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Skip Navigation LinksSimcoe County > Ontario Works > How to Become a Circles Ally

How to Become a Circles Ally

August 8, 2017

Are you looking for a great way to give back in your community?

Are you looking for a volunteer opportunity that will give you the chance to help change people’s lives for the better? To help individuals and families reach their ultimate potential and as a result strengthen the community you care for? Do you see the effects of poverty and wish there was something you could do to help support the members of your community who are struggling?

I know you recognize that poverty is a systemic issue and as you learned in your Bridges Out of Poverty training, blaming people for being poor is not going to solve this problem. You know that those who are struggling in low-income, who are desperate to escape the negative cycle of poverty, are looking for a hand-up not a hand-out. You see the gaps, you have knowledge that can help, you are willing to commit your time and you are not quite sure what to do next.

Welcome to Simcoe County Circles!

The goal of Circles:

We also believe no one should live in poverty and that families and communities can take charge of their destinies. That if given the right tools and support, economic stability can be achieved. Through an approach that combines strategies and services along with the individualized support of our dedicated staff, volunteers (you) and the resources of organizations and communities, we can create an environment that educates, empowers and equips our community members to move up and out of poverty successfully.

Circles happens through a high-impact, 18-24 month voluntary strategy, designed to:
  • Provide practical and emotional support.
  • Assist with complex issues and solve problems together.
  • Increase the “social capital” of people living in low-income situations.
  • Share with the community the very real barriers holding people in poverty.
  • Walk with people in poverty and support positive changes in their lives.
  • Put into practice the theories learned in Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead.
What is Circles?
Circles is a community-based initiative that creates relationships across economic boundaries. It connects people of low-income who have attended the Getting Ahead program with people of middle and upper-income who have attended a full-day Bridges Out of Poverty workshop, on a weekly basis, in a casual and purposeful way.

At each meeting, all Circles members volunteer to enjoy a meal together, connect, share and learn from each other. Members form long-lasting authentic relationships built on mutual respect and increase the social capital for all involved.

definition: social capital is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.

Circles is a community of people in varying states of economic stability brought together in intentional supportive relationships of reciprocity composed of:

Leaders: Individual or family working to get out of poverty who has completed the Getting Ahead workshop. Leaders are program participants who provide grassroots feedback about the multiple systemic barriers that keep people stuck in poverty, while building their own resources and moving toward the goal of sustainable employment.

Allies: Middle class individuals who have completed a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop and are willing to engage in an authentic, intentional  friendships built on mutual respect with the Leader (and their family).

Circles Coach: The Circles Coach supports Circles Leaders and Allies in fine-tuning personalized action plans. The Circles coach is a paid position that has received specialized training to support and manage the Circles program.


What happens at a Circles meeting?

Circles meetings are held 3 times a month. Allies and Leaders (along with their families) come together to share a meal and discuss specific topics or host a guest speaker that is relevant to the Leaders. Circles meetings are based on the premise that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship built on mutual respect and as such, a large amount of time and energy is spent on developing positive and reciprocal relationships between all of the Circles members. Circles is a “do with NOT a do to” support group. Benefits are experienced by all members, not just those who are executing their plan for change.

A typical monthly Circles Meeting schedule:
Week 1
6:00 – 8:00 pm Shared meal & group meeting: Open or small group discussions and/or possible guest speaker
Week 2
6:00 – 8:00 pm Shared meal & group meeting: Open or small group discussions and/or possible guest speaker
Week 3
Independent meeting: Allies and the Leaders (who are matched up) connect socially, face-to-face or by phone.
Week 4
6:00 – 8:00 pm Shared meal & Big View Meeting where self-advocacy and large scale community issues are discussed. Outside community members and/or organization representatives with knowledge or influence regarding the topic being discussed may be invited to join the Big View discussion.

The time commitment for an Ally is a minimum of 2 meetings per month over 18-24 months

(NB Circles does not hold meetings in July and August)

How to become an Ally

Simcoe County Circles is launching their first Circle in the Midland/ Penetanguishene/ Tiny/ Tay region November 2nd, 2017 and we are looking for a minimum of 10 Allies to participate this amazing community building experience.

The North Circle is scheduled to be held:

6:00 – 8:00 pm
Georgian Bay District Secondary School
865 Hugel Ave, Midland
(date, time and location is subject to change)


  • Attend a FULL-DAY (6hr) Bridges Out of Poverty Workshop.
  • Willing to commit to 2 meetings/month for a period of at least 18-24 months.
  • Able to attend a 1 hour Circles Ally Orientation Meeting (Date and Time TBD).
  • Deep desire to be a part of this transformational community initiative.
  • Understand and accept that all Circles members “leave their hats at the door” and are open to building reciprocal relationships with all members.

Become an Ally for the

Simcoe County Circles – North Circle

Contact Simcoe County Circles

HERE and get registered today!

Dionne Thomson
Simcoe County Circles Coordinator
51 Dunlop Street, Penetanguishene