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Community Building Circle Practice

Circles are a type of restorative practice centering restorative justice philosophy, which is “rooted in Indigenous teachings… [and] is one way to engage in intentional community building using a restorative lens. Proactive circles invite reflection on shared values and goals, demonstrate empathetic and respectful communication, and promote authentic and trusted relationship development. When integrated into academic and professional environments, proactive circles strengthen interconnectedness, feelings of belonging and belief that one matters to and in the community, all of which are necessary for group cohesion and well-being” (Practicing restorative justice at Northwestern).

Community building circles are an excellent place to explore what community means to you, and how we can foster and redefine community together as a team/group/unit. In this first tier of circles, “The attention to relationship building improves established connections and provides safe spaces to develop new ones” (Practicing restorative justice at Northwestern). Circles are a non-hierarchical meeting of minds to create safer, more equitable, and happier environments by cultivating social and emotional connection. The group functions within the shared agreements it has created to allow individuals to both speak without interruption and listen with respect.

How does MCR help facilitate community building circle practice?

The MCR team is currently offering two types of support for departments and units interested in exploring the benefits of community building work. MCR facilitators have completed “tier one” restorative justice training and, in many cases, additional training and professional development on restorative practices and related skills and topics.

Option 1: Stand-Alone Community Space

With stand-alone community spaces, also known as drop-in circles, your team will work with MCR facilitators to engage in circle methodology around a variety of community-focused topics including, but not limited to, setting shared values and agreements; defining and contributing to community; bringing our full selves into a space; developing a sense of connection; having difficult conversations; celebrating accomplishments; and reflecting on the past and thinking ahead.   

We will work with you for 1-2 sessions, at which time you will have the foundation upon which to continue your community space independently. The MCR team will remain available for questions and support.

Option 2: Circle Series for Groups

Using community building circle practice in an ongoing way can deepen connection and trust within a team/group/unit. In a circle series, we still follow the principles and engage in the topics that are used in drop-in circles, and we still practice respectful and open communication. With a dedicated series, however, facilitators can tailor the circles to dig deeper into some of the top-of-mind themes and questions for your specific group. 

Examples of circle series themes include:  

  • Re/establishing effective team dynamics 
  • Finding common ground and language for difficult conversations 
  • Revealing group strengths and shared goals 
  • Holding space to unpack team retreat themes and action items 

These sessions can be 60 to 90 minutes, and we recommend 3 to 6 sessions for your group to effectively create the circle and shared agreements.

How Do I Request Developing a Circle?

If you’d like to discuss developing a community building circle, please complete this intake form. A team member will respond to you within 48 hours.

Submit Request