Delivering circles of support and accountability to protect communities from sexual harm and sexual reoffending


Circles Volunteers and Coordinators Across Europe Unite

In the first event of its kind, Circles volunteers and coordinators from across Europe came together, by zoom, to share ideas and talk about their experiences.

Four countries were involved in the meeting, which took place on 18th July 2022: Latvia, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, with both coordinators and volunteers attending. The meeting was facilitated by Riana Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Circles UK and Board Chair of Circles Europe, who had been inspired to the idea through contact with Latvia who were particularly keen to hear from Circles volunteers and coordinators from other countries.

“Latvia recently joined the Circles Europe Association. They are still at the beginning stages of their Circles development, and they have worked closely with Circles UK to help them develop their provision such as designing materials, getting advice to recruit volunteers and so on. They approached me recently to ask if some of their volunteers could talk to some volunteers from the UK to get some ideas. I then thought why only Latvia and the UK? Why not involve other countries. Belgium and the Netherlands were keen to join the first event. For future events we can invite a few more countries like Spain, Italy, etc.” – Riana Taylor, CEO of Circles UK

The meeting, which was attended by about 20 people, allowed projects from differing countries and regions to talk about their experience as a Circle volunteer and share ideas by comparing how Circles provision in their countries differ and why.

Subjects such as how many volunteers are placed in a Circle, ways volunteers communicate with core members and how to manage a challenging core member were all touched upon.

Circles South East, from the UK, talked of a new app they use to communicate within the circle to ensure confidentiality which was well received by the rest of the Circles community and Circles South West spoke of advertising, recruiting volunteers and social media – something the smaller projects will find most helpful as they grow.

A problem that faced all of the projects is recruiting more men as volunteers and each country reported they find this particularly difficult.

“We don’t have as many men so we try and mix in other ways, ensuring we have a range of ages, life experience, backgrounds and so on”. – Natalie from CoSA Belgium

A particularly interesting discussion centred around the fact of whether volunteers were made aware of a core member’s specific offence before beginning the Circle. Whilst in the UK this is standard practice on a need to know basis, in other countries they wait for the core member to disclose to the group in their own time – once a relationship has been built and a level of trust has developed.

The meeting lasted an hour and a half and the level of discussion clearly showed there was an appetite for more.

Melanie, a volunteer from Circles South West, was very pleased to have attended:

‘It was an absolute pleasure to be able to participate in the International Circles conference. It was a fantastic opportunity to share practice, exchange ideas and share experiences. We can certainly learn a lot from each other and continue to build the strength of the support we are able to offer our members and the community’

Inna, a coordinator from Latvia, said:

“It was amazing to hear other countries’ experiences.”

Riana hopes that this can become a regular occurrence after excellent feedback was received by all attendees. There are even ideas to widen the meetings beyond Europe by inviting non-Euorpean countries where Circles are provided such as Canada and Australia.

In the meantime, there are plans to share approaches to volunteer recruitment and advertising across the four countries and Latvia has asked all of the countries to participate in a video for their upcoming volunteer conference – to show their volunteers they are part of a much wider, international movement.

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