Do you ever go into ‘fix it’ mode because you have a really good idea and want to be helpful?  My Mum mentioned she was struggling doing her shopping, her eyesight was deteriorating and she was struggling to see prices and any offers in the supermarket.  I can almost see myself in a Wonder Woman costume as I leapt to a solution and said I would solve all her problems by arranging a supermarket delivery.  My Mum looked at me horrified…how would she know what to buy if she didn’t walk up and down the aisles and how would she know what was on offer?  In my attempt to be helpful, I had in fact been really unhelpful; I’d missed all the things that were important to my Mum about going shopping, taken away what she loved to do, reduced her opportunities to go out and connect with people and leapt to a solution without considering how it would affect her.

I don’t like shopping and love a supermarket delivery and enjoy a chat most weeks with David, our local parcel courier.  But this wasn’t about me or my preferences for shopping, this was about what mattered to my Mum and I’d fallen into the trap of thinking I had a great idea and fixing it for her.  I hadn’t taken time to reflect whether my idea reflected all the things that were important to my Mum.

This was a lightbulb moment for me, recognising the need not to leap to fixing things but taking time to reflect about what matters to someone, sharing ideas and deciding together what would work best.  For Mum the things that mattered to her was to keep doing her own shopping, enjoying the process of shopping and exploring offers and new products, chatting at the till and having a brew afterwards whilst watching the world go by.  Mum continued to do this with some support for reading labels, looking at the offers and checking new products.

Our colleague, Colin also reflects on a similar experience with his Mum;

“I had a very similar realisation with my own mum when trying to ‘teach’ her how to do online supermarket shopping.  In my mind I was empowering her and also saving her a daily trudge to the local shops, saving her money, giving her a wider choice of items and keeping her safe and warm in her house.  Having patiently sat through my ‘lessons’ she politely said, “That’s lovely dear, very clever, not for me thanks”. When I asked why she said, “Which of my neighbours will I bump into to talk to?  How will I see what’s on the community notice board?  How much exercise will I get?  How will I find out how the shopkeepers’ families are doing?  I don’t much care what I buy, I like to make up my mind on the spur of the moment not plan it days ahead.”   She summed it up perfectly, my plans to empower her would do the complete opposite.”

In our desire to be helpful, we’ve leapt to fixing a problem, missing out the space for conversation and reflection, finding out what really matters to people and walking alongside them to explore ideas and solutions.

Community Circles create the space where great conversations take place and we learn what really matters to someone, a space to share ideas where we can check that they reflect what is important to the person.  With lockdown restrictions, we need to think more creatively about supporting connections, about keeping people involved with the stuff that matters to them and not leaping to fix things.

Lockdown restrictions have had a huge impact on the way we live and connect with others, restrictions on the way we work, spend our social time and stay involved with the things that matter to us.  At Community Circles our purpose of supporting connections, wellbeing and purpose is the same but we’ve needed to shift how we do this within what’s currently possible and practical.

Alice’s Community Circle began some time before lockdown restrictions; conversations to explore what mattered to Alice, sharing of ideas and what we could do that would make a difference in her life.  Whilst many things were unable to continue during lockdown, we explored what could be possible within the restrictions and how our Facebook Group Circles Connected could support Alice in a different way.

Alice’s example shares the difference that Circles Connected has made to her and how this has been a catalyst to connecting and contributing locally.

Our core purpose is connections and relationships; supporting people to do more of what matters to them, feel connected and have a sense of meaningful belonging. One of our Circles Connected members said “I’m happy I found this group and surprised at how well you have all managed to create a feeling of community using online tools”If you’re interested in thinking about what matters to people, exploring outcomes and working together to find creative solutions, you might be interested in this course