A blog by Ruth Gorman

I wanted to write about the work that Community Circles do from both my own personal perspective and from an organisational perspective.  I have personally been involved in circles for many years and we have provided training in the past for circle facilitators in IAS. The added structure and support that comes from new processes that Community Circles are developing feels much more effective and I am feeling optimistic.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about Community circles through the lens of optimism.

‘The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns:

the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious of the rose’

At tonight’s circle meeting, Annie’s dad Karl described how the Circle had supported him during the last 12 months through some dark times in his life. It helped him to see that we are all there to support him and Annie and that it felt good. Together, we had supported him to take some difficult decisions that he would not have taken without the circle, and now Karl is able to identify the positives, even though there have been moments of real challenge.

I think that this illustrates beautifully how having faith in all circumstances can help keep us going. I believe that when people come together for a common purpose and are clear about what they are there to do, great obstacles can be overcome. Naturally, we have encountered some barriers as a circle but if we don’t have the answers to all issues, we always know others within our networks who can help. Tonight when we finished with our closing round, it was also great to reflect on the things that have happened for Annie and her family to spur us on for the future challenges. There is a real sense of belief that we can make things happen.

Of course, seeing some positive outcomes early on has helped the circle to keep going through the barriers that we have encountered. However, I think we achieved early successes because we focused on how to overcome the problems, and not the problems themselves. It is all too easy, especially in the current climate, for us to create a blame culture, and make huge assumptions about what people are thinking and doing. At Annie’s circle tonight, we acknowledged the stress that others are currently facing. This was turned into a positive outcome by agreeing to invite the person to the circle and explore possibilities with them collectively and Chris, a circle member, said that the circle that evening had felt sharp, organised and positive.

I have realised throughout this process that hope is resilient. It would be very easy to fall at the first hurdle and families really struggle to navigate the system. We have found that with Annie’s circle some easy but inadequate solutions could have been implemented. Thankfully the strength of the circle and belief that we will find the right solution has prevailed. The best long term outcomes take time to get right.

It’s so great to be involved in a circle where we are helping to support Annie with some life changing decisions. It gives us all a real drive and passion to know that we are all hopingto make Annie’s future bright.

When I looked at what I had written, I started to wonder how the positive attributes of a circle manifested in my organisation. I remembered that we recently had training delivered by Michelle and Cath Barton, the team really enjoyed it and came away raving about how positive they felt about the training and could see the real difference Circles can make in people’s lives. The buzz was wonderful to witness. Identifying the positive in the work that our organisation does, made us feel good.

We too need to have faith in all circumstances. At a time of challenges, added pressures, and cuts, it’s easy for organisations to focus on doom and gloom. Putting our belief in a process that works and giving people other things to put their energy into is vital. Demonstrating that as an organisation, we support and are willing to invest time and energy into this, is so important for our social conscience.

Seeing positive outcomes is hugely important. We all know that circles can add another layer of quality to any organisation, I was really delighted to hear that the staff from IAS were positive and could see the benefit of facilitating a circle for someone in another organisation. Not all providers are confident enough to do this as they are worried about criticism from outside. To me, this is a real added quality that can and should be demonstrated.

Over the last few years, one of the organisations major focus has been on the positive aspects of Just Enough Support, this has worked fantastically to motivate people rather than to moan about how difficult things are. People have used Just Enough Support tofocus on how to overcome the problems, rather than only see the issues. I see Circles in a similar way, the person we have invested in as the co-ordinator is a typical glass half-full woman.

People all need long term sustainable relationships in their lives and people who are not paid to be there. Circles support this to happen and can ease pressure on providers and local authorities. Hope is resilient, we will continue to ensure that we are focused on people having a great life that is rich in relationships. Ensuring that the people we support as well as the staff have the right support is essential. We hope to give them a brighter future too.