Community Circles want to help communities welcome everyone. We believe that Circles can make an important contribution to this and that anyone who can benefit and wants one should have one.
We have been developing a strategy which will allow our charity to stay small and lean while supporting others to achieve a big expansion in the scale and scope of Circles. We are one of a growing number of initiatives offering ways of preventing some needs arising, bringing community assets much more into play, releasing local entrepreneurial spirit and engaging people and communities as “co-producers” of sustainable support. We have been working on ways of growing Circles without being commissioned to do so in the formal sense.
Some of the elements of the approach we are developing are:
- Share our methods and skills with others – supporting people to use them at no or very low cost where possible. We want to be a small organisation with a big impact so we have been developing an approach that transfers our approaches, tools and knowledge to people and partners. These might range from a family who want to develop a Circle with one of their members, through to large organisations wanting to embed at scale. We have handbooks, e-learning, webinar programmes, and communications via social media, video guides and examples etc. Much of this we can share free and for those wanting a little more support, via our low cost membership. We hope this will mean that anyone can access the type and level of support that works for them, with cost only increasing as the operating scale and support needs do. We are also developing a network of Friends of Community Circles who we will support to share information about Circles with local people and groups and support their spread
- Work in partnership with community groups, local charity organisations or service providers. Key here is to transfer and embed methods and skills including approaches to sustainability including via peer mentoring and support. A current example is a five year Lottery funded partnership with Age UK Doncaster tackling loneliness amongst local older people. We jointly fund raised the programme and Community Circles is now mentoring the Connectors employed by Age UK
- Develop new models of volunteering and corporate social responsibility. The ask of volunteer facilitators is only about 2 hours a month, they receive high quality training providing transferable skills and responsibility in the Circle is shared. With employers we want to make our ask more reciprocal than simply accepting money – supporting local employees to develop skills transferrable to their work.
- Embed Circles within other initiatives. We have a partnership with Well-being Teams which offer an alternative to traditional homecare via small self-managed local staff teams – Circles are embedded to help people to build and sustain interests and connections rather than limit the offer to basic care tasks
- Partner with commissioners who share our vision (but not be traditionally commissioned). An example of this would be where enlightened commissioners like Wigan MBC use innovation fund approaches to stimulate change. We have a three year partnership to embed Circles in local care homes – where we agree the outcomes sought but where the relationship is explicitly that of partners
If you are interested in supporting the spread of Community Circles through any of the above approaches please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.