Using Circle Process to Move to Wise Action

This is a post I wrote for the May PeerSpirit Circle Tale. Sharing it here on my blog as well!

Second Fire Gathering – Using Circle to Move to Wise Action

As a practitioner of The Circle Way I notice that sometimes circle process is perceived as separate from the idea of getting work done. Circle may be used to check-in and check-out, or to hold a story or appreciation council at a retreat. But when it’s time to do the “real work” some groups lean away from circle and back into the triangle.

The Second Fire gathering held in May 2014 on Whidbey Island was a beautiful example of using the components of The Circle Way as the core process and container for action-oriented work.Components of Circle

At the gathering, a group of practitioners volunteered to engage with PeerSpirit’s body of work to spread the introduction, application and evolution of circle work more widely into the world through The Circle Way Initiative. Nancy Fritsche Eagan, with her deep experience in project management, helped design the gathering to combine trajectory action and solid process and we headed into the “circle-based project leadership” experiment.

After our ceremonial opening and check-in, and a morning spent exploring four possible strategic focus areas, we came back together after lunch in four newly-formed working circles. We had about an hour and a half to dive into our first task: to articulate a scope statement for our working circle (what we would deliver by the end of the next year), two to three bold steps that would help us realize the scope, as well as a bold audacious name for our working circle.

It would have been so tempting to jump into free-flowing conversation to try to accomplish our task. Instead we activated The Circle Way inside our working circles. We named a host and guardian, put down our centre, and began with a check-in to connect our spokes to the centre fire. The question was “How did you get here – what is your relationship to The Circle Way?”. This was a meaningingful and grounding story. We were discovering who sat with us, the stories that wove us to each other, and offered a glimpse into the skills and talents sitting around the rim. We moved from our check-in into conversation council to begin to create our scope for the year.

Working circleLater in this conversation, when we were in the deep end of sticky notes, random ideas, and the squish of the groan zone, again we leaned into The Circle Way. A round of talking piece council allowed each person to speak where we felt we were at this moment and what we needed. We released for the afternoon, in good relationship with each other and with clarity what we needed to do when we reconvened the next morning to be able emerge on the other side of the groan zone. The next morning we sat together, invited a different host and guardian to welcome in the practice of rotating leadership, checked-in, and did terrific work together.

This pattern of The Circle Way repeated like fractals throughout the Second Fire gathering. It was how the transition planning council held their monthly-then-weekly calls over the past year. It was how we worked together during our design days before and through the gathering. It was how the overall gathering was held and how each of the four working circles did their work together.

collaborationThe experiment on integrating circle process with the tools and methods of project management helped us move to wise action, and we left the Second Fire gathering with clear plans that will keep us together in the work of the Circle Way Initiative over the next year.

Photo credits: Nancy Fritsche Eagan