How we have connected with people at Community Circles has changed considerably over the last 12 months, with remote working and zoom meetings becoming a regular part of our weeks. But the essence of Community Circles has remained, through our person-centred approaches we have ensured we kept the people we have worked with and their purposes at the heart of everything we’ve been doing.

Circles can, and do, flex and grow with the people involved and they work with the environment and local community with the goal of supporting people to do more of what matters to them. So, when we were contacted by our colleagues in Suffolk with the aim of supporting people well during COVID, we were keen to explore how Circles could work for them. Suffolk teams talked of wanting to offer a Circles approach to people being asked to self-isolate for short periods of time and indeed beyond this isolation period to consider what was important to people at both of these stages. These teams wanted to be able to understand Circles so they could, in turn, share the learning with local charitable organisations that they supported. 

As part of an online one-day training session we covered the foundations of the work we have been undertaking over the last few years, this included Circles of support built around an individual, not leaping to fix them but instead walking alongside people. We also explored Community Mapping and a couple of our person-centred thinking tools including the One Page Profile. Following this session, the team from Suffolk were to try coaching the organisations they supported using these Circles approaches to determine how they felt about putting it all into practice. We agreed a period of a couple of weeks after which time Circles and Suffolk would meet again to see how things were going. 

Last week that meeting went ahead, and the feedback from Suffolk colleagues was great. They felt the information they got from the training has incorporated really well into the ABCD approaches they already use. They had given their first two training sessions applying the learning from the training session and commented on how it was really well received. They love the simplicity of Community Circles, they said it’s great that we don’t use ‘servicey’ language when we speak, and this breaks down barriers. They have had positive feedback from their attendees already saying how much they appreciated their training session and have had further interest from a specific group for around 25 people who want to access the training. So, we have indeed flexed how we connect and share information, but the core of our practice remains one that can be applied to many different situations, areas and teams. By sharing our words, learning & knowledge with some we can reach many, some of whom we may never have met face to face. But these challenging times we have been living in have allowed us to connect and build community in so many ways.