Relationships are at the heart of our wellbeing and our purpose at Community Circles is to help people do more of what matters to them, by developing a circle of support around a person and connecting people through shared interests.  We walk alongside people, not leaping to ‘fix’ them but exploring what matters to someone, sharing ideas of what we can do that makes a difference and creating spaces for shared interests and opportunities where relationships can flourish.  We support our colleagues to bring their whole selves to work, using their gifts and passions to build authentic relationships, have joy within their role and support their wellbeing.

Our way of working is underpinned by the theories and practices of social pedagogy which focusses on wellbeing, learning and growth, working alongside individuals in a holistic way to support them to fulfil their potential, and with communities to enable participation and inclusion.  Social pedagogy is not only what we dobut how we do it, a way of working which flexes and adapts, depending on the individual and circumstance, to support positive change and wellbeing.  Equality is at the heart of social pedagogy, not a theory to implement or to do to people, rather an approach that supports power with, not power over, that influences not only our work but the way we live.  

Supporting ‘power with’ can be seen in the use of the Common Third, a social pedagogical concept where an activity is used to develop relationships.  The activity could be anything…baking, playing tennis, pebble painting… and is the catalyst to draw people together, an opportunity to learn side by side without an expert or teacher, a space to be together as equals where relationships can flourish.  The Common Third also requires us to bring our whole selves, to be authentic and self-reflective, sharing our personal selves to support relationships to develop.  

Here Sharon shares her reflections about starting a sketch group; an initial reluctance to ‘teach others’ but creating the space for shared interests and an opportunity to learn together has led to new friendships and new interests.

Sketch with me – the absolute beginners way 

‘I am not an expert’ – this is something I find myself saying when I talk about sketching. So, when the opportunity came to host a sketch group through our Circles Connected Facebook Group, my starting point was ‘I am not an expert but come with me and we will learn together’   

It all just began with a conversation as part of an ‘Action for Happiness’ online session where a small group of us sat and chatted about the things we would like to do more of. I mentioned that I had bought a book called ‘How to Sketch’ as I would like to learn the basics so I could sketch more day to day. After we all shared our wishes, we encouraged each other to show our progress in our chosen interest the following week on our Circles Connected Facebook page. 

I decided to make a short video of the first lesson from my sketch book – it was how to draw a sphere. As the post went out a few people started to comment on how they would love to learn to sketch too and asked when the sketch lessons were starting! I quicky added ‘I am not an expert’ but that I would be happy to come and learn alongside those interested and we would see where the journey took us. Some people could not be part of the live zoom sessions so I also offered a video of each week’s sketch so they could still be part of this learning together. 

As each Monday’s sessions came around, we tackled a new challenge, our drawings did not always look like those in the book, it’s fair to say we had a few disasters. But we also had many moments of brilliance where we began to take a real sense of pride in what we had produced and were adding personalised touches to our work. We have laughed, chatted and shared our sketches on the Facebook group, and a couple of months on, and 27 sketches later, we ended our sketching journey. 

But good things have come from this way of working. Some of our sketchers wanted to continue to meet and learn together with me so we have now started our beginners’ watercolours class together and our friendships have flourished.  One of the ladies who regularly joined us for sketch group talks of how she shares the techniques we learnt together with people from other art groups. She added that there is often an expectation at these groups that you will already know about things such as perspective and so this is not included in the tuition. So, starting from the point of ‘I am not an expert’ in my opinion is not a bad way to get going.