Community Circles

Community Circles

 

What are Community Circles?

Download ‘What are we learning about creating community circles’ here.

The purpose of community circles is to bring people from a local community together to share their skills, talents, gifts and resources. This idea is based upon the premise that ALL of us need three things in our lives to make us happy and fulfilled: these are money, friendship and meaning. We believe that everyone needs community, everyone needs to be heard and everyone needs to have fun.

Community Circles are based upon reciprocity and the assumption that EVERYONE has both gifts and needs – whether these are labelled or not. The circles adopt the fundamental value of inclusion that ‘all means all’, no one is excluded from community circles, instead the circle members work out how to include everyone equally and safely.

A community circle is made up of participants and allies from the local community. The meeting starts with everyone sharing food and conversations. Next the group comes together in a circle so that everyone can see each other and shares what is good and new in their lives, everyone gets a turn to be listened to. ‘New and Good’ breaks the habit of thinking about and acting from what’s wrong, it is an exercise of giving and receiving attention with one another and it also provides a strong foundation of strengths from which we can think about and tackle difficulties. The group is then asked the question what do they want, need or have to offer.

Community circles provide a great foundation or starting point from which to explore connections, build relationships, locate resources and share skills. These circles will be a particularly important resource for Brokers and the people that they work for. They provide a safe forum in which people can meet and friendships can start, a natural reservoir of people and relationships where people can be invited to offer their time and capacity.

To be successful we have to start from a belief in inclusion. A belief that:

  • we are all born ‘in’
  • all means all
  • everyone needs to belong
  • everyone is ready
  • everyone needs support
  • everyone can communicate
  • everyone can contribute
  • together we’re better.

Any questions please e-mail us: inclusive.solutions@me.com.

Inspired by ‘Beyond Welfare’ – Inclusive Solutions have begun seeding and growing community circles in the Nottingham area. We also busy growing Circles in places as diverse as Motherwell, Glasgow, Perth, Woodbridge in Suffolk and Cleethorpes.

Guardian group

The group meets three times a year to oversee the running of the circle, if you need the guardians to address an issue, please get in touch via ngcircle@gmail.com.

What can we do and what do we aim to do?

Bringing people together

Encouraging connection

Spirit of exchange

What is our capacity to support vulnerable people?

People have different needs/different levels, where some needs are met and some are not met by the circle. However people also learn many skills through the group, eg. Meeting and greeting, discussion, making friends. It is more likely to increase our capacity of we do not over obligate any one who comes along.

What can we do about anyone over committing?

Emphasise that there is no obligation to commit to things that you may not be able or have the time to do at the beginning of the meeting and at the end when discussing the roof of shelter. Maybe ask new comers not to commit to anything on their first visit until they understand how the circle works.

Addressing issues of safety at end of the meeting and checking that everyone is happy with arrangements that have been made. However we must emphasise the need to do things in groups of 3 and if someone drops out the arrangement should be postponed. However the circle or the guardians can not be responsible, people come together outside the circle at their own risk.

Work undertaken for money and personal relationships are outside circle and guardian boundaries, however we discussed the possibility of a mini circle of guardians to come together for particular problems or issues.

What constitutes a Community Circle member?
  • Anyone who turns up and shares contact details?
  • People who have received help and give help – Questions were raised about people’s obligation to give help if they receive help. However does this turn into a skills exchange!? Are we a skills exchange or is the circle something else where people who need something can receive without the obligation to give at that time?
  • Needs of people need to be voiced at meeting by the person or someone on their behalf at their request. We should never assume about what people might need.

Having discussed these issues the Guardians concluded that there is no official membership status, no eligibility, and no ‘obligations’ in the circle or beyond. The Circle is responsible for how it safely connects people especially those who are young or vulnerable, but this is as far as it goes.

Small needs being met helps to change people’s lives for the better and can restore their faith in humanity. We are not resourced in a way that allows all needs to be met. Sometimes just coming to the meeting meets a need in a person.

Role of the Guardians

To think well about the circle

To support it to flourish

Provide individuals within the circle who can be contacted in relation to a problem

Deal with any difficult issues that may arise in absolute confidence.

