DC Trainers Network
March Skillshare
March 5, 2020
  • Welcome and Intro of Circle Keepers (aka facilitators): Bette Hoover & Mali Parke
  • Introductions of participants – standing circle.  Name + movement 
  • Seated – Breathe – coming present, be here now.
  • Participants are invited to write a value that is important to them on a sticky pad, drop in the middle
  • Check-ins – State your name + the value that is important to you with brief explanation (then place it on the centerpiece)
  • Talking Piece – introduce it and pass sunwise (clockwise) around the circle.
  • Rap/Overview background of peace circles/core assumptions
History of Peace Circles 
  • Became a movement in the 70s
  • Restorative justice model, repairing harm done, as opposed to criminal justice
  • Rooted in indigenous movements (see handout)
Why Circles? (see handout)
    • Circles can be related to course content or interpersonal
    • Circles help people take responsibility
    • Circles help quiet voices be heard, leaders can emerge
    • Circles can help people explore issues on a deeper level, encourage problem solving (see handout: Critical Issues in Using Circles)
    • Equitable power sharing model
    • Organizing tool
Appropriate to Use Circles Anytime:
    • 3 or more people gather
    • Open or close a meeting
    • Clear the air when there is controversy
    • Build consensus in decision making
    • Move a group towards action
How to Use Circles?
    • Start with a low-risk go-around (name+simple question)
    • Have speaker hold a talking piece
    • Facilitator models appropriate participation
    • Allow people to pass (give them a second chance later)
Core Assumptions
    • Humans are interdependent
    • Punishment disrupts victims
    • We are all born with goodness, by connecting through conflict we grow individually
    • Tapping into inner wisdom of us all by connecting the inner wisdom of each of us in circle
    • Listening in circle means empathy moved on from one to the other
Restorative Questions
  • When challenging behavior: what happened? What were you thinking of at the time? What have you thought about since? Who has been affected by what you’ve done? What do you think you need to do to make things right?
  • When someone has been harmed: What did you think when you realized what happened? What impact has the incident had on you and others? What has been the hardest thing for you? What do you think needs to happen to make things right?
Center piece 
    • Provides a place in the center of the circle with some significant object(s).
    • Helps bring stability (energetically) and gives a place for people to focus as needed.
Experiential Section
Agreements – Solicit ideas of what is needed in order for the group to be real and authentic. (Write them on newsprint without comment.) Pass talking piece.
Establishing expectations and guidelines for how people could behave in the circle helps provide the space where they can connect with others in a respectful way.  If there are objections, discuss them to find the points of conflict.  No need for full agreement.
  • Open-ended questions
  • Conscious of inclusive language
  • Space: be aware of how much space you take up in the conversation
  • Be comfortable with silence
  • Mindful 
  • No side conversations
  • Acknowledge elephants in the room
  • Trick: when listening and responding, count to 3 so there is time to process and digest
Give a brief example of something you’ve done for positive social change – some reasons it worked and went well.  We only need  2 or 3 examples.  We’ll pass the talking piece and you can choose to speak or pass it on.  Listen for commonalities and components that were useful. Pass talking piece around again.
    • Telling stories builds empathy and shared values and increases mutual understanding.  Offering people an opportunity to tell a story helps shatter stereotypes and assumptions, encourages deep listening and builds stronger community.

Exploring issues
Speak of a time an action didn’t go as well as you had hoped and tell how you experienced the situation.  Be honest and brief.  Again, the talking piece is passed and people can volunteer to share as moved.
    • Peace Circles explore the difficult questions after the foundation is laid.  The talking piece can be passed around the circle multiple times to explore the issue more deeply. Finally, the circle keeper thanks participants for their honesty, openness and courage.
Facilitated Discussion
Suspend the use of the talking piece for brainstorming or across circle discussion.  Resume the use of the talking piece ASAP to prevent the facilitator from needing to direct the conversation.  
  • Felt like a safe space
  • Good reminder that everyone is coming in with their own set of conflicts
  • Valuable to listen and to hear
Pass the talking piece asking for final thoughts and/or a word that sums up where that are at the time. Question, thoughts.  (Hand-out on “Complexity of circle continuum”) Depending on the size of the group, the circle keeper may need to contain the closing thoughts to a word or two.  If time permits, the check-out may include next steps as well.  
  • Less about correcting, more about connecting
  • Feel free to split the group up if too large, but groups of over 200 have been in circles before
  • Power is in the talking piece, contains equality
  • How do you deal with people going off on tangents? – sometimes group deals with it themselves by addressing the problem, otherwise the keeper can step in. You can also include it in the greements, suggest a “parking lot” for feelings where group can return at end if time
  • Circles self-regulate conversation, direction and pace a lot
  • Thoughts on centerpiece? 
  • Chose a closing activity that serves the group.  
  • Openings and closings mark the time and place as separate from the rest of the day and of our lives.