Humanity’s oldest way to find wise next steps for oneself and the collective - from organisations to communities to families
Circle has for millennia stood as a symbol of meeting together as humans: gathering around the fire to talk about what really matters.
Nowadays it is the prototype of the emerging culture of co-creation, which many organizations, groups, families and communities are longing for – spaces of power and possibility, in which participants affirm the gifts they each bring into the whole, and together create the future they want. It is a container that enables the fluidity of leadership roles; inviting authenticity, engagement and shared responsibility. The real leader is the purpose/aim that is common to all; set in the (in)visible center.
Circle is more than simply putting the chairs into a circular form: its potential is best lived when a skilled circle host guides the gathering; from setting the physical and creative container, to offering inspiring questions, to gently guiding the communication process so that new insights can emerge from the center.
In the last decades, several approaches have been re-viving this ancient way of co-creating the future, such as Bohmian Dialogue, The Circle Way, the Way of Council, Circles of Trust; Restorative Circles as well as other methods that combine a variety of small circle forms linked to the collective large-group conversation: The World Café, Open Space, Pro Action Cafe; Collective Story Harvest and others. Circle-based organizational development approaches include Holacracy and Sociocracy
Drawing fom these methods, circle can be adapted to the collective’s unique purpose. Some typical applications include:
One of the key roles of leaders is to offer conditions in which a team/group of people can think well together – to sense collectively into the future they want to co-create.
Circle invites us to go beyond our conditioned ways of thinking by becoming aware of the deep-rooted assumptions, beliefs and judgments that limit the collective sphere of possibility. By slowing down, the group goes beyond the usual opinionating, polarasing, and pressuring conclusions - making room for fresh insights and ideas that no one individually previously thought possible. Circle can thus be helpful for idea, service, or community development: collectively sensing into something new that wants to be born from the center.
Rushing from one project to another, in businesses, organizations, communities and families alike, interpersonal bonds are often neglected. Even though this fast pace of working seems highly efficient, it has its hidden costs: no shared purpose, lack of clarity/information, sinking motivation, broken relationships - which ultimately results in less (instead of more) efficiency.
Slowing down to talk about how we are doing as individuals and collectives can be a regular practice for enhancing the vitality of the collective (team, family, organisation), for strengthening deep human bonds that are the basis for any collaboration or co-living, or for repairing broken relationships before it is too late (and too expensive emotionally and materially). It can also be a place where every individual is seen in their highest potential, as well as for the unique gifts they bring to the collective.
Learning by sharing our stories
This ancient practice – to gather in circle to share stories – has been successfully transplanted to contemporary organizational and family settings. Storytelling is a way of making sense of the past; to guide us into the future we deeply long for. The circle structure provides a safe space for the stories to unfold, as well as a framework to harvest the key insights that can inform future actions.
Naming what has not been spoken
Consciously slow down to give voice to that which has not been named (within a group, team, extended family, nature allies ...) can bring relief, closure of unhealed past, and openings into the new.
This ancient way of relating offers a beautiful format for meaningful conversations in times of major transitions (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adulthood, eldership ...): to honour the past; to grieve after a major loss; to listen to the larger stories that are calling us; to celebrate the gifts that we have received.