Typical Night’s Graphic
Our Values…
The Roof of Shelter that will keep us all safe…
Values of Community Building Bricks

A typical evening at a Community Circle…

Lovely food, scrumptious cakes and more…

One of the marvellous things about the format of the community circle is it enables us to properly welcome and support people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. Diversity is our strength and every month it’s different, a community just magically comes together. We never know who, or how many will join, if there will be four of us in the room or forty. Tonight fifteen of us came together to create the circle, we shared food, pooled our strengths and ideas and thought well about each other. It’s surprising how content we can feel with very little, it’s a reminder that we don’t need the trappings of material wealth. It’s good to remember that the most loving communities are often the poorest.

Note this newsletter is not an accurate record of everything that happened but just a taste of things to give you a flavour of the evening.

Good & New

  • The sun is out and I’m here again at last, which is a huge relief. I got a letter from my solicitor today with good news.
  • I’m progressing well with my replacement hip – I’m doing well.
  • We’re getting a graffiti artist to paint a huge Godzilla badger on roof of our marquee at Glastonbury.
  • I actually beat Arisha at chess a week ago (she usually always wins).
  • I got some great help from Lodi and Arisha with my writings.
  • I got invited to a party with my trombone, it was fantastic, lots of bands playing all different types of music.
  • We’ve been working in Prague with students working on inclusion. They’re really getting to know us now and get cheeky with us.
  • I’m spending time with my husband at the weekend (been busy so hardly seen much of each other recently)
  • I have dug the grass up and got lots of plants growing from seed. Just love it!
  • I’ve reconnected with an old friend and visited her in Spain, now she’s coming here to visit.
  • It was my 50th birthday a few weeks ago, I had a two week long celebration with many family gatherings.
  • I’ve been learning Japanese via the Skills Exchange and can say “where’s my glasses?” in Japanese.

Helen came from the Skills Exchange and talked about how it operated as a time bank, how members swop skills and earn credits. The project based in Radford has been going for six years and has lots of members.

Over 300 different skills are being offered some examples are herbal medicine, beginner’s cookery, cooking on a budget, how to shop well for food, graphic design on a mac, family support, contemporary arts performance, teaching arts activism, helping with arts dissertations, arts applications, road craft, teach GCSE Sociology, selling on EBay, sorting out finances, spreadsheets.Computer skills, gardening, ironing, hypnotherapy, simple DIY, British Sign Language, lifts, house sitting, jewellery repairs… the list goes on and on.

Helen answered peoples questions and quite a few people took applications to join.
We noticed that the work of the NGcircle and the Skills Exchange often complement each other so we’re keen to find ways to work together in the future.

More info on how you can join here skills2exchange.wordpress.com/about/

Needs & Wants

  • Robert needs help with learning how to publish his book.
  • Pat’s made us some NG circle posters, can you put some up in your neighbourhood?
  • Veggies collective are looking to find someone who does a regular trip to Leicester (the Belgrave side) and could perhaps drop off a monthly delivery just two picnic boxes of veggies burgers. Also are you going by car to Glastonbury? Veggies need help – have you space to bring some supplies down for Veggies?
  • Bev, a local childminder needs some children’s balance scales (balancing buckets). Has anyone got any? Also wanted a garden fork with a small head.
  • Callum wants to organise another evening road trip. The last two trips were a real hoot. This time we’ll visit a chip-shop in West Bridgeford and ride out on the Melton Rd to go on the A46 to a pub and back. Maresa has loaned her wheelchair accessible minibus the date is Wednesday 26th June. Colin’s driving who’s coming?

Offers

  • Double chest freezer.
  • Two pushchairs.
  • Robert is offering group guitar lessons at his church.
  • Ange is currently clearing a home with many items to sell including office desk, shelves, filing cabinet, printer, reclining chair, microwave, kettle, toaster, fridge, freezer. Get in touch via this newsletter if you’re interested.
  • Helen is donating worksheets designed for teaching adult numeracy.
  • Helen has an offer for Skills Exchange members. Nottingham Playhouse tickets for for £7 for the following productions. These are limited, contact us at the NG circle if you’re interested.
Peter and Brandon working hard for our Circle NG stall at the Green Festival in Nottingham

Peter e-mailed “Sunday was SPLENDID! cannot thank you enough…..” “It was a great day yesterday. Well done to Meirion for suggesting we used the festival. Well done to everyone who had a hand in the day, especially the organisers, and they know who they are. Thanks.”

