Building my Tribe – Circles of Support

A Circle of Support is a group of people who come together in support of a person with disability.

Members of a Circle of Support walk alongside a person with disability and/or their whānau because they want to help them with their journey towards a good life.People belong to Circles of Support not because it’s their ‘job’ but because they care about the person or people involved. They are an important form of natural support.

Circles of Support vary in size, duration, and purpose. Each Circle is unique and they can change over time depending on the members of the Circle and the person with disability’s stage of life.

Forming a Circle of Support

There are some practical steps that can be taken when forming a Circle of Support:

Creating a vision: Have a clear picture of the good life. This is what will help guide and keep you on track. It is important to continue to hold on to this vision when thinking about the activities, roles, places and people that might be involved.

Clarifying the purpose of the Circle: A clear picture of a good life will help decide the purpose of the Circle of Support. For example, if expanding the person’s social networks is important, then this will help inform decisions about what you want the circle to do and achieve.

Relationship mapping: It’s important to spend some time thinking about and mapping out the relationships and connections that exist or existed. These relationships can help identify potential members of the Circle of Support.

Decide on who to invite: This will again depend on the purpose of the Circle. You will need to think about which skills, attributes, qualities, talents and connections would be best suited to achieving the purpose, and about which people would most likely be able to bring these qualities to the Circle.

The Invitation: A personal invitation is the best approach! This could be in the form of a phone call, face-to-face, or a formal written invitation.

First Meeting: This will help set the stage for the dynamics of the Circle. It’s an opportunity to engage everyone in a conversation about how they can support the aims of the Circle. It is important to talk about the practical aspects of the Circle, like the commitment involved, time and place of meetings, and who will lead and take notes on the conversation.

The developing Circle: The strongest and most effective Circles meet regularly and include all members, as well as the person with disability. Trust, respect, and friendship will come from spending regular time and meaningful time together. These are the qualities that will help make a Circle successful.

Looking back I can see that letting trusted people into our lives in this ways was the key to changing everything. Until that point I had never really believed that people other than close family would want to be so involved in Anton’s life, but they did and they still do! I began to realise that people not only cared about Anton’s (and my) welfare, but that they had some really good ideas that might worked
(Maree Hobern).

Bridget Sneddon
Belonging Matters; VIC, Australia.