Once you have decided to implement restorative circles, you may experience some anxiety surrounding circle facilitation. But why? First, anything that carries any weight usually invokes a degree of nervousness. If you understand the critical role that circles can play in creating a healthy community, you may look at circle facilitation as a fairly daunting task. Additionally, many people are more comfortable with maintaining a high level of control in their environments. Therefore, using their authority in a more collaborative fashion that gives increased voice to those they serve will, most likely, produce some angst. So, what are you to do? Here are two essential principles to help launch powerful restorative circles:
Plan and Prepare
As is the case for many things in life, preparation is crucial to the success of your circle. Prior to running the circle, review your goals and determine how the circle will function in service of your objectives. Remember, circles are ultimately used to deepen connection and community. It’s all about relationships! Have a clear plan in place, including a written agenda. This plan should consist of a check/warm-up, brief directions for a circle activity or a short list of intentional go-around questions and a final processing question. Be aware that flexibility is very important in circle facilitation. If the community needs to move in a different direction because it is important for their development, allow this to happen. Also, make sure you have enough time to allow for the completion of the circle activity. This does not need to be a lot of time, often 5 – 8 minutes is plenty. Some brief check-ins can be 2 minutes. There will be times when a longer process is warranted. You will begin to notice when these times are needed and can plan accordingly.
The shape of the circle is important. Make sure everybody can see and hear each other with minimal effort. Identical chairs arranged in a relatively tight circle is best, however you may need to be creative in this regard. Short circles, where participants are standing, can also be used. Use warm-up go-around questions until the tone of the circle is relaxed, attentive and willing. If some participants appear distracted by being next to certain peers, one option to address this is to ask the group if everyone if comfortable with their location in the circle. If some participants need to relocate within the circle, allow them to quickly do so with no need for explanation and thank them for their willingness to care for themselves and the community.
Now that you have ironed out the logistics, you are ready to run your circle! Look out for our third part of this series in which we will discuss the process of facilitating your circle!