Glenys
The recent publication of “Keys To Inclusion” by Colin Newton and Derek Wilson references the work of Community Circles. So if you want to read about how they work…
Available NOW from our store 

‘The Keys to Inclusion book is revolutionary and indeed a Bible for the inclusion movement, I hope people professing to be inclusive read it carefully and then put that into practice, The world will be such a more simpler and better place if that happens!’

Quote from a Parent – Feb 2011
This little quote reminds us why the NG3 Circle is so important

Full Training List

Who could argue?

Professor John McNight one of the great architects of Asset Based Community Devlopment – talking in 2013 at the Toronto Summer INstitute about connecting people with gifts to where they can really contribute. This is the story of Eddy who has the gift of joy and what happens when he gets a placement in a hospital where they really need his gift!

Beyond Welfare: Money, Friends and Meaning…

Story County, Iowa has a population of just over 74,000, with the majority of those folks living in Ames, the county seat and home of Iowa State University. Less than 2% of those residents are people of color. There are 8,336 households in the county with incomes under $25,000. Nothing about those statistics stands out at first glance; Central Iowa is a mostly white place, and rural poverty is often hidden behind that homogeneity. But Story County is also home to a gathering of citizens who call themselves Beyond Welfare, an organization that brings down the walls between the hidden poor and the rest of the community. Beyond Welfare states its goal simply: eliminate poverty in Story County by 2020. Ambitious? Maybe. But the manner in which Beyond Welfare is moving toward that goal makes its attainment seem possible. To eliminate poverty, Beyond Welfare is reweaving community; promoting a connected life filled with enough money, friends and meaning for all. The Beyond Welfare folks call that their mantra—“we all need money, friends, and meaning”. But the inclusive implication of that mantra is startling. Poverty of life and experience can beset those who have enough money, but little meaning and few friends. So, there is something for everyone in the community built by Beyond Welfare. “Everything We Do Is Intentional” The founders of Beyond Welfare (BW) have thought long and hard about everything they do. There is a language and process that determines all of their actions. For example, the service-based language of “client” and “provider” has been replaced by the much more inclusive language of “participant” and “ally”. Becoming part of Beyond Welfare requires the same process for everyone, regardless of role or income. The BW folks are careful never to stray too far from the citizen-centered heart of the endeavor. The very small BW staff are committed to community engagement to build the capacity of ordinary unpaid community members to be involved in making Story County a safer, friendlier, and more supportive community for all its members. By engaging “consumers” and the community at large in this way, we strive to build a countywide community where all of us have enough money, healthy relationships, and a sense of purpose and meaning. Beyond Welfare facilitate relationships that assist and support individual families and are building a constituency of caring for the concerns of families at risk due to poverty and the harms associated with insufficient income. BW is governed by a local community-lead Board of Directors, constituted by at least 51% members who have been or are currently marginalized by poverty.

Lois at the 2007 Inclusion Summer Institute in Nottingham

Based in Experience

In many ways, Beyond Welfare is the creation of the personal experience of Lois Smidt, BW co-founder, connector and guiding light. Having spent several years on welfare in the 90’s, Lois is keenly aware of the struggles and pitfalls of trying to raise a family in poverty. Isolation, suppressed anger, stereotypes—all seem to get in the way of even the most determined attempt to overcome them. “Although I certainly had many supportive relationships in my life by this time, as well as community involvement and support, I was still bombarded with patterns of worthlessness and helplessness that were reinforced by reliance on public assistance and the attitudes projected by human service providers and the general public,” she says.

These two ideas — that relationships are essential and that respectful supportive connections can cross barriers and build leadership — became cornerstones of Lois’ work and that of BW. She later encountered the concepts of Co-Counseling, or Re-Evaluation Counseling (RC), that provided her with tools and exercises that support her vision. The tools and principles of co-counseling aim to break down the barriers caused by race and class by engaging in the tough work of one-to-one listening and support.

