Peace Circle

Thursday, November 1, 2012
5:30-6:30pm 

Questions for Contemplation/Discussion:

1.  How does climate change impact our ability to resolve local and global conflict and create communities where a ‘just peace’ is the rule, rather than the exception?

2.  What do you do, individually, to maintain balance and peace with the natural environment?

Please feel free to share your comments below.

Peace sign, unlit

Peace sign, lit

Project Description

Starting July 1, 2012, my goal is to host a one-hour Peace Circle on the first of every month, for one full year. Everyone is invited. The idea is to gather as a community to speak and listen on the topic of peace – What is it? Why does it matter? Where do we find it? How do we practice it?  I’ll offer some basic talking circle guidelines to get us started, but there will be time and space for everyone present to contribute their voice. There will also be cake!

Circle processes convene people who are experiencing conflict – often quite traumatic conflict – and provide a structured, yet simple process for communicating honestly and safely. Circle processes have been usefully instituted as a formal ADR approach in the criminal justice system in the United States, especially with juvenile offenders, since the 1990s, as part of the Restorative Justice Movement. They are equally helpful, if more informally applied, for families, co-workers, or neighbors who just need a way to work out their differences. According to Kay Pranis, in her book The Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach to Peacemaking (GoodBooks, 2005), circle processes ‘draw directly from the tradition of the Talking Circle, common among indigenous people of North America’ (though I am not as yet aware of the exact cultural groups who should be acknowledged as forebears).

Nor do circle processes always have to address conflict.  Talking circles that invite people to convene in order to celebrate, or brainstorm, or just check in with each other on a deeper level, strengthen a community’s resilience and individuals’ sense of belonging to it.

Since learning about circle processes, I’ve been intrigued by their community-building potential, so I decided to initiate a talking circle on the subject of peace, as a way to practice it with other people.  I’m calling the project Peace Circle: I’ll invite members of my community to meet for a one-hour talking circle in a public place, on the first of every month, for one full year, starting July 1, 2012.  Aside from facilitating the actual talking circle, I’ll also document the meeting and my own subsequent reflections about it, and then post a synthesis of the experience on this blog.  I’ll invite participants to post their own reflections on this blog, as well.

As far as the structure of each Peace Circle meeting, I’ve incorporated most of Kay Pranis’s suggestions for starting a circle, added a few of my own ideas, and come up with the following ten basic elements of a Peace Circle meeting:

  1. Welcome/Introductions
  2. Statement of Intent
  3. The Talking Piece and its function
  4. Safe Space Guidelines
  5. Opening Silence
  6. First Round of speaking/listening
  7. Second Round of speaking/listening
  8. Concluding Round of speaking/listening
  9. Closing Silence
  10. Cake!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me here for more information on the Peace Circle project, or circle processes in general.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pugno_muliebriter/

5 thoughts on “Peace Circle

  1. Wonderful!! Thank you for initiating this project!

    I greatly appreciate how you integrate the arts, restorative justice, and peacemaking. I totally agree that Circles are great for community-building!

    I’m really glad you know Kay, she and her work are fabulous. If you don’t have it already, I’d also recommend the book she wrote with Barry Stuart and Mark Wedge: “Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community”.

    If I’m ever in New York on a date you meet, I’ll come by.

    I look forward to hearing how your doctorate studies and the Peace Circle unfold.

  2. What a great idea–reminds me of the community circles during the Season for Nonviolence in Rochester NY!

    I am just starting to learn more about Circles and Restorative Justice, and really appreciated your overview that put all the parts together so clearly.

    I really responded to the part about talking circles as not always being for addressing conflict, but for brainstorming, celebrating, and community-building. Most of my experience has been with that kind of peace circle, and I find that they do also address conflict in communities, by building a reserve of trust and connection that people can draw on when difficult conversations come up. I am much less inclined to interpret something someone has said as being “dangerous” or “hurtful” when it comes from someone I have shared a circle with.

    This is making me want to come to NYC on the first of a month!

  3. Definitely! I’d love to see you over on my blog about restorative practices and circles–stop by at restorativity.com and leave a message! I look forward to more comments on this page about how the circles are going.

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