Community Circles and Technology

What are we learning?

One of the first circle meetings I went to I was delighted to see circle members join via Skype.  Louise’s godparents lived in Iceland but that was no barrier to them joining the monthly circle meetings, Skype enabled them to join in and contribute their ideas despite the geographical distance.  Louise’s godmother also took on the role of recorder and was able to email notes from the meeting almost before the closing round had happened.

My first circle meeting in Rochdale also used Skype to connect family members where it was impossible for them to be physically present at the meeting.  Grandsons being able to sneak downstairs to wave at everyone was a delightful bonus, just taking a bit of technical know how to set it up on the TV.

Georgie’s circle is being facilitated via Skype with one member joining from Ecuador, international connections and support not restricted by geography.

Distance is becoming less of an obstacle as we continue to develop our skills and knowledge about how technology can support us well.

Have you ever been in that situation where an important job needs doing and nobody does it or when the job gets done two or three times because everyone is doing it?

The other week my two beagles, much to their delight, had two walks one afternoon and were fed twice because my daughter and my husband thought they were the only ones doing it and hadn’t discussed it with each other.  When my Mum was poorly and we were doing things to help, she would often have two loaves and four pints of milk, far too much for one person but between us we were all doing the same job and not really checking with each other what was actually needed.

One of the things we are currently using to support us in Community Circles is Rally Round.  Rally Round makes it easy for friends, neighbours, volunteers and professionals to coordinate who is doing what to help someone.  It’s like a virtual circle; everyone who is invited can easily see what tasks need doing, who has agreed to do what and what tasks have already been done.  You can find out more at the website www.rallyroundme.com

Simon has just had his second circle meeting and already we are seeing the benefits of using Rally Round.  Between the circle members we are supporting Simon to go to the Memory Café; it’s really easy to post a task on Rally Round and see who is able to do it and who can offer a lift this time.  It’s also a great way for Simon’s son to keep in touch as he’s not always able to come to the circle meetings.  For people who aren’t able to be physically present, they can still contribute to some tasks through Rally Round, perhaps a food shop needs ordering or checking out the best gas provider, it’s a great way to keep up to date.

Communication is really important for every aspect of a Community Circle, we want to make sure that our facilitators feel part of a wider network, able to share and celebrate successes and get the support they need.  We’ve started using Slack, a messaging app, to support us to keep in touch and build our community when we can’t always be physically present with each other.

From someone who didn’t always feel confident with technology and social media I’m really appreciating the benefits and connections that it offers…next stop Skype chat with colleagues in Canada and Michigan, Community Circles could be going international!

 

Cath Barton

Community Circles Connector

Alternative Futures Group

Rochdale