The Story So Far…

Circle NG3 was created and met for the first time on 1st July 2008. There was a fine sharing of vision for the community we would all love to live in some great exchanges and connections made! Young people were present and made some wonderful contributions.

Look at feedback from one of the circle members!!

“Hi Colin and Derek,
Thank you so much for last night, do you remember James who I offered to mend that laptop? I phoned his mum, and told her about the offer and she said ‘this gives me hope’. Please could you post me about 5 flyers or letters with this in it because I’ve got lots of people to tell about how good the meeting was, how enabling. Please could you say in your letter your website and describe that it is a meeting which is free with food and drink and where able and disabled people come together completely equally and help each other in all sorts of little and big ways. Please could you say that this meets one of the greatest needs of the disabled person to be able to help and to give. Also in the meeting is a chance to share in two’s good things and needs in a respectful way. I need you to write this in a letter because I won’t be able to explain all this to the people I want to tell. Thank you again for a lovely uplifting experience.”

Our John with David Sahr (Beyond Welfare) Patti Scott (Neighbours) and Tom Kohler (Chatham – Savanah Citizen Advocacy)

Get Involved!

Come and see what it is all about at Circle NG in Nottingham…

If you would like to come along and check out one of the circles just turn up, you will be welcomed by food and friends.

Introducing the Boundaries Clock

We have helped develop the Boundaries Clock to help people manage their professional boundaries whilst meeting safeguarding obligations and promoting inclusion.

The Boundaries Clock – Peter Bates

Six pairs of competing priorities are set in opposition to one another to form the twelve-point Boundary Clock. Individual case studies or service arrangements can then be placed on the clock-face and the twelve vantage points used in turn to generate ideas for shaping practice in an individual situation. As each of the twelve viewpoints is merely an entry point to the clock-face area, the issues that arise inevitably overlap here and there, but the twelve points frame a systematic discussion.

The Boundaries Clock brings together the triple imperative to safeguard vulnerable people, maintain professional boundaries and advance social inclusion. It does not provide easy answers, but rather provides a systematic way to consider the issues and arrive at a defensible position. This paper applies the Boundaries Clock to the Community Circle demonstrating its utility, and assisting readers to develop sufficient fluency to apply the approach to new settings.

Thinking About Professional Boundaries in an Inclusive Society

Circles in Scotland

Linda Keys from Edinburgh Development Group (EDG) has been working on setting up a community circle in North Edinburgh. To ensure that the circle is diverse in its membership from the beginning, Linda started off by meeting up with people from various ‘equalities’ groups. From this network, a small ‘core’ group agreed to form a wee team to set up the circle. We did it this way so that we could make sure there were several of us who were familiar with the ‘format’ of the meetings, so that when new members join it will already feel like a safe environment. It means that the group have ownership of the circle, and new members will be encouraged to take on that ownership too.

 

 

Barnet Pledgbank

Barnet Pledgebank can be used to gather together people to get projects done. These can be tasks such as clearing snow and ice from pavements in the street, painting over graffiti or setting up computer classes in your area.

The website is based on the simple principle that the person making the online pledge will work to make it happen “but only if” a number of other people commit too.

Pledges don’t have to be started by the council — organisations, schools, community and volunteer groups can all get involved.

PledgeBank is designed to help residents passionate about doing their bit for the community. By working together, we can offer services that are popular and worthwhile.

Gift Circle in Fairfax, Chicago

How a Gift Circle Works

It is shockingly simple.

We meet, share some food, introduce ourselves. Then we form a circle. People go around and share what they need. All kinds of things have been asked for: bodywork, help healing a broken heart, advice on marketing a product, someone to talk to about life goals, help cleaning out files, etc. The need is spoken with no expectation of it being fulfilled. People in the circle respond if they feel it. Then people go around again and offer a gift, something they would like to share with no expectation of it being accepted. Again, a wide range of things have been offered: a dreamcatcher, a vacuum sealer, shamanic healing, handquilted potholders, research help (from a librarian), help writing a simple will (from a lawyer), etc, etc. Afterwards, people check in with those who responded to the gifts/needs/wishes and schedule them! (Bring your calendars!)

