Best practice

In every European country where it has been implemented providers and facilitators of COSA have encountered situations that were different from standard COSA procedures or that needed a special solution. Within the project Circles4EU an invertory of these situations and their solutions have been made for Catalonia, The Netherlands, Latvia and the UK.

Possibly some of these situations have occured elsewhere. In that case, it is useful to learn how others have solved these problems.


Best practice can be defined as ‘a policy or practice (method or technique) that has consistently shown to contribute to the mission of COSA in terms of organization / implementation, practice / circles operation, and program integrity / quality. This means the policy or practice leads to results that are either more consistent / reliable, more efficient or results superior to those achieved with other means’.

These examples of best practice might provide a package of practical knowledge that can also be used by other countries working with COSA.

Method of best practice collection

All partners in participating countries, including all volunteers, were actively invited to share best practice by telling their stories to a project researcher. Narratives were received from Catalonia, The Netherlands, Latvia and the UK. The researchers also used articles and research reports for this purpose.

For the collection of narratives via personal communications, a format was developed. The following guiding themes were used for describing the stories:

  • The issue e.g.: What is the interesting issue you want to bring into discussion; Why is that issue interesting? What caused this issue?
  • The context e.g.: Who is involved or plays a role concerning the issue you are bringing into discussion? Where did it take place? When did it happen? How often did it take place?
  • The solution e.g.: What did you do about is? What were specific challenging or supporting circumstances related to that issue?
  • The result e.g.: How did that issue get concluded? What was the effect of your solution?

In the Best Practice Inventory, best practice are summarized by country, following this structure.

Best practice situations

Core members

  • what if a core member has learning disabilities?
  • what if a core member is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Condition?
  • what if a core member is transferred from a sex offender only cell block to a cell block with inmates convicted for all sorts of crime?
  • what if a core member lives in isolation from his/her family?
  • what if a core member returns to the house where he earlier victimized a relative?
  • what if a core member has inappropriate photos of children?
  • what if a core member has sexual fantasies about a volunteer?
  • what if long term monitoring of the core member by the volunteers seems necessary?


  • how to recruit new volunteers?
  • what if volunteers have different opinions on certain situations?
  • what if a volunteer does too little work?
  • what if a volunteer discloses information on a core member to a third person?
  • what if a volunteer behaves inappropriately?


  • can a circle operate when the core member is in prison?
  • what if no venue is available for circle meetings?
  • what if restoring the relationship with the victim does not seem possible?
  • how to deal with the media (also in high-proifile cases)?

Click here to download the document Best Practice in COSA