What is the Stewardship Circle?

The Stewardship Circle is an invitation to reflect on the role of leadership in enabling a culture where communities can connect the strengths of local people to build neighbourhoods from the inside out.

The Stewardship Circle is a free opportunity open to community leaders and representatives of local organisations who believe in social justice and ensuring every voice is included. We want to bring together a varied mix of people who live and work in Gloucestershire to explore together strength-based approaches to creating positive and collective change in the county.

We believe that sustainable communities thrive when people who live together come together to share their skills and passions, and everyone has the opportunity to make a contribution to the place where they live. To achieve this vision, as leaders, we recognise that we need to reflect and challenge ourselves on what leadership means. We need to consider alternative ways of leading that aren’t about directing change from the top, but rather creating the conditions that enable people in communities to take action on the things that are important to them.

The Stewardship Circle seeks to support this vision by inviting a group of peers – all active in community, health, policing and housing and who share an interest in nurturing citizen-led action in the neighbourhoods they serve – to spend time together reflecting on the leadership challenge.

Stewardship Circle sessions are safe and creative spaces to explore specific topics as a group, allowing individuals to share their understanding, experience and challenges with each other.  The sessions build over time as a programme that links members into a network of peers and supports them to navigate the complexity of leading in a changing context.

Facilitated by Richard Holmes, Rob Fountain and Sally Byng, together with key practitioners who bring relevant perspectives, sessions will pose questions for the group to explore and share insights from their own experience.

Programme Structure

Stewardship Circle members are invited to commit to participate in 6 facilitated discussion days spread over a year. Each of these gatherings is themed around a particular topic, and members are invited to read key articles, watch relevant videos or listen to podcasts in advance of the session so that they can shape the discussion on the day. Whilst these topics offer a structure to the conversations, the sessions are flexible, enabling members to take responsibly for sharing the issues that are important to them.

These are not taught training days – the sessions create a space to explore stewardship behaviours and practice and consider what rituals and routines the group wants to develop, to model how a strengths-based culture can evolve.

Session 1 – Shifting Paradigms – Moving from what’s wrong to what’s strong

In this initial workshop we will be exploring the idea of working from strengths, rather that a deficit approach which remains dominant in our culture. We’ll consider what might be the implications of shifting perspectives from problems to possibilities. We’ll also introduce the concept of stewardship and its relevance to citizen-led movements including Asset Based Community Development. The group will be invited to reflect on some core principles and consider what they might mean to ourselves and our organisations.

Facilitators: Richard Holmes and Rob Fountain

Session 2 – Discovering Core Gifts

Session 2 – Discovering Core Gifts

Taking a strength-based perspective requires us to understand more about gifts and how to connect and utilise individual gifts for the benefit of our communities and organisations. One thing we know for certain: understanding and using our gifts is both an old and a new idea. Cultures and faith traditions, many centuries old, used specific methods to identify and use gifts in their members. Now, modern neuroscience and positive psychology have backed up older wisdom traditions by proving that individuals thrive when they are able to find meaning in their lives by knowing and giving their gifts.

Facilitators: Richard Holmes and Rob Fountain.

Session 3 – Creating interdependence

This workshop will be a safe space to explore the differences between independence and interdependence and what this means for agencies and service providers. Whilst communities have the capacity and skills to take action on the things they care about, people will still require access to quality services. This workshop invites us to deepen our understanding of the role agencies, and individuals within them, play in addressing social justice, and how together we can nurture innovation to ensure those we serve have the opportunity to lead a life of their choosing.

Facilitators: Richard Holmes, Rob Fountain and Katie Peacock

Session 4 – Building Hopeful Cultures

In committing to long term social change, and as leaders and stewards of that change, we need to be hopeful about what we are doing now to reap rewards in the years ahead, especially if the change we want to see is likely to go beyond our tenure in an organisation or even our lifetime. In this session we’ll take a deeper look at how to build hope and consider how people in communities and organisations can come together to create cultures that build deeper relationships and shared purpose.

Facilitators: Bruce Anderson, Richard Holmes and Rob Fountain

Session 5 – Creating systemic change in a complex world

In this session we will be exploring systems change and consider how we can all work together to create transformation, to use resources in interesting ways and look for synergies and spot and take advantage of assets or opportunities. We will be invited to reflect on Gloucestershire as an ecosystem that organically changes and grows with the connections that are made within it and how we can maximise those connections for the purposes of social change.

Facilitators: Jean Boulton, Richard Holmes and Rob Fountain

Session 6 – Seeds for transformation

In this workshop we will consider what we understand about transformation, and what that means to our organisations, the wider system and ourselves. We’ll take a deeper look at what the implications might be for those seeking to steward social change across the system and consider what leadership qualities we are seeking to nurture in ourselves and others. We’ll also learn from others about different forms of organisational structures that facilitate social change in new and innovative ways, inviting reflection on the opportunities and tensions that can emerge as leaders find ways of letting go of their power in order to unleash the potential of social change from within communities and individuals.

Facilitators: Will Mansell, Pippa Jones, Richard Holmes and Rob Fountain

Support during the Stewardship Circle

The group will be encouraged to think about how members can support each other through concerns or challenging situations. The group should always be the first resource members turn to.

Profile and qualities of a Stewardship Circle member

Stewardship Circle members are leaders who believe in social justice and ensuring every voice is included. They value relationships over prestige, power and position. They understand how to move beyond a single issue and recognise the importance of mobilising people to develop a whole community vision that includes the interests of everyone.

Members of the Stewardship Circle do not need to have any formal leadership experience, but they will have the ability to inspire whole scale community-led action. They may be a leader in civil society or hold a senior role in a social sector organisation. Others might have formal leadership experience as a commissioner or manager in a local council or as a political, faith or business leader in the community.

Responsibilities and expectations of participants

Throughout the programme Stewardship 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. Throughout the programme members are encouraged to think about the gifts that they want to share with others in their own communities and members of the Stewardship Circle.

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