- A lot of what I know about circular processes has come from attending General Assemblies of Yukon First Nations over the last 22 years. The overriding belief is that when everyone comes together and feels safe to share their authentic opinion respectfully, the wisdom contained in the assembly will produce the best option for moving forward. This people centered approach starts where people are at and moves forward from there. From beginning of the process you do not know where you will be when it ends. Participants needs to be comfortable with that ambiguity.
Leadership Role in Guiding a Circular Process
1. Make connections to human qualities in yourself, each other and the community prior to starting the process.
- Participate in art and culture events (connects a diverse group of people);
- Provide and share food;
- Share good humour;
Create opportunities to share interests and accomplishments.
2. Establish the Container for the meeting
- Meet in a place that naturally separates people from the rest of the world and allows them to turn towards each other;
- Establish the time boundaries and the freedom within it to take the time required to hear each other and share true feelings respectfully;
- Offer an environment where everyone feels safe and appreciated by offering gratitude for showing up and for all the hard work we are about to do;
3. Describe the topic or agenda and remind all that their role is to listen to find points of connection among all the voices;
- 4. Begin with a sharing round, leading to the left (direction of the heart) offering each person a moment to pay attention to what they feel about the subject and give it language (owning it as their perspective). When not speaking each person listens carefully to find points of overlap and language that will capture it. They may also consider how they might adjust their position in order to create areas on overlap.
- 5. Break and allow spontaneous exchanges where people start to work out possible wording to describe shared values. Special attention is given to people who are the outliers, to try to fully understand their interests and concerns.
- 6. Regroup and assess the need for further discussion or ask for tabling of a resolution. If more than one offering, table them both and then synthesize them, or choose one to start with. Open the floor for comments (encouraging people to express how they feel or genuinely ask questions to understand points of remaining concern – not to discredit people). Adjust the resolution, and gradually increase the areas of connection.
- 7. Assess if a break for more spontaneous discussion would be beneficial or if there is the possibility of a successful vote. Approaching the time boundaries may also stimulate a vote.
- 8. There are two options in a vote – agree or agree not to disagree OR disagree. People sometimes agree to not disagree because they have been heard and recognize the benefit to the collective. The principle of enough is held in people’s hearts. If even one person feels strongly enough to disagree it is understood that there must be an aspect that still needs to be explored and the status quo is maintained until the next meeting. The benefit of the gathering was the opportunity to hear the full range of opinion and give it consideration.
- 9.Close with an expression of gratitude to the participants. The transparency (public vote) of the process is fundamental to the functioning between meetings. People will conduct themselves after the meeting holding in their hearts the resolutions they have been a part of.