This is ‘home port’ for the Star Raft blog, website and community. As you explore the site, you’ll find that you can get anywhere you want to go from just about any page by following the ‘Category’ links in the right hand column. But first, this page offers a bird’s eye view of the Star Raft concept, how we got here, and what it’s good for.
The Star Raft is a step-by-step method for building a Circle
About thirty years ago, Judith Snow and her friends named the first intentional ‘circle’ in the disability field. Judith called it the Joshua Committee because Joshua made the walls of Jericho come tumbling down. Since then, people have adopted and elaborated on the idea, creating ‘circles of friends’, ‘circles of support’, PLAN circles, Tyze circles, and so on.
But there’s a problem with the ‘circle’ as a metaphor …
The idea of a circle is really important – in fact it’s the raison d’être of our work and of this site. The problem is that the image of a circle doesn’t give you very much information about how to do the work! There are a number of articles and some good books about this, but for some time we’ve felt the desire to find an image or a metaphor that people could learn and use as a kind of blueprint for calling together an effective circle.
Why did we adopt a sailing metaphor and why do we call it a ‘Star Raft’?
About twenty years ago, I was sailing on the Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario. One weekend, I was invited to join a convoy with a group of people who shared the small cooperative marina where I rented mooring space. I’m an old Prairie cooperator, and the idea of a co-op marina was right up my alley.
We departed early in the morning and sailed from Kenora to a place near Yellow Girl Bay, about eight hours away. We pulled up for an overnight anchorage, but instead of anchoring out separately at some distance from each other (a very common practice on the water), the person who was leading the group suggested that we form a ‘star raft’ – a pattern that recreational sailors use when they want to anchor in community.
Many of the people in the group knew how to do this — they’d done it before, but several of us were newcomers so we watched, learned, and one by one, were invited into the raft. Here’s how it works:
The person who is organizing the star raft (the star raft ‘captain’) anchors out (usually heading into the wind), and then slowly backs in towards the centre of what is going to become a circle of boats.
Then she calls out to the next boat by name (we were all tuned to a specific hailing channel on our little marine radios), and instructs the captain of that boat to anchor out in the opposite direction (away from the wind), and then slowly back in until the sterns (the back ends) of the two boats are nearly touching.
The captain of the first boat ties a stern line (a short piece of line, maybe eight feet long) to a cleat on the back of her boat and then throws the free end to the captain of the second boat. The captain of the second boat ties the end of that line to a cleat on the back of his boat. Then he ties a second line to a cleat on the opposite side of his boat and throws the free end to the captain of the first boat, who then ties it to a cleat.
So now the two boats are tied together, each anchored in a different (in fact opposite) direction, and the tension between the anchor lines pulling outward and the stern lines pulling inward keep the two boats from banging into each other.
Now the star raft captain (the organizer) calls out to a third boat and instructs the captain of that boat to anchor out at a right angle, and the process repeats itself.
What occurred to us was that this step-by-step method — one invitation at a time — could be a good analogy or metaphor for assembling a circle, one invitation at a time. ‘Anchoring out’ in different directions reminds us that all of us are ‘anchored’ in relationships, workplaces, learning places, and formal and informal associations in our community, and that we all have standing and influence in those places. The boat metaphor reminds us that all of us carry many things ‘on board’ — skills, opportunities, values, contributions that we’re making or would like to be making, and much more. We’re always in a position to share what we carry on board, so the available resources multiply at a rapid rate, if we decide to share.