A circle of support is formed by a group of people who regularly meet with you and assist with the thinking, planning and implementation of your personal goals. Your circle provides a great opportunity to develop relationships and discuss your hopes and dreams. With you at the centre, your circle makes decisions by listening to your ideas, supporting your choice, identifying your goals and planning to make things happen.
Circles can be established for anyone at any age. Your circle could assist with planning for starting school, participating in extracurricular activities, finding a job, getting more connected to the community, moving out of home, developing greater independence, joining community groups, going on a holiday and pursuing a dream. Getting a group together builds a great synergy, multiplies ideas and establishes a community around the person to lookout for their best interests.
Anouk starts a circle of support
Anouk is 19 years old and lives with her family close to a major city. Anouk and her family immigrated to Australia 5 years ago from Finland. Anouk attended school until she was 17 and then was in a supported work environment for 18 months. Anouk’s family are very connected to each other and the local Finnish community. Anouk and her family have recently been talking about the future and are beginning to explore opportunities for both Anouk and her family.
Anouk works part time in a café close to her family home. Anouk works in the kitchen, washing dishes and food preparation, peeling and chopping vegetables. Anouk says that she enjoys working at the cafe, but has not really made any friends amongst staff.
Anouk often talks with her family about having friends to do things with, like going shopping, spending time at the beach and going to the movies. Anouk says that she would love to go on a holiday to Queensland and visit other parts of Australia as well. Anouk’s family are very busy, Anouk’s sister is at university, works part time and has a busy social life. Anouk’s family are keen for her to have her own friends.
Anouk decided it was time to do the things that she has been dreaming about and discussing with her family. Anouk and her family were not sure where to begin so they decided to talk with a local advocacy organisation. Anouk met with an advocate who mentioned circles of support. Anouk said that one of her friends mentioned that she has a circle, but Anouk was not sure what they do. After further discussion, Anouk said she wanted to know more about circles. The advocate and Anouk decided to send an email to the local circle organisation.
Within a few days, Anouk received an email from Janet, a circles facilitator asking if Anouk would like to catch up. Anouk asked if her advocate could also attend the meeting and they set a date to talk.
At the meeting, Anouk asked Janet lots of questions about how circles work, who could join and also talked about her future dreams. Anouk thinks that a circle is a great idea, so together they begin to plan. The first thing they discussed, was why Anouk wanted a circle, then they discussed who could Anouk ask to join her circle. Anouk said there is someone at the café that she would like to invite. Together they make a list of people’s names and decide to email invitations and deliver some personally. In the invitation, they write the details of the place and time of the first meeting.
Anouk invited her mum along with three others, including Susan from the café. Anouk was pleased that two of the three people said yes, including Susan. Anouk and her sister prepared for the first meeting to be held at Anouk’s family home. At the first meeting, Anouk and Janet thanked everyone for coming and then Anouk talked about her life in Australia, and then shared some of her dreams. Janet was very helpful encouraging everyone to join the conversation. Susan was surprised to hear about Anouk’s life and was very interested to become involved. The meeting ended and everyone agreed to meet again in 3 weeks’ time.
The next day at the café Susan was talking with Anouk about the meeting and said she would like to do something with Anouk. Anouk was happy and they discussed maybe they could go shopping and maybe even visit a travel agent to look at holiday options. They both decided that they would go shopping together on the next weekend. That evening Anouk told her mum about the conversation that she had with Susan. This was the beginning of some amazing changes in Anouk’s life. Anouk said to her mum that she was really looking forward to her future and could not wait for the next circle meeting.
Facilitating Circles of Support – Training Resource
Facilitating a Circle of Support requires a deep level understanding of people, community, citizenship and person centred planning. Circle Facilitators often talk about the ‘art of asking’. Ric Thompson, Inclusion Works wrote “Asking is natural. We carry it out in our daily lives, at the shops, at work or school, and with our families. Yet when it comes to asking members of the community to stand alongside and with individuals with a disability and their families we enter a period of silence and apprehension”. Read the whole article by Ric.
Watching our video, Circles of Support – Facilitators Discussion, reading Ric Thompson’s article above and also Predictors & Indicators that Influence the Success of Circles of Support, can help you understand the role of a facilitator. You can also download and print the accompanying workbook Facilitating Circles of Support. This workbook is designed to lead the reader through a process of learning through a series of questions.