By Amanda Fenton
Many people who use participatory process as part of their facilitation and leadership practice are often familiar with circle as a way of arranging the chairs to create an environment for something different to occur, or as a tool for check-in and check-out at the beginning and end of conversations.
And it is much more. There are many other facets of circle process and how it can be used: for the whole length of a meeting, as a management process, to make collaborative decisions, and more. It can be adapted to organizational settings, the boardroom, classrooms as well as the living room. I appreciate the components of circle process in The Circle Way, as learning them has helped me understand how to create a strong container for the different kinds of conversations needed now in our families, communities and organizations.
For those of you who want to go deeper, further in your capacity and ability as hosts of conversations that matter, I invite you to learn circle process. Get the listening, get the silence, get the experience of creating a center through which inspiration can arrive. Understanding the power of circle means being able to take the other practices and methodologies to a deeper level as they all share the pattern of circle. ~ Tenneson Woolf
Here are some of the ways I have used circle process in my life and work:
During a year-long leadership development program for directors and regional managers at a financial institution.
To help a task force move forward on their project to select initiatives that will prevent and reduce violence against women in their community.
In core team planning sessions as well as the design and hosting of a day-and-half strategic reflection retreat for a faith community.
At an evening “catalysts dinner” with members of the graphic design community and others to discuss the future of an annual event.
Over a multi-day gathering that integrated circle process with project management to support action-orientated work under a year-long initiative.
During an international conference gathering of reform movement rebels who are working for change inside a very old institution.
At a bi-monthly gathering to reflect on how we are really doing and what we can learn when we pause and listen.
Five years ago I would not have imagined bringing circle process into these environments. I remember how my heart pounded the first time I introduced a talking piece, the first time I put something in the centre, the first time I rang a bell to slow down a high-heat moment. And I also remember how the talking piece (a flip chart marker!) travelled around the circle and allowed each person to have a voice, how the centre shifted the dynamics of where we put our words, and how the bell permitted a much needed breath where before someone would have been steam-rolled in the discussion.
Join us at The Circle Way Practicum on Whidbey Island in August 2016. Discover how the circle is made strong by the importance given to the centre, the topic, the issue and the potential of each person’s voice and participation.
Don’t just change the chairs. Change the conversation.