CIRCUS foundation was formed in 1997 by Charles Armstrong. The organisation was conceived as a fluid, lightweight platform with few fixed points. Each project is self-contained and recruits a team of contributors suited to its objectives. CIRCUS has no employees.

The foundation has had a close connection with Michael Young who inspired much of its thinking. From 1999 to 2001 Charles Armstrong was mentored by Michael. During this time Charles taught Michael how to use a computer.