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.

5 Engaging and Involving

Building the idea of the family group as a resourceful resource is a key aspect of FGC coordination. This perspective highlights the strengths and capabilities within the family, empowering them to take an active role in decision-making. The coordinator should establish the family as decision-makers, recognising their expertise in understanding their own needs and aspirations. Additionally, involving the family as decision designers ensures their active participation in designing and shaping the plans that emerge from the FGC.

The coordinator holds the responsibility for managing group dynamics and making final decisions on who should participate in the FGC. This includes considering the family’s preferences, power dynamics, and ensuring a balanced representation of perspectives.

From the adults’ point of view the difference between FGC and other formal meetings with professionals is that at FGC, you are not just given a date and time to attend a meeting to sit there and listen to other people talk about you. Instead, you are there to help people understand the best way to support you. You are not just the person with the problem there but also part of the solution. The sense of autonomy is crucial to help eliminate the feeling of shame and turn to a more positive feeling about doing something good for yourself, and with the support from the family and friends’ network, can strengthen the relationship with one another as FGC promotes open and honest conversation which helps deepen the understanding with each other.

Sometimes, various reasons prevent a person from sharing their struggles with others, even the closest family members or friends, and they might not know about the struggles. Therefore, a skilful FGC coordinator is crucial to an FGC, engaging with the person, guiding through the process, and encouraging and empowering participation. It is about more than preparation, organisation, and facilitation, despite all those being essential skills for an FGC coordinator.

Engaging and involving participants is a crucial aspect of Family & Group Conferencing (FGC) that contributes to its success.

Food at family and group meetings can play a significant role in engaging people and lowering tension. By providing food, the FGC creates a more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, allowing participants to feel more comfortable and open to sharing their perspectives. Food also serves as a symbolic gesture, demonstrating that the FGC is a different kind of meeting, emphasising collaboration, and building relationships.

Widening the circle and involving all family members and key professionals is key to a successful FGC. The more individuals involved, the richer the perspectives and contributions to the decision-making process. The coordinator might adopt the mindset that the more, the merrier, as it allows for a diverse range of voices and experiences to be considered.

Drawing a family tree or eco map of the adults’ network can be a helpful starting point for discussions about who should be involved and invited to the FGC. This visual representation helps identify the group and professionals who should be included in the process, ensuring that everyone who has a stake in the decisions is present.

Recognising the family, its members, boundaries, and capacities is essential for effective FGC coordination. The coordinator should have a deep understanding of the family dynamics and the strengths each member brings. By recognising and valuing the family as a team, the coordinator can foster a sense of collective responsibility and collaboration.

 

 

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