to do, or how to respond… uncomfortable, like an outlier? How did you figure it out? Did you Google it, read up, find some info online, collect resources from an info center? What if this new situation was to become your permanent reality? Would Google be enough?
I know that when that happened to me, at a time in my life when I knew I had to make a huge change…one that no one in my inner circle or community knew anything about or even understood. I thought “Hey I can be pretty resourceful…I can handle this!” However before long I began to feel stalled, stuck, unsure, confused and most devastatingly alone and desperate to feel connected to someone, anyone who could relate to what I was going through. I even contemplated clawing my way back to the crappy life I left behind…btw that did NOT work.
Fortunately what I found (at the end of my rope) was a “real-life” community of people who understood my struggle. And their compassion, openness and willingness to stand with me gave me what I needed, so that I could move myself forward.
What I found was, the #1 thing we all need…
Social capital in its simplest form is the ability to build and maintain trusting relationships with people outside our comfort zone.
So how does the idea of Social Capital fit in with the Circles initiative?
You know the adage, “People by from who they know, like and trust” – This includes “buy into”. And for those of us peddling social services, “helpful” resources and tools that can fix the problems of the world, this adage is one we need to be significantly mindful of.
The reality is, it does not matter how “great” your product is, if they don’t trust you they aren’t buying.
Plainly said, we need people who see us and are willing to stand with us through joy and pain, people willing to share in our human experience regardless of how “alike” we are. Only then will we truly believe they “get us”, we are willing to buy-in and we will know we belong.
(To hear more on the subject of social capital, where the concept originated and the global impact watch THIS!)
Circles is mindful of this. The Circles initiative is a supportive network of diverse individuals across the financial spectrum that focuses on building relationships of mutual trust and respect. It increases the quality and quantity of social capital for all its members, specifically those in poverty looking to reach financial self-sufficiency.
The authentic relationships of reciprocity empower those members who are in poverty to seek out new solutions and help them build a stable sustainable future they know they belong in.
We meet almost weekly, “leave our hats at the door”, share a meal like a family. We talk, ask questions and really listen. And most importantly we build authentic trusting relationships – we aren’t selling and everyone buys-in.
The longest standing Canadian Circle graduates between 15-20% of its participants a year, resulting in annual cost savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Add in the economic growth potential of the new, financially self-sufficient consumers and we have a true win-win-win!
Simcoe County Circles, although in the early stages, has already had a measurable impact on the lives of the Midland/Penetanguishene/Tiny/Tay residents and we look forward to initiating a Circle in every corner of Simcoe County.