Developing a Mission

The Columbus, GA Poverty Reduction Lab explores high-impact strategies to create one connected regional system of services to equip families, with children 0-5 years of age, with the resources needed to achieve financial self-sufficiency, promote economic equity, and continually improve opportunities across generations.

The Columbus, GA Poverty Reduction Lab Leadership Team.

The Columbus, GA Poverty Reduction Lab Leadership Team.

Developing a mission is no easy task. When embarking on a new initiative, leaders and teams often have a general, big-picture idea of what they hope to achieve in the end. Refining a large idea into high-level processes that resonate with both the leaders and the recipients of the initiative requires transparent communication, a supportive environment where dissenting opinions can safely be voiced and navigated, and clarity around the “why” of the initiative. It takes a lot of work! Having a clear mission statement, though, is a way for organizations to share goals they are pursuing, highlight values that are important to them, and keep their attention on their desired outcomes.

CQIU believes it is important not only for organizations to have mission statements, but also to develop mission statements for individual projects, especially if they are large-scale initiatives. Having a clear mission gives team members clarity around the work they are doing, understand why they are doing it, and eliminate non-essential tasks that might try to creep into the workload. Taking the upfront time to develop a clear mission statement, with input from leaders and clients that are in involved, supports both positive processes and positive outcomes. It allows process owners to operate with efficiency— to systematically pursue the small steps needed to reach the main goal, and say no to distractions that are not supportive of the mission.

We were thrilled to facilitate the development of a mission statement and 90-day, 1-year, and 10-year SMART goals for our partners in Columbus, Georgia who are developing a Poverty Reduction Lab. This group has spent some time developing their working relationships with one another, acknowledging the different perspectives at the table (from client to executive), and understanding what each person hopes to accomplish.

CQIU Intensive in Dorchester County, Maryland


A group of leaders representing Dorchester County’s social services, including government agencies and community non-profits, spent two days with CQIU this week learning CQI methods, mapping services in their county, and identifying opportunities for improvement and increased collaboration. Dorchester County is the site of the second Poverty Reduction Lab in the United States. This site’s focus is on families with young children and supporting parents in job readiness (such as building professional and soft skills, tailoring resumes, and maintaining necessary documents) in order to fill vacant job positions in the area. It was a tremendous opportunity to work with this group of passionate and engaged leaders as they begin to develop a local system within which they hope to disrupt the poverty landscape. CQIU looks forward to supporting Circles USA and individual Poverty Reduction Lab sites as they aim to reduce poverty rates in communities across the United States, rather than simply manage the current caseloads.

CQIU Intensive in Columbus, GA

CQIU held a 3-day workshop in Columbus, GA to support Enrichment Services Program, Inc. in launching its Poverty Reduction Lab initiative. In collaboration with Circles USA, this workshop introduced CQI tools to the leadership team and supported them in identifying members of the community to invite to an upcoming Learning Session. The leadership team’s positive and enthusiastic attitudes were contagious! We look forward to actively supporting Enrichment Services Program with processes that will take place in Year 1, including participation in Circles USA’s trademarked Transformational Leadership Program, ongoing PDCA cycles, independent evaluation of procedures and outcomes, and nurturing personal well-being as each leader dives deeper into intensely serving the Columbus community. This Poverty Reduction Lab site is focusing on families with children ages 0-5 years old, and moving parents from job placement to career advancement.

Jamie displays the Transformational Leadership and Poverty Reduction mental models that drive the Poverty Reduction Lab framework.

Jamie displays the Transformational Leadership and Poverty Reduction mental models that drive the Poverty Reduction Lab framework.

The Start of Poverty Reduction Labs Across the United States

*Publisher’s Note: Content below has been adapted from Circles USA’s monthly public newsletter, initially distributed on November 16, 2018.

CQIU is excited to be partnering with Circles USA to embark upon a new initiative of introducing Poverty Reduction Labs across the United States! Each Lab will convene community leaders and organizations to transform how families are supported out of poverty by developing coherent, effective, and efficient pathways to economic stability.

The Poverty Reduction Lab model features a Transformational Leadership Program of executive coaching to enable managers to challenge individual and community belief systems about the possibility of eliminating poverty. The model also uses evidence-based Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) methods to identify and spread best practices for high-impact strategies, both locally and statewide, to shift from a poverty management system to a true poverty reduction system. The initiative was developed by Circles USA’s CEO Scott Miller and CQIU’s co-founder Darcey Terris, PhD.

The first Lab began this month in Columbus, GA under the leadership of Belva Dorsey, CEO of the Enrichment Services Program, Inc., with funding from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services’ program, State of Hope. In early January 2019, CQIU will lead a 3-day CQI intensive for the site, beginning the work of establishing a systematic and sustainable structure through which poverty reduction can occur.

More information about the Poverty Reduction Lab model can be found here.