- the Cleu - http://www.cleu.org/o -

The Wisdom of Circles

Why a circle?
The circle comes to us from our indigenous roots, the village ways that revolve around the campfire, the circle, and the council. Our lives now are governed by people we never see, in hierarchical structures that allow a few on top and many on the bottom. We believe that the circle offers us a way to find community in a world where money seems to matter more than people. In circle, we discover new meaning in our lives as we talk, work, and play together. Joining in circle empowers each one of us to make a difference.

What’s a circle?
A circle is a group of people in which everyone faces everyone else, in which all responsibilities, including leadership are shared. A circle of people is bound together by a common intention which may be as simple as keeping warm or as complex as supporting each other in realizing a life vision. Although people may choose to contribute more or less to the circle at any given time and may show themselves more or less capable at different tasks, the group as a whole relies on the work, skill, and insights of everyone together, rather than putting its faith only in a few talented or vocal individuals. The wisdom of a circle is the combined wisdom of the participants.

The Power of Consensus
For making major decisions, a circle who values its members more than any one project will use consensus, taking the time to talk through everyone’s concerns until a unanimous decision is reached. Consensus should not be rushed, and if it takes all day to make a decision, enjoy a good lunch and take frequent breaks. Splitting up into small groups temporarily empowers people to come up with creative solutions or proposals. When major decisions are made without group consensus, the circle inevitably risks alienating or losing members, becoming less inclusive in the process. By using consensus when creating or revising the group mission statement, or choosing a significant new intention or strategy for an existing circle, members feel more valued and will more likely work together (and compromise) to make consensus happen. When timely action is necessary, many circles decide by consensus to empower smaller groups (or committees) to carry out specific actions without consensus, thus preserving the inclusivity of the larger group while allowing for greater efficiency.