Welcome to the “Family and Community Group Conference Lived Experienced Practice Notes” blog series, brought to you by Kar Man and Tim. In this series, we will share our insights and experiences from Family and Group Conferencing (FGC).

Kar Man, a parent activist with lived experience of using FGC to plan for her future alongside her community, brings valuable insights as a research assistant and peer researcher at CASCADE, Cardiff University. She actively contributes to an NIHR-funded research project on Family Group Conferencing, working alongside Professor Jonathan Scourfield. Kar Man’s involvement extends beyond research, as she serves as a Lived Experience Advocate in the London Borough of Camden. Her dedication to social change through FGC, Peer Advocacy, and Co-Design models shines through her work.

Tim, a leading expert in facilitation and participatory methods, combines his 18 years of experience as a social worker with his extensive knowledge of empowerment models. As a service manager with LB Camden, Tim has facilitated over 100 FGCs in different communities in Wales and England, making him a seasoned practitioner in the field. His commitment to community inclusion and collaborative approaches is evident through his role as a Co-Investigator on the National Institute for Health Family Group Conference research project.

Through this blog series, we will explore the intricacies of FGC practice, community engagement, and the transformative power of relational activism. Join us on this journey as we look in detail into innovative approaches, share practical insights, and examine the impact of FGCs on social change. Stay tuned for our upcoming posts, where we will delve into various aspects of FGC practice and its profound influence on families and communities.

4 Culture and Ethnicity in Family Group Conferencing

One of the significant strengths of Family Group Conferencing (FGC) as a model is its recognition and adaptation to family culture, encompassing both small and big “C” culture.

One of the unique features of FGC is its flexibility in that the person or family have the autonomy to decide where to have the conference that makes them feel comfortable and the choice of food.

The environment is one of the factors that affects our mood, emotions, etc. People live through the primary senses using sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, each stimulated by our environment (Clements-Croome, 2011). Having the right to decide on this is essential that the person has a sense of control. It is their meeting; they need to feel comfortable in it. Eating itself could trigger the release of endorphins, which promotes bonding (Cohen et al. 2010). According to Dunbar (2017), communal eating with family or friends is a human universal. Sharing food can also strengthen community bonds and enhance the social network capability to provide social and emotional support.

The choices are often reflected by the person’s cultural background or personal preferences, which the FGC fully adapts and respects, and this is manifest in the original concept and emphasises that FGC is a family-led conference.

It is important to note that the FGC model originated in New Zealand and was initially developed to meet the cultural needs of Māori families. This cultural context played a significant role in shaping the principles and practices of FGCs. The model’s foundation in Māori culture emphasises the importance of family and community involvement in decision-making processes. Over time, the FGC model has expanded and been adapted to different cultural contexts around the world, recognizing and respecting the cultural diversity of families involved.

The FGC model’s ability to recognize and adapt to family culture, regardless of its size or significance, is a fundamental strength. By incorporating and respecting cultural values, practices, and traditions, the FGC creates an environment that values and empowers families on their own terms. This cultural sensitivity helps to build trust and rapport between the coordinator and the family, promoting more effective and inclusive decision-making processes.

In summary, Family Group Conferencing is a model that acknowledges and adapts to family culture, recognising both small and big “C” culture. The inclusion of cultural choices, such as food, during FGCs provides an avenue for expressing cultural heritage and fostering a sense of belonging. The model’s origins in meeting the cultural needs of Māori families in New Zealand have influenced its principles and practices, which have since been adapted to various cultural contexts. By respecting and embracing family culture, the FGC model strengthens its ability to support positive outcomes for families.

References:

Cohen, E., Ejsmond-Frey, R., Knight, N., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2010). Rowers’ high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds. Biology Letters, 6, 106–108.

Dunbar, R.I.M. Breaking Bread: the Functions of Social Eating. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology 3, 198–211 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-017-0061-4

Clements-Croome, D.J. (2011) The interaction between the physical environment and people – research gate, The Interaction Between the Physical Environment and People. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301187129_The_Interaction_Between_the_Physical_Environment_and_People  (Accessed: 08 November 2023).

 

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