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LiveDifferent Circles program 4 min read

A different approach to youth empowerment puts a circle around kindness

Faced with finding a new way to reach youth during the pandemic, LiveDifferent's Circles program was created to cultivate connection in challenging times and beyond.

A circle is made from a line of continuous connection. The kind of connection that was disrupted for many during the pandemic.


That’s when LiveDifferent’s Circles program began to take shape – in fact, it was created in 2020 out of a necessity to find a new way to reach youth during a period when people of all ages were experiencing the heavy effects of disconnection and isolation.


“Isolation only exacerbates the issues that youth are facing. Youth need to feel seen, understood and connected as they navigate life’s challenges and that’s what our programming has been able to provide in the midst of COVID,” says Johnny Henderson, Director of School and Community Programs. “We unpack these important values together while creating space for them to feel connected to – and supported by – their peers.”


LiveDifferent is a Canadian charity passionate about making a difference in people’s lives through youth empowerment presentations, humanitarian build programs, and leadership development opportunities.


The need for their Circles program is clear. Take a recent University of Calgary study that looked at data from more than 80,000 youth around the world and found depression and anxiety symptoms have doubled in children and adolescents compared to pre-pandemic. Or data from Toronto’s SickKids Hospital that showed 70 per cent of 520 adolescents reported clinically significant depressive symptoms during the second wave (February to March 2021).


Unprecedented times call for a different approach


Before the pandemic hit, LiveDifferent’s youth-empowerment programming in Canada had centred around teams of young adults travelling across the country, running presentations, workshops, and two-day programming in schools and communities.


Now, through online, live-streamed assemblies, peer-mentorship programs, and in-person school tours, LiveDifferent Circles helps young people explore important values and build stronger relationships – leaving them more compassionate, resilient, and hopeful.


“The pandemic really forced us to focus on our ‘why’ and our approach to youth development. Circles has helped us bring even more emphasis to relationship building, authenticity, youth storytelling and peer support within our programming,” says Henderson. “All of this innovation and refining of our programming approach will be carried forward as we head back to our in-person events and workshops.”


To date over 10,000 youth have participated in over 20,000 hours of Circles programming.


“I think the program was the most impactful because it actually got you to think deeper about what you’re doing,” says Hannah, a youth participant. “Like for me, in my generation we’re always told we need to do better, that we need to make a difference. But nobody’s ever broken it down like the way that this program has. I’ve learned that this is the skill set that I need to actually make a difference.”


3 different circles, 1 thread of kindness


“Our motto is ‘Life is about people’ and doubling down on authentic human connection and relationship has been key for us these last two years,” says Henderson. “LiveDifferent will only continue to grow in the ways in which we do this as we strive to be active young people in compassion and kindness.”


There are three types of Circles, all with the goal of strengthening connections, exploring lifestyle values, and activating people in kindness.

  • Peer mentorship: Groups are guided over several weeks through six engaging video episodes to unpack core values, create meaningful conversations, and inspire students to take action in their communities.
  • Online assemblies: Participants explore important values and mindsets in an interactive, virtual setting.
  • School tours: A nod to LiveDifferent’s previous youth empowerment model, a team of young speakers and role models travels to cities across the country to deliver workshops and presentations.


Connection for the young – and young at heart 


With a strong focus on relationships and human connection with both clients and team members, CWB Financial Group understands the importance of empowering youth through programs like this. The organization is a proud financial supporter of Circles and a partner of LiveDifferent – and also sees the benefits of the program for its people.


That’s because while Circles was developed for youth, it’s also effective with adults. In fact, members of CWB’s Wealth Management team got to experience this firsthand when they participated virtually in their own Circle.


Paul Robinson, Manager, Operations Client Service Administration, says the one-hour program was empowering and broke down barriers through open discussion and sharing of personal experiences.


“It created personal connections within our national-based team that weren’t there previously,” he says. “Focusing on being your own authentic person and acceptance of your self is crucial for building trust with others and the Circle helped foster this.


Having seen the power of LiveDifferent in person and virtual programs, I feel like this type of programming is vitally important for Canadian youth, especially when you consider the challenges the past two years have presented. I’m proud to work for a company that supports these initiatives for youth and see this as an investment in our future.”


Try it with your team: complimentary Authenticity Circle


Team building that connects team members to the charities your business supports and each other – has lots of benefits. Try this complimentary Circles session on the topic of Authenticity with your team. While it was developed for youth, it also works well with adults. The session includes access to video content and discussion questions.