Some information on Gift Circles: a video

Mess Hall, an experimental cultural center in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, USA

 

Other things we are thinking about…

Asset Based Community Development

Focusing on Community Capacity not Deficit. We now often work with this idea in our training around challenging behaviour and inclusion. Recruiting well connected community members to link up with vulnerable or isolated individuals or families and to build circles of support or connection around them using their contacts but NO paid professionals or experts. A free 50 page book that describes one approach to this idea is available from the ABCD Institute.

Hidden Treasures

Building community connections by engaging the gifts of people on welfare, people with disabilities, people with mental illness,older people and young people. ABCD in Action Book and DVD profiles five diverse groups who have utilised the principles of ABCD to create partnerships with those they serve and in effect, rejuvenate and revitalise their organisations.

Included are profiles from:

  • Neighbourhood associations in Savannah, Georgia
  • Beyond Welfare, an organisation supporting people in poverty in Ames, Iowa
  • The Archdiocese of Upper Michigan in Marquette, Michigan
  • Lakes Region Community Services Council, supporting people with disabilities in New Hampshire
  • Neighbourhood Housing Services, an organisation providing affordable housing opportunities in Asheville, North Carolina.

A linked idea is the concept of The Freeconomy Community which is about sharing the skills you’ve learnt throughout your life and learning those you haven’t. It’s about helping others and providing an opportunity for others to help you. Freeconomy allows people to make the transition from a money based communityless society to more of a community based moneyless society, and to share the land they don’t need or can’t use to facilitate a local food community. It’s about helping others and providing an opportunity for others to help you. It’s about sharing your tools so you all can have access to all the tools under the sun without it costing the earth. It’s about using any free space you have to either benefit positive, ethical and local projects, or to enable volunteers to keep doing their amazing work for free. It’s about sharing the land you don’t need in order to facilitate a local food community. It’s about connecting neighbours. It’s about learning to help each other again. It’s about making dinner for a friend who was yesterday a stranger. It’s about keeping money out of the equation. It’s about communicating face-to-face and phasing out technological communication. It’s about putting the soul back into society. It’s about helping each other not for profit, but just for the love-of it. Nottingham Freecycle can be joined here and is open to all who want to “recycle” that special something rather than throw it away. Whether it’s a chair, a fax machine, board game or an old door, feel free to post it. Or maybe you’re looking to acquire something yourself! Non-profits are also welcome to participate. Join in and have fun gifting! Everything posted must be free, legal and appropriate for all ages.

Making good use of Third Places

 

This term was coined by Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place: Cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, bars, hair salons (1999). Oldenburg is an Urban Sociologist from Florida who writes about the importance of informal public gathering places. ‘Third place’ simply refers to associations or connections between people that are based on locations, like becoming a regular in a cafe or bar. A third place is a place of belonging, somewhere that is comfortable, and conversation is the main thing, a place where you can get known without doing much. There are no qualifications needed and no criteria to be met. It is important to go at regular times, which works well for people who enjoy routine. We have learned that this method of connecting cannot be used casually though – you have to be active not passive in your support as you need to spot opportunities for interaction and relationship building. We have helped people with high support needs to become regulars of local places.

Have a look at the Nottingham Community Cafe Network.Community Meetings: Beyond Welfare style….

The Community Leadership Team (CLT) Meeting

The CLT meetings begin at 6:00 p.m. with a dinner in the church basement, which houses a big kitchen and spacious dining room. After dinner, usually around 6:45 p.m., people load their dishes on a cart to be brought into the kitchen; the child care workers gather the children into the child care room; the youth and adolescent worker moves his charges into another room for a program or to do their homework; and the adults go to the meeting room in the church’s main floor for the meeting.

The CLT meeting takes place in a large, comfortable room that has a long wall of windows overlooking the church’s courtyard. Lois usually facilitates the meeting. Occasionally, the Community Resources Coordinator, the psychologist, or a participant facilitates the meeting. The typical agenda includes:

  1. CLT basic purposes and principles
  2. Announcements
  3. Updates on what is new and good in participants’ lives
  4. Advocacy or self-sufficiency work
  5. Closing appreciations
  1. CLT Purposes and Principles
    A brief reminder about Beyond Welfare’s purpose and principles always opens the meetings. Lois first states the purpose of Beyond Welfare, which is “to ensure that everyone has enough money, meaning, and friends” and reminds participants that in attending the CLT meeting, they are “advocates for social change” who are there to “learn what it takes to eliminate poverty.” When Lois talks, everyone listens respectfully, even eagerly, as if her words could make dreams come true. Lois then invites a CLT member to recite the basic four principles about confidentiality and respect. They are:

