What Does a Community Circle Look Like?

We are often asked to facilitate conversations in which several individuals participate.  Trained in the art of creating “a safe space,” our facilitators in these instances utilize a Circle process.  The use of a talking piece ensures that everyone in the Circle is treated with honor and respect.  As the piece is passed from one to the next, each participant is allowed to speak without interruption.  Silence and deep listening are honored as is the profound need to “speak one’s truth.” 

 

A Circle is a powerful tool enabling much needed “Community Conversations” on topics such as poverty, race, sexual preference bias, addiction, political and ideological differences and more. The Circle can also be used with existing groups, such as churches, schools, clubs, businesses and non-profit organizations to develop trust among members and co-workers.  Following the exploration of shared values and understandings, as well as time spent on getting better acquainted, the participants can then move toward the resolution of conflict and healthy organizational growth. 

 

Finally, restorative Circles are used to address “acts of harm” that often create ripple effects throughout an entire community.  In these cases, we create Peacemaking Circles to address the widespread impact.  These Circles create a safe space for the witnessing of pain of those who have been harmed.  They also promote accountability in those who created the harm.  The result, most often, is the discovery of pathways for repair and reincorporation into community.

 

Whatever the need or reason for coming together in a Circle, we strive to take participants beyond where they have gone before.  To do this, we progressively adapt rounds of questions, starting with relatively "safe" terrain and the establishment of trust toward responses that involve more vulnerability and soul-searching.

© 2020 by Portland Center for Restorative Justice

Portland, Maine