During the Sex Offender Conference in Riga last year, a special extra event took place: the launch of the CirclesEurope Association. The organisation is the result of the Circles4EU project (2013) and was set up, because a permanent platform for COSA projects was missed by professionals working with these projects in Europe. Board Member Mechtild Hoïng and Treasurer Audrey Alards tell us everything about the start, present and future plans of CirclesEurope.
After Circles4EU, several people that were involved in the project were missing a permanent platform for COSA projects in Europe. It took a couple of years before the CirclesEurope Association was initiated, but after the idea was born at the Eurocrim Conference in Münster, 2016, a group of experts came together and decided to go for it. “We organised a first meeting to explore if other countries were interested in a permanent COSA Europe platform and what they expect from it. It turned out that was a lot of support for this idea”, said Mechtild Hoïng. After the meeting, a group of initiators explored the possibilities and set up the association. “We think an association is the best form, because it gives the members a voice. Projects can become a member and are included in the organisational processes. We think this is very important” The initiators worked hard to make the association official, since June 2018 they are officially registered as the CirclesEurope Association in Utrecht, the Netherlands. On the 23rd of November 2018 the association was officially launched during the CEP Sex Offender Conference in Riga.
The launch did not pass by unnoticed according to Audrey Alards “We have had member applications and people that contacted us for more information about what we do and who we are. We can now start with creating access to new countries and exchange knowledge about COSA. We are still with a small group, but we hope we can slowly grow and expand the network.”
On the 14th of June 2019, CirclesEurope will organise their first General Meeting for its members in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. Right now the board is formed by the initiators of the association, but in June the members will elect the first official board. During the meeting the subgroups of the association are also on the agenda. “We hope the meeting consolidates our organisation, we gain more members and it enables us to pick up all the work, but for now we are busy with trying to find sponsors for the meeting, in order to cover for example travel costs.” The current Chair of the organisation is Riana Taylor from Circles UK, Ann Castrell from COSA CAW Antwerp is the Secretary, Stephen Hanvey (former Circles UK) and Mechtild Hoïng (Avans University) are general board members. Treasurer Audrey Alards explains that the conference is not only about organisational related topics: “We also use the General Meeting as an occasion to organise a mini conference with speakers from different countries like, England, Catalonia and the Netherlands.”
While they are still working on the start of CirclesEurope, Mechtild Hoïng and Audrey Alards also have the future in mind: “We want to make knowledge exchange about COSA projects possible and set up a quality standard for COSA projects. Right now everyone can start a COSA project, there is no authority that will check the quality of the project, but if something goes wrong, it will give all the COSA projects a bad name. We want that everyone knows that the members of the CirclesEurope Association meet a certain quality standard.”
Do you want more information about CirclesEurope, please visit their website.