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.
3 Family Group Conference Facilitation
Facilitating a Family Group Conference (FGC) requires certain qualities and actions from the coordinator to ensure a successful and productive meeting.
Firstly, the FGC coordinator needs to carry some of the risk involved in the process. This means taking on the responsibility of coordinating and guiding the conference, understanding that outcomes are not guaranteed. A successful FGC coordinator is akin to a maestro orchestrating a harmonious symphony of ideas, concerns, and plans. Their focus goes beyond the logistical aspects of organising the meeting; it’s about weaving together a collective narrative where each participant’s input contributes to the final outcome. This is achieved through careful preparation, where the coordinator shoulders a portion of the risk involved, demonstrating their belief in the process’s potential. Doing so inspires confidence and motivation among the family members and friends’ network, encouraging them to actively engage in the process.
Their independence from the family dynamics, and the mainstream social work service allows them to approach the situation without bias, ensuring that every voice is heard and respected. This impartiality sets the stage for open dialogue and the exploration of creative solutions. By recognising and valuing each family member’s and friend’s network’s unique background and perspective, the coordinator fosters a sense of inclusivity that encourages active participation.
Having an unshakeable belief in the meeting’s success is crucial for the coordinator. This positive mindset helps create an atmosphere of possibility and optimism. It instils confidence in the family members and encourages their active participation and engagement throughout the process.
Inviting people to an FGC can be akin to organising a party. There may be uncertainties regarding attendees’ commitment, making it important for the coordinator to take the lead in inviting and organising the conference. By assuming this responsibility, the coordinator alleviates some of the pressure on the family members, allowing them to focus their energies on planning for positive outcomes.
When kicking off an FGC, expressing gratitude and thanking everyone for their presence is vital. This acknowledgment sets a positive tone and demonstrates appreciation for the participants’ commitment to the process.
During FGC introductions, the coordinator should aim to keep them light and positive. This is an opportunity for the coordinator to personally acknowledge each person’s presence and emphasise their value in the room. It helps build rapport and establishes a supportive environment where all voices are heard and respected.
While keeping the person at the forefront of the planning is crucial, there may be instances where the focus shifts to the issue at hand rather than any specific individual. This ensures that the conversation centres around finding solutions and addressing the concerns or challenges faced by the family.
Effective communication is the foundation of an FGC. The coordinator’s primary role is to get people talking and actively engaging with one another. Through open dialogue, ideas are shared, concerns are addressed, and plans are developed. The coordinator must facilitate and encourage communication, as planning and positive outcomes flow from these conversations.
Furthermore, the coordinator’s role encompasses recognising the potential strength of extended family members and friends’ network in the process. Their involvement brings a broader perspective, additional resources, and a support network that can be instrumental in devising effective plans. The coordinator’s ability to tap into this resourcefulness enriches the FGC, making it a holistic and impactful experience for all participants.
In conclusion, a successful FGC requires a coordinator who is willing to shoulder some of the risk, maintains an unwavering belief in the meeting’s success, takes the lead in organising and inviting participants, and fosters open communication among all involved. By acknowledging and valuing the contributions of each individual, keeping the child’s needs in focus, and leveraging the resourcefulness of extended family members, the FGC can effectively support positive outcomes for the family.