Since ancient times, people have sat in Circle to discuss difficult and important issues. Knowing the value of collective wisdom, these cultures utilized the Peacemaking Circle process to involve its members and their authentic perspectives in these important discussions. These ancient leaders also used the Circle toreflect and celebrate successes and transitions of its members. The Peacemaking Circle process, though different from culture to culture, has the common theme of developing trust and community in a way that is focused and exceedingly effective. Today, many public and private corporations, organizations, and community leaders utilize this group facilitation process to transform their cultures and accelerate progress.
Circles are used in various settings and organizations, enabling facilitators to create a safe environment where individuals can comfortably express their perspectives and contribute their deepest genius and ideas. In Circle, everyone’s voice and life experience is respected and brings wisdom. These contributions are not often valued in our everyday workplaces where hierarchy, education, or cultural differences create separation. Organizations use the Circle process for strategic planning, conflict resolution, organization retreats, conflict resolution, team and trust building and for transitioning changes in management or organizational direction.
Benefits and Features
Circle participants contribute to their organization in new and powerful ways while developing improved listening skills and strengthening relationships. These conversations help organizations reduce turnover and inspire and motivate individuals by connecting them with their individual purposes. Peacemaking Circles strengthen teams, reduce conflict and workplace stressors, and catalyze a team to reach success.
Vision and Purpose
Defining the vision and purpose for holding a Peacemaking Circle is important. Circles are held for many different reasons and for different spans of time. Some Circles will be a one-time experience, for instance, to show appreciation for a departing co-worker. Other Circles may go on throughout a year or over another period of time for successfully navigating organizational change, community building, strategic planning, or conflict resolution.
What are different types of Circles?
Talking or Topic Circles – Participants explore a certain issue or topic from many different perspectives. Talking Circles allow many voices to be heard and offer participants a diversity of perspectives to stimulate options and reflection.
Community Building Circles – Community building Circles create bonds and build relationships among a group of people who have a shared interest. They support effective collective action and mutualresponsibility.
Circles of Understanding or Conflict Circles – These Circles bring together disputing parties or differing opinions to address conflict and develop a complete picture of the context or reason for a particular event or behavior. This type of Circle equips a group toresolve or better understand differences or conflicts.
Circles of Appreciation – Circles of Appreciation are used to honor and celebrate employees and volunteers in a way that creates a welcoming work environment that touches on personal connection rather than a simple paycheck.
Celebration Circles – These Circles bring together a group of people to recognize an individual or a group and to share joy and a sense of accomplishment.
Healing or Support Circles – The purpose of healing Circles is to share the pain of a person or persons who have experienced trauma or loss, or to support an individual or group of individuals encountering a major life change or transition. These Circles often meet regularly over a period of time or as needed by the participants.
What does a Peacemaking Circle look like? Important features participants will experience:
Time – Each Peacemaking Circle takes approximately 2 to 4 hours, depending on the numbers of participants. It takes time to build community and relationships. The Circle process moves at a pace where people can relax and lean into the experience. This can feel very different from our normal and hurried pace. As people begin to trust the process and pace, they discover it IS possible to deepen relationships and “get work done” at the same time.
Meeting Space – We facilitate Circles in locations free of disruption and where participants are comfortable. Circle participants meet in a room or location where a large circle of chairs can be comfortably spaced with no table or other obstruction between them. This setting intrigues participants and further signals a coming together that is distinct from a traditional meeting.
Open/Close in a Good Way – Circle is sacred space and we open and close Circles in a good way. Quotes, poems, music, mission statements, or quiet moments can mark the beginning and closing of a gathering that is not “business as usual.”
Talking Piece – A talking piece is used to encourage deep listening and respect between the participants. The talking piece is an invitation to speak and is passed from person to person in the Circle.
Creating Guidelines – Co-creating guidelines helps participants agree on how they will interact with each other in Circle. They help define the group’s shared values. Guidelines are a core tool in the Peacemaking Circle process and group facilitation.
Keepers – A Circle keeper is someone who has participated in and has been trained in the Peacemaking Circle process. Keepers develop the agenda to meet the group’s needs and are responsible for creating and holding a sacred and safe space.