Meeting Format

Below is an outline of the general format for a Five8 Circles meeting.  This assumes proper preparation of the parties, and the placement of participants in a safe location within the seated Circle –  Core Member (former prisoner) should be seated to immediate right of person facilitating.

1. Welcome:

Welcome everyone to Circle – thank them for choosing to be there.

2. Review purpose for gathering:

(e.g., to review progress from last meeting and offer support and accountability).

3. Clarify Role of Circle Facilitator:

Particularly in new Circles, remind people of Facilitator’s role: Always neutral, with focus on maintaining the process, creating a safe space where all parties can listen and talk to each other respectfully, and helping develop a plan of ‘Restoration’ when appropriate.

4. Opening:

Review process (opening, check-in, etc), and guidelines (listen and speak with respect, and confidentiality) as needed or appropriate.  Open Circle by moment of silence, a reading or prayer as appropriate.

5. First Round – Check-in:

Enquire how Five8 members are doing; things they want to share that have been going on in their lives life since thelast Circle.  Note: It is important for the Facilitator to model this, so Facilitator should do the check-in first to help encourage others to share, then pass to the person to the left.  All the other members speak until it gets to core member.  He should check in as well about how he is doing etc.  He may get into some issues and that is OK, however in-depth sharing should normally wait until after completion of the check-in.

6. Questions to the Core Member:

 After the check-in round the Facilitator should help the group to work through the following questions – the aim being to get the core member to do most of the talking, however general conversation and input can be had by other members as well:

  1. What has happened since last Circle that has gone well?  Celebrate the core member’s achievements – did he make all parole / AA, etc meetings, is he still sober/not using, etc – ensuring that his achievements and successes are affirmed.
  2. What happened since last Circle that did not go as well as Five8’s would like and/or what would they like to see improved?
  3. What is coming up between now and the next meeting that Circle members may be worried about or may create some anxiety?

Core areas to review at each meeting (and usually during the ‘what went well or needs improvement’ segment) are R.E.S.T.:

–          Residence,
–          Employment / education,
–          Supports (people in core member’s life and recreational / social activities), and
–          Treatment issues (NA / AA or other treatments as required or suggested by    Circle).

With each of these areas, if the core member raises issues of concern his Five8s should be asked for possible ideas and ways to help him deal with them.  Where appropriate suggestions can be made, but the focus should be on helping the core member to find his own solutions so he is the one coming up with ideas – at least to the extent that is possible.  The core member’s agreement should be sought if the Circle is asking / recommending that he do something, being certain that the core member is clear about what is expected of him and that he is okay with it.  All agreements should be written down.

Note:  At some stage during this process agreements should be reviewed in relation to individual tasks that were assigned from the last meeting. It is important that people are held accountable to honour agreements reached in a previous meeting so that the process can move ahead.

7. Closing:

After Circle has worked through all of the issues and any agreements / tasks are clarified and agreed to, the session should draw to a close by inviting anyone’s final thoughts or comments, and asking people how they are feeling and why, etc.  This is usually another opportunity for Circle members to offer affirmations and encouragement if things went well, or to raise concerns if they did not.  Once back to the Facilitator, a reading / poem or a prayer as appropriate should be offered to close the meeting.

8. Other:

The next meeting date and location should be set, with a clear understanding of which Circle members will be calling / meeting with the core member between Circle meetings. Having food and beverages before or after the meeting is very helpful.