Peacemaking Circles

Peacemaking Circles use a restorative justice framework and derive their origin from indigenous cultures.  Peacemaking Circles involve two or more participants. A Peacemaking Circle is a dialogue process that works to create a space to discuss, share, improve relationships, and respect differences. Circles assume a universal human wish to be connected to others in a good way. Honest communication, increased understanding, relationship development, and community building are the desired outcomes of Peacemaking Circles.

There are various types of Peacemaking Circles used to address differing needs/issues:

  • Talking Circles: A way of bringing a group together for the purpose of solving an existing problem, exploring an issue or topic from many different perspectives.
  • Family Circles: For family systems to build understanding, begin to heal negative impacts, and share needs and appreciations.
  • Understanding Circles: This is a Talking Circle focused on understanding some particular aspect of a conflict or difficult situation.
  • Healing Circles: To share the pain of a person or people who have experienced trauma or loss.
  • Support Circles: Brings together key people to support a person through a particular difficulty or major change in life.
  • Community Building Circles: “Community is not a place but a relationship,” (Dr. Carolyn Boyes-Watson.) Community Building Circles connect us to our community, create a sense of connection, and introduce a deeper discussion on values in order to address issues.
  • Conflict or Repair Building Circles: Centers around a specific conflict or crime. Spider webs of relationship connections are repaired in Conflict or Repair Building Circles.
  • Reintegration or Transition Circles: Brings together an individual and a group/community from whom that individual has been estranged in order to work towards reconciliation and acceptance of the individual into the group again. Can also be used for individuals and the group/community before they transition away (from the group.)
  • Celebration or Honoring Circles: Focuses on recognizing an individual or group and sharing joy and a sense of appreciation and accomplishment.
  • Sentencing Circles: A community-directed process in partnership with the criminal justice system.  It involves all those affected by an offense in deciding an appropriate sentencing plan, which addresses the concerns of all participants.

The facilitator of the Circle (Circle Keeper) is a part of the process and aims to give everyone a voice, address underlying issues, and heal potentially damaged relationships.

FLYY’s Peacemaking Circles can be a one-time event, or part of ongoing community, family, workplace, school, justice system, and/or organizational growth and development.

The process:

Circles have been around for thousands of years and used by indigenous people around the world as a way to be in community with each other. Many people have been in a Circle or have facilitated circle. What sets Circles apart lies in the process – the use of a talking piece and guidelines. A talking piece is used to facilitate the conversation. It is an invitation to speak. It is also the reminder to listen to the person holding the talking piece. Mutually agreed upon guidelines create a common understanding of how people choose to show up in circle. Everyone in the Circle shares responsibility for practicing the guidelines while in Circle. As you practice these ways of being in Circle, they become a habit and move into other areas of your life. Circles provide a space for people to come together in a good way. When we take time to sit with each other and listen and speak from the heart, we feel heard. We find common values and a mutual respect is established. Many people speak of the restorative quality of being in Circle.

Applications for Peacemaking Circles:

  • Diversity and inclusion conversations
  • Dialogue between rival gangs
  • Open discussion on various topics
  • Community building, relationship strengthening, trust
  • Celebrations, anniversaries, birthdays, appreciations
  • Support for people dealing with life events (grief, healing, illness, transitions)
  • School support and discipline
  • Neighborhood tensions
  • Reintegration
  • Victim support
  • Family conflicts
  • Before, during, and/or after rehabilitation or prison
  • Staff renewal, team building, conflict transformation

“The Circle provides a safe space where this deeper connecting can happen, where conflicts can become opportunities for building relationships. Today, we witness both the harm of disconnecting and the healing power of connecting. We need now, more than ever before, to find ways to connect with each other constructively, to understand and respect our differences, and to recognize the invaluable contribution each of us can make to creating community.”  

-From Chuck Robertson Sr., Oscar Reed, and Jamie Williams;  “The Restorative Way”

“I encourage the world to choose courage and compassion. Far too often we wait for leaders and governments to bring us peace. But think about it: it is individuals who build peace. And when individuals build peace, it is strong, it is lasting, and it is genuine. That does not mean that we sit nicely on a meditation cushion and enjoy our own inner peace. Peace requires action. Peace requires a real sense of urgency. Peace requires courage and hard work. Peace means that each and every one of us has an obligation to build mutual understanding and an obligation to reject fear. Peace requires us to not only accept but to celebrate the differences among us. Peace encourages us to embrace differences.”

-From Gyalwang Drukpa

For more information or to begin a needs assessment process, please call Jessie Kushner at 608-347-1432 or email her at jessie@flyy.org