Essence – the basic, real and invariable nature of a thing or its significant features

At Community Circles we set out with the aim of developing circles of support at scale so that everyone can benefit.  We knew circles of support had been around for a long time and led to great things for people but weren’t available to everyone and we wanted to change that.

We’ve been moving towards that aim for the past five years; partnered with a variety of organisations, celebrated successes, overcome challenges, seen great things achieved for people and wider ripples that have had a positive impact on communities.

We’ve learnt a huge amount

As an organisation we want to make sure we continue to evolve, listen and learn and act on what we hear

All Circles are different because they are made up of unique individuals with different histories and experiences and some people already have connections whilst others need to be developed.

As Connectors, we have stories and learning to share, and recognised at our recent Community of Practice the variety within the Circles that we were supporting.

So what is the essence of a Community Circle?  What’s at the heart of every Circle?

People, conversations, ideas, making a change, achieving something…

A Circle is based on what matters to the person;

  • What do you want to do more of?
  • What can we help with?
  • What did you enjoy that you don’t do anymore?
  • What’s not so good that you’d like to change?
  • How can we help your wellbeing?


The person is at the centre of their Circle, with those who love and care for them, supported by a volunteer

  • Circles are empowering
  • The person is in control
  • They give people a voice
  • Circles focus on ‘with’ the person, not doing things ‘to’ a person


Everyone has something to contribute

  • An idea, an action, a connection
  • Who knows who, who knows what
  • Natural ideas that flourish when people come together to make a difference
  • Our communities are rich in gifts and assets


Circles help people feel more connected

  • To loved ones, family and friends
  • To their neighbours and local communities
  • To people with shared interests


Circles make changes

  • What is heard is acted on
  • Circle members agree to do something, to take on an action


Circles use tools and ways of recording information to support the conversation

  • Thinking about what’s working and not working in someone’s life
  • What does this information tell us about what we can do to change things
  • What next? How do we keep making progress?


Though each Circle may be different, at the heart of the Circle are these elements

Here’s how the essence shines through at Irene’s Circle;

Julie, the volunteer, chats with Irene and her family, lovely conversation getting to know each other and sharing stories of favourite times and shared experiences.  Through chatting, over a good cup of tea, we learn of Irene’s love of her time in the land army.  Family tell us it’s her favourite thing to chat about.  Julie checks with Irene whether she’d like more opportunities to share her stories and Irene is very keen.

Everyone natters and share their ideas, people agree to do things, Julie agrees to get in touch with the local school and see if the children are interested in visiting Irene and hearing about the land army.

The visit from school is wonderful and next time everyone chats about what was great and, if anything, what could have been better.  The conversation carries on to think about other ideas to support Irene…

Through her Circle, Irene has more opportunities to do the things she enjoys, has more people in her life and continues to connect and contribute to her community.

The beauty of a Community Circle is capturing the essence and together making a difference in a persons life

If you want to be part of making a difference, get in touch


Cath Barton

Community Circles Connector