    1. What is said here stays here
    2. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all
    3. Honor confidentiality by not introducing others in the group as a Beyond Welfare group member to outsiders without permission
    4. Show respect by listening to and not gossiping about each other
  2. Announcements:
    The announcements often take up quite a bit of time, covering a very wide range of topics such as dates/times of upcoming local community events, solicitations for help with moving, offers to donate household items and requests for household items, and information about community resources, clothes drives, food pantry access, and new FIP, DHS, or state policies, regulations, or services. Announcement also may focus on upcoming Beyond Welfare advocacy events, including providing information, making requests for volunteers, and planning for car pools.

  3. New and Good Update
    In my yearly evaluations with CLT members, they always mention how much they enjoy sharing and listening to updates about something that is new and/or good in everyone’s lives. New and good updates include descriptions of social activities people engaged in during the previous week; announcements of new jobs, promotions, or raises; and updates on school progress or achievements. Sometimes members mention the accomplishments of their children, such as toilet training a toddler or good grades on a report card. Members will talk about getting a donated car, a new apartment, a warm winter coat at Goodwill and their relief at finally having access to energy assistance, housing assistance, or food stamps. Reports of new and good sometimes describe involvement in a Beyond Welfare advocacy or speaking for the first time at an orientation for new Family Partners. Sometimes, the new and good update is a way to, as the expression goes, turn lemons into lemonade, such as when one CLT member told the group that her “girls did not watch T.V. because the utilities were turned off.” Often, many of the women simply say, “I’m just happy to be here.”

  4. Advocacy or Self-sufficiency Work
    While meetings may vary in style and content, a typical meeting begins with Lois giving a brief presentation, providing an overview, explicating a policy, or sometimes, simply articulating the importance of working on a particular topic. Often, she will then ask the CLT members to form “listening pairs.” Listening pairs is a strategy used in Reevaluation Counseling to help people speak or “discharge” about an issue to a person who is listening attentively. The format includes each person in the pair discharging for two-three minutes while the other person listens without comment, judgment, or advice; they then switch. Lois will ask the CLT members to focus the listening pairs on one or two specific questions related to her presentation. At the end of the timed listening pairs, Lois brings everyone’s attention back to the circle for group discussion and problem-solving. Standing at the easel, where butcher paper is mounted for her to write group contributions, she will ask the CLT members, “Does anyone want to share what you learned in the listening pairs?” As hands are raised and Lois calls on different people, they only report what they themselves shared, not what their partner shared. Lois responds to each members’ contribution by affirming them verbally and writing down what she/he said. When the contributions and discussion are exhausted, Lois will draw some conclusions for the group to reflect upon or, depending on the topic, the group may decide upon a plan of advocacy.

  5. Closing Appreciations
    To draw the CLT meeting to a close, CLT members go around the circle saying something positive to the person to her right. Often the time is short at the end of the meeting, so appreciations are kept to one or two words. If the group is small or when there is ample time, more is said. A sampling of appreciations from a range of evenings includes, “you are a strong and quick thinker,” “you are accepting and gentle,” “fun,” “kind,” “good listener,” “I appreciate the support you give me,” “your smile,” “nice,” and “I appreciate how you keep up with things and do so much.”

We at Inclusive Solutions have met and worked with Lois and simply love Beyond Welfare

Finding New Ways to get Beyond Welfare

http://www.diaristproject.org/files/Beyond-Welfare.pdf

Our Training

Graphic facilitation an introduction Live visioning and problem-solving

Donations

Donate here to our developing work on Community circles – many thanks!


 

Useful Links here:

http://www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk/brighter-futures-together-toolkit/map-assets-in-your-community/

Contact Us

Colin Newton

0115 955 6045

Doug and Maggie

01473 437590

dnewton123@ntlworld.com

(Messages | Accounts | Queries)

Address

48 Whittingham Road
Mapperley
Nottingham
NG3 6BJ