By Amanda Fenton

I have been reflecting on some recent experiences with a group of 10 people that are working on a grand experiment of transitioning a body of work from founder-led to community-held.

We’ve articulated some principles that guide how we work together, and here are a few:

  • We use The Circle Way as our primary way of working.
  • We each have roles from which we are each empowered to act.
  • When we want to do something (e.g. make a decision, pursue an action), we seek input from those who would be impacted by making a proposal and then, most often using a combination of talking piece council and thumbs voting, we harvest insights for a stronger proposal and wiser action.

Thumbs voting is: thumbs up if you support the proposal, thumbs sideways if you have some concerns or further questions, thumbs down for “no”. After the show of thumbs, if there are any thumbs down or sideways, invite those people to share why and what would improve the proposal for them.

In my recent experiences, a person shared a proposal for an approach to a dilemma and we had a round of talking piece council to speak our comments or clarifying questions. I had differing views and was able to share my thoughts and concerns, as well as listen to everyone else around the rim; sensing into the wisdom emerging from the middle of our council. When it came time for the thumbs vote my thumb was sideways (nearly everyone else was a thumbs up).

This wasn’t a stalemate or a failure. This is the beauty of The Circle Way and our principles. Our group isn’t working with a model of requiring unanimous agreement, but rather one that ensures every voice is heard, that the collective intelligence informs decision-making, and that no one person can derail the process.

I had the chance to speak my perspective to the centre and we heard from others around the rim. There was space for respectful disagreement and moving forward. It is as our friend and colleague Chris Corrigan wrote recently, “that doesn’t mean that everyone gets what he or she wants, because in a democracy you have to balance rights and interests.”

In The Circle Way, we gather together with our purpose and possibility in the centre and invite each voice to speak – welcoming the leadership and wisdom that is in each chair. And there is a dance: asking for what we need, offering what we can, while contributing to the well-being of the group.

I love that these experiences have taught me new depth to the principles and practices of circle. I wonder what new insights we will discover together when we gather on Whidbey Island for The Circle Way Practicum later this August!