I’ve been involved with Community Circles since 2012, from our first conversation with a group of inspiring, passionate people, keen to make circles available for anyone through to having Connectors in post from Torbay to Dumfries (and internationally too, with our colleagues developing circles in Canada and New Zealand)
Our aim is for circles to develop at scale and for anyone who wants one to have one. In September, we’ll be launching our range of resources from free, Do It Yourself circles, a membership site, a range of bespoke training, right through to our franchise offer, see Martin’s blog for more details
This year has seen Community Circles develop with Wellbeing Teams and for myself and Helen Smith, beginning to develop circles at scale across care homes in Wigan.
So, for our new areas of working, new partners and interested people, here’s how circles work and what can be achieved…
Arthur is living with dementia and has recently moved into a care home. Arthur and his wife Doreen, heard about Community Circles from a member of staff and contact Cath, the local Connector, to find out more. Over tea and biscuits, Arthur, Doreen and Cath chat together, thinking about what a circle could help Arthur with and the practicalities of how a circle works.
Cath explains that the circle, made up of family, friends and neighbours, meet once a month, at a time convenient for everyone, to share ideas and develop actions for keeping Arthur involved in whatever matters to him. Each circle is matched up with a facilitator, someone who can volunteer a couple of hours each month, to come to the circle meetings, supporting the conversation that leads to action.
Through chatting, we learn of Arthur’s love for DIY and gardening and agree that the purpose of the circle should be about keeping Arthur involved with these hobbies.
Cath thinks about the facilitators she has available and considering shared interests and availability, introduces Seren to Arthur and Doreen. Together they chat about the people in Arthur’s life and who he would like to invite to his circle and also what would make Arthur most comfortable at the circle meetings.
The first date is arranged for Arthur’s circle, with Doreen, his wife, daughter Donna, friend Kath and Seren the facilitator, also supported by Cath, the Connector, for the first few meetings.
The circle meetings are really relaxed get togethers; we start by sharing some good news, which helps everyone get to know each other, and then think about ideas for keeping Arthur involved with gardening and DIY.
One of the first ideas was to ask someone who knew a bit more about DIY than the rest of us. At the home where Arthur lives, Paul the facilities officer comes every Friday to do the maintenance checks of the home. We chatted with Paul and asked if there were things that Arthur could help with. Arthur now spends each Friday with Paul, helping complete the water checks and other maintenance jobs within his home. Arthur gets a real sense of pride and purpose in his role, which really supports his wellbeing.
Arthur has been involved in other projects, sanding and repainting a rocking chair, to be donated to a local nursery, joining in with the gardening and is currently looking forward to the new shed being built where plenty of DIY projects are being planned.
Arthur is continuing to share his knowledge and expertise about gardening and is helping me with ideas and plants for my garden.
Each month Arthur’s circle meets together, reflects on the actions from the previous month, thinks about what has worked well or what hasn’t worked, and plans actions for the next month, keeping the focus on what matters to Arthur around gardening and DIY.
So, as well as keeping Arthur connected to the things that matter to him, there are other benefits as a result of the circle.
Circle meetings are a regular opportunity for everyone to get together and share ideas, it’s a way of working in partnership with family and friends. While each circle has a purpose and conversations focus around this, there is a very holistic nature to the circle which helps us to think about overall wellbeing.
Of Arthur’s circle meetings, Kath says “My favourite bit of the circle is that we just chat and the most fab ideas come from it.” Donna says, “I like the circle meetings, it gives us all an opportunity to find the best ways to keep Dad busy and what he enjoys the most”
Seren says “I enjoy the circle meetings and think it’s great that Arthur can have his own say about what he wants to do. The meetings are relaxed and as a group we come up with the best ideas for supporting Arthur well.” Doreen agrees that the circle meetings are great, encouraging everyone to share ideas.
Even though I’m no longer working at the care home where Arthur lives, I’ve continued to be involved with Arthur’s circle; it’s a very intimate gathering being part of someone’s life through a circle and lovely that relationships have developed. I know that making a contribution and connecting with others benefits my own wellbeing and I’m sure I gain more than I give. Arthur is great company, I appreciate his gardening advice and that together, we are learning to take better selfies!
Last Saturday Arthur’s family, together with my family went to the annual disco from my daughter’s dance school. Lovely to spend some social time together and know that Arthur really is living well with dementia.
Community Circles Connector