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


Circles Coordinator Induction Training

A behind the scenes glimpse of life as a Circles coordinator.

Every year in Reading there is a gathering of minds. From around the country new Circle coordinators come together to undergo training led by Circles UK and this year Sam Wolf, the newest coordinator for Circles South West who works with Young People's Circles in Devon, attended.

Sam talked about how a large part of the focus was on understanding exactly what it is we, as Circles providers, actually ask of our volunteers.

“There was a strong emphasis on really getting a solid grounding in how our volunteers feel and what being a volunteer actually entails.”

After exploring what makes a good volunteer and what the expectations for volunteers actually are, they talked in depth about how to support volunteers. There was specific focus on what challenges volunteers might face in the lifetime of a circle, not just directly to do with difficult experiences with core members but also expanding out to other things that might impact on a volunteer. They then approached the myriad of different ways that a coordinator can be a strong and supportive presence for a volunteer who might be struggling, for whatever reason. As well as standard supervision there was consideration given to additional one on one support and also to giving volunteers good advice and ideas for some general self-care techniques.

Moving into the more practical areas, the coordinators talked about their requirements in terms of paperwork, research requirements, data collection and management. The group considered the importance of getting the right volunteers together for the right circle. Whenever a circle is brought together the coordinators give careful consideration to who might suit a core member best and who will work well together. Thoughtful selection ensures that a circle has a good balance between all volunteers and that they are the right people to help the core member most effectively. Help and guidance on how to do this ended day one nicely.

The majority of day two moved away from the direct needs of volunteers and instead spent time exploring how circles are delivered across the England and Wales, safeguarding practicalities, the key processes that come up during a circle, what the actual role of a coordinator is, and an overview of what the core training for volunteers looks like.

However, the focus was once again brought back onto the importance of our volunteers at the end of the second day. All of the coordinators took part in the same training exercise that the volunteers undertake as part of core training, so they could understand how it must feel to be the one sitting down at a circle meeting for the first time. This consisted of groups of 3 or 4 ‘volunteers’ and a ‘core member’ enacting what a typical circle meeting might look like. Often this comes up in feedback as the single thing volunteers are most nervous about doing, and it makes sense. After all the training and all the discussion of just how important circles are it can be incredibly intimidating to be asked to put that all into practice.

“I never understood how it feels to be sitting there, waiting for that ‘core member’ to walk in, not knowing what to expect, not knowing how they might behave or what they might say, until we did that exercise. It really opened my eyes to what our volunteers might be feeling in those very first moments of a new circle and exactly what it is we ask of them to sit there and be brave enough to do that” Sam said, reflecting on how that moment felt.

The training was a fantastic success, as it always is, and left Sam feeling ready and confident – moving forwards in her role as coordinator. What struck her most was the care and consideration around what being a circles volunteer looks like and she felt strongly that this focus will help all coordinators support their volunteers, and further their core member and their circles, to an incredibly high standard.

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