“The Second Circle creates a safe space for meaningful communication and connection in our frenetic world. Through the masterful guidance of Elemental Partners, we can move beyond the latest email or headline and build bridges to our shared humanity.”
Robin Toma, Executive Director, Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations
The circle is the oldest and most common organizing formation in humanity. People across time, geography and culture have met in circles. It is the basis upon which relationships are established and nurtured, alliances are forged and decisions are made. The inherent nature of the circle implies equality. There is no hierarchy in the circle. As Liz Medicine Crow of the First Alaskans Institute says, “in our circles, there is a leader in every chair.” Circles are inherently inclusive, and can expand or contract to suit the needs of those to show up. All voices are heard and respected, honoring the individual and collective wisdom of the group.
We use the power of the circle to build and deepen trust, align values and principles, and work toward real, measurable, and sustained change. While the process is tailored to meet the specific needs of the group, the five organizing principles remain constant within The Second Circle. They are:
1) Begin and end with ceremony. This sets a sacred space that allow people to engage their minds, hearts, and spirits in the circle. I typically conduct a simple ceremony by asking people to rub their hands together for a few seconds and take three deep breaths;
2) Establish guideposts for the circle. My recommended guideposts center on respect. Respect the Space. Respect the Process. Respect Each Other. Respect Yourself;
3) Be intentional about the framing of the activities and discussion points. These open the door for people to tap into their wisdom and stories;
4) Have a skilled facilitator who can hold safe space; and
5) Allow space for individual reflection.
These five principles have worked across all types of groups — from neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and families. Once people agree to trust the process of the circle, transformation happens.
The components of The Second Circle are aligned with the needs and culture of the group. We typically engage in a conversation with key stakeholders and gatekeepers to determine which activities will work best, and to ensure that all participants are prepared and ready to work at the start of the gatherings. Maximizing the effectiveness of face-to-face time together toward these ends is our priority.
Read our case study
City of New Orleans
Community Building and Racial Reconciliation
As the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu had a keen interest in racial reconciliation and community building. He and his staff called upon experts from around the country to design and implement a multi-year process to support a racial reconciliation initiative in the city. The result was The Welcome Table New Orleans (WTNO).
Because of our track record in bringing diverse groups of people together to seek common ground, Elemental Partners was asked to be part of the WTNO design and facilitation team. Along with our partner organizations, The Winter Institute and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, we facilitated seven Welcome Table cohorts throughout the city. The volunteers participated in monthly circle discussions throughout the year, sharing a variety of experiences including exchanging personal histories and perspectives and discussing events that have caught the nation’s attention. Their efforts have helped them to explore their own thoughts and feelings on race and call attention to the need for racial reconciliation in our city and country.
In addition to the neighborhood circles, WTNO had a Civic Leaders Circle, a circle for mothers who have suffered loss due to gun violence, and a Youth Circle. The first cohort of the WTNO Initiative completed their circles in June, 2015 and developed community reconciliation projects to inform, educate and engage the people of New Orleans. Elemental Partners was contracted to train and mentor teams of WTNO Cohort I graduates to facilitate the 2016-2017 WTNO Cohort II circles.
“What I appreciated most was the way in which Elemental Partners worked with us as a thinking partner to create and implement the program. First, working with me to understand and articulate a clear picture of what our goals and objectives were, then providing creative options for how we could reach those objectives all the while thinking about how to adapt to meet the diverse needs of the participants.”
– Judy Reese Morse, Former Deputy Mayor, City of New Orleans
Depending on the number of people and the depth of the process, The Second Circle is offered in half- or full-day sessions. If needed, we can also facilitate a series of 2-hour sessions. Detailed agendas with well-scripted roles and activities are provided to support the processes that allow the group to achieve the intended outcomes of the gatherings.
These processes will account for a range of cultural considerations as well as participants’ learning and communication styles. Activities will engage didactic and interactive modes including reflective (writing) and active (conversational) approaches.