What’s next for Community Circles?

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Since 2012, we’ve been exploring how to create Circles at scale, so we can make them available to as many people as possible.

We’ve considered and started to explore lots of different routes to doing this – including partnering with care homes and home care services, with other types of support providers, and working with hospitals. We’ve seen some fantastic results, and it’s reinforced what we already thought – Circles can make a real difference to people’s lives, but we still need to figure out how to create many more of them.

Recently, we’ve been working with Wellbeing Teams as they are set up in various parts of the UK, with Age UK Doncaster and most recently with care homes in Wigan to create more Circles through collaboration. These partnerships are going from strength to strength, and this way of working will help many Circles to happen. But we’ve also started to explore how we can “give away” the tools and ingredients for Circles to people and groups in many different circumstances, so they can start to create them independently.

Now we’re almost ready to embark on the next stage of our journey, taking on-board what we’ve been learning and making it more effective, efficient and scaleable. These are some of the new ways we’re going to grow Circles over our next strategic period, starting from the autumn.

 

1) Supporting people to create their own Circles with free resources

Currently we are only able to help people to have a Community Circle if we’re already working with a Community Circles Connector in their area, and even then the person might need to be taking out a specific service (such as a being a home care customer) to be eligible.

Community Circles in care homes, supporting people to do more of what matters to them

Community Circles in care homes, supporting people to do more of what matters to them

This way of working is great because it means that Circles are built right into new models of care and support, but it also means that some people might miss out just because of their postcode.

Because we’re so passionate about Circles, we want to grow them quicker. That’s why we want to make it possible for anyone with an internet connection (or knows someone who has one!) to create Circles themselves, for free.

How will we do it? Well, we’re currently working on our new website. That will contain a range of free resources that people can watch, listen to, download and print to help them to run their own Circles – from a virtual Circles Facilitator to a range of person-centred thinking tools and guidance on how to use them.

Who’s it for? This development is intended to make Circles possible for anyone who wants to create one, wherever they are in the world. You could use the materials yourself or you might use them to help someone you know to set up a Circle.

 

2) Joining our membership site

For people who want to learn more about best practice in Circles and get support on implementing it, we’re creating a very low-cost membership site which will provide just that.

This will give people access to the Community Circles team, and enable them to be part of an online learning community too, with webinars and a Facebook group. It will be a place to find more resources, such as ideas and collateral you can use in recruiting and training Community Circles volunteer facilitators and matching them with people who want a Circle; meaning that you can start to work towards creating a network of Circles where you live. It will also house printable handbooks to give to facilitators and Connectors so they can have something to refer back to. There will also be cost price access to our annual Circles gathering. Finally, members of the group can access advice on applying for small local grants that can be used for Start up Support from Circles if this is needed (see below).

How will we do it? This will be a paid section of our new website, available on a subscription basis for a low cost.

Who’s it for? It will be suitable for anyone who wants to explore creating multiple Circles within an organisation or group or developing a network where they live, and need access to some more resources to do so effectively.

 

3) Getting training and support in Circles

Community Circles are a great fit for people and organisations who want to explore new ways for people to achieve their personal outcomes, even when resources are tight. Our new training and support programmes will be created on a bespoke basis depending on each organisation’s needs, and will support them to build Circles into their service model effectively.

This could cover anything from support in recruiting a great Circles Connector, to designing Circles into a business model, or training staff in person-centred thinking tools. There will be two basic options:

  1. A Start Up Support package which gives you access to a Community Circles mentor and an allocation of support to be used following an assessment of your goals and circumstances
  2. Bespoke packages of support if further assistance is required

How will we do it? Our training programmes will all be designed to meet the needs of the person or organisation who wants to learn about best practice in Community Circles and shaped to their group and goals.

Who’s it for? Organisations or individuals who are interested in developing a care and support model that includes circles of support.

 

4) Becoming a Community Circles franchisee

Finally, we’re taking steps to developing Community Circles as a social franchise. This is similar to a social enterprise in that it means that profits are reinvested for social good, but it will operate as a franchise to enable people to start their own Community Circles organisations themselves, using our branding, marketing and support. This is the same model as our partners at Wellbeing Teams, and we’re seeing them having real success in using it to grow their reach.

Wellbeing team and Debbie

The first Wellbeing Teams, in Devon

The franchise option will be a fully supported route to implementing Community Circles either as a standalone Community Circles offer in their area, or as part of a service model in a larger organisation. Franchisees will be able to use all of our marketing and training materials and will be given ongoing advice and training as well as forming part of our regular Community of Practice sessions. Plus, as a franchisee, their Circles organisation will be their own business.

How will we do it? We’re currently developing a comprehensive offer for potential franchisees, which we will be sharing on our website. At its heart will be a commitment to great ongoing support and a desire to build what we’re doing together.

Who’s it for? Individuals or organisations who are really committed to growing Community Circles at scale and want to be part of our shared journey.

 

Want to be a Community Circles Champion?

We know that many people think Community Circles are a good idea and would like to see them happen where they live or in their organisation or through a group they know – a charity or faith group for example. People’s circumstances vary of course, in terms of what they are able to do to help Community Circles spread. You may be someone who simply wants to let people in your organisation or area know that Circles are an option. You might be someone in a position to explore trying Circles in your organisation or group, or make them known to your volunteering scheme. Whatever your situation, if you are able and willing to share the news about Circles we want to support you to support us. For this reason we will be putting together a Circles Champion Pack; with tips, information links and materials and inviting people to use them in whatever ways works for them.

 

We’ll be sharing more information about all of these over the coming months as we prepare to launch our new website this Autumn. In the meantime, if you’d like to know anything more about our plans, please contact Martin, our Head of Development, via email at martin@community-circles.co.uk. We’d love to hear from you.