What is the Learning Circle for Community Building Practitioners?

The Learning Circle brings together people who are directly working in communities, supporting residents to build connections between neighbours and encouraging community led ideas to emerge.   

Participants are encouraged to share their understanding, experiences of enabling community led action, as well as exploring challenges.  Each session is supported by an experienced facilitator, who will host specific topics and introduce practical tools and techniques to support your practice and development.


Programme Structure

Circle members are expected to commit to meeting 5 times over a year. Each session will consist of a morning of structured facilitated activities on a specific theme, followed by an open ‘community of practice’ session. Please arrive by 9.45 for sessions to start at 10.00. Refreshments will be provided, but please don’t forget to bring your own lunch.

  • 10.00 -12.30 Facilitated structured activities on specific topics
  • 12.30 -13.00 Lunch break
  • 13.00 -14.30 Community of practice

Learning Circle: Practice Development Mornings Session 1 - Building welcoming Communities

This initial workshop will involve building new connections through networking and sharing the experiences of group members. We’ll discuss some core principles and what they mean to ourselves and our organisations. We’ll also take the opportunity to reflect on our personal interest in community, and how we can bring our strengths and gifts to grow our communities.

Date: Wednesday 22nd April 2020

Venue: Barnwood Trust, Overton House, Overton Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3BN

Facilitators: Ismail Kholwadia, Jane Griffiths and Penny Hulbert

Session 2 – Asset Mapping

This session introduces some tools, techniques and shared experiences that will enable you to get started in discovering the community you are serving. You will be introduced to the concept of asset mapping and why the process of doing it is even more important than the end outcome. It’s more often not about creating a map, but rather building relationships between neighbours and people in the community.

Date: Wednesday 13th May 2020

Venue: Barnwood Trust, Overton House, Overton Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3BN

Facilitators: Ismail Kholwadia, Jane Griffiths, Liam Daniels and Penny Hulbert

Session 3 – Similarities and Differences/Different approaches to working with Communities

This workshop looks at the relationship between the community driven approaches of ABCD and other approaches, this could include Community Organising, Neighbourhood Coaching and work around Gifts. We’ll explore where there are similarities or differences, so practitioners can maximise the most appropriate tools to use in their context.

Date: Wednesday 15th July 2020

Venue: Barnwood Trust, Overton House, Overton Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3BN

Facilitators: Ismail Kholwadia, Jane Griffiths, Sue Price & Guests

Session 4 – Power – Where is the Power held?

In this workshop we’ll seek to gain a deeper understanding of how power is held and discuss the relationship between responsibility and power. We’ll explore your experiences of when ‘help’ is ‘unhelpful’ and what the successful outcomes from stepping back were. We’ll also discuss how to develop our sense of discernment, so we know when our help is needed and when it’s not.

Date: Wednesday 7th October 2020

Venue: Barnwood Trust, Overton House, Overton Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3BN

Facilitators: Philip Booth, Ismail Kholwadia and Jane Griffiths

Session 5 – Community Animation

Community Animation is an approach to facilitating groups that can be used in community development, to plan and deliver workshops and when you are working alongside groups, equipping them to reach their full potential.

When you organise meetings or gatherings, it offers a way to prepare and support them to happen in a way that enables lively, creative and productive times for the people who come.

When you support or facilitate groups, animation offers a framework and a set of tools to enable a group and its members to reach their potential. At its most powerful it equips a group to critically analyse its situation, drawing on their life experience, set goals and take action to influence or change things.

This session will build on session 4, about power; animation has the potential to rebalance dynamics between people in groups by being alongside those who have least power and voice in any given moment.

Date: Wednesday 16th December 2020

Venue: Barnwood Trust, Overton House, Overton Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3BN

Facilitators: Hettie Peplow, Ismail Kholwadia and Jane Griffiths

This session might be kept flexible if the need arises from the group to discuss and learn about a certain topic which may not have been talked about previously.

Application of interest

Learning Outcomes:

Members are expected to share and learn from each other through offering reflective questions. It is anticipated that by the end of the Learning Circle, its members would have:

  • Attended all 5 facilitated sessions
  • Facilitate a local Learning Circle or practice group within their job roles or communities


A number of resources will be available to support Learning Circle members with the completion of the programme. These include:

1) A Workshop Guide for each of the 5 workshops which includes the following information:

  • Workshop overview.
  • Stories and reflective questions
  • Resources and papers on specific topics

Core Principles of the Learning Circle:

The programme seeks to offer community development practitioners a more structured approach to learning, whilst creating flexibility to discuss practical issues that relate to the theme of the session. It seeks to build a network of practitioners, so people can turn to each other for support and guidance. The sessions seek to create the environment where practitioners feel safe and a culture of trust can be created ensuring people can be authentic with each other. As in any circle, continuity and connectivity with the group is integral and gaps in the circle effects everybody in their learning experience, for this reason attendance to all 5 sessions is essential.

Support during the Learning Circle:

The group will be encouraged to think about how members can support each other through concerns or challenging situations. The group can be a resource for members to turn to.

Responsibilities & expectations of participants:

Throughout the programme Learning Circle members are invited to think about their collective values and behaviours that can contribute to shaping a unique strengths-based culture, which in turn they can take back to the communities they serve. Members are encouraged to think about the gifts that they want to share with others in their own communities and members of the Learning Circle.

Expressions of Interest:

To express your interest in being part of this circle please complete the below Expression of Interest form. The closing date for expressions of interest is Friday 3rd April 2020. Expressions of interest will be collated, and contact will be made by Wednesday 8th April for confirmation. If you have any questions, please get in touch by emailing learning@barnwoodtrust.org or calling us on 01242 539935.

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