Restorative Circles

Can Involve: Harmed Party/Parties, Responsible Party/Parties, Support People, Community Members, Decision Makers, Surrogate Victims

Circles can be used in a wide range of settings, in response to a wide range of issues. Circles are unique in their use of a talking piece, a centerpiece, and the structure of the conversation, informed by sacred and secular practices of numerous Indigenous peoples of North America. A Circle requires substantial preparatory work to inform all parties about the process, and to help the circle keepers craft generative questions to guide the discussion. The structure of the Circle discourages hierarchy, and the group takes collective responsibility for the quality of these values based conversations.

During the process, each participant is given the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on the issue at hand. The Circle begins with an opening ceremony, followed by establishing common values and guidelines as a group. In some cases, the Circle process ends with the creation of a formal agreement between the participants, while in others the process itself is what is needed. Circles are particularly effective when there are a large number of participants or when participants could benefit from additional structure in the conversation.

“The circle is a dialog process that works intentionally to create a safe space to discuss very difficult or painful issues in order to improve relationships and resolve differences. The intent of the circle is to find resolutions that serve every member of the circle. The process is based on an assumption of equal worth and dignity for all participants and therefore provides equal voice to all participants. Every participant has gifts to offer in finding a good solution to the problem.”

~ Kay Pranis, “Circle Keeper’s Handbook,” (unpublished)

 

Types of Circles

  • Celebration
  • Learning
  • Community-building
  • Dialogue: Talking, Sharing or Understanding
  • Healing 
  • Support/Accountability
  • Reintegration/Re-Entry
  • Decision Making
  • Conflict Resolution

 

Essential Elements of a Circle

  • Seating of all participants in a circle
  • Circle Keeper(s)
  • Opening Ceremony
  • Centerpiece
  • Values/Guidelines
  • Talking Piece
  • Guiding Questions
  • Closing Ceremony