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Circle Structure

Circles are composed of an inner frame and an outer frame.

We can think of the inner frame and outer frame when looking at a tree. The inner frame would be the part of the tree we do not see: its roots.

The Inner Frame

The inner frame includes:

  • The shared values
  • The guidance of the medicine wheel
  • Circle principles

The shared values are the ways in which we can aspire to be our best selves and create the conditions for others to do the same. Some examples are:

  • Love
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Courage

Participants are invited to share their values and hold each other accountable to living out these values during the Circle process.

The medicine wheel, which comes from Indigenous cultures, holds that all human beings are made up of four aspects:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual

We draw on all four of these areas to bring balance to the Circle process. Storytelling is the pathway to healing and understanding. As stories are shared, members of the Circle interact with those stories and create other stories. Telling your truth gives others permission to do the same.

Once you have created your Circle values and are invited to engage the ancient wisdom of the medicine wheel, now you are ready to move into your Circle principles. Circle principles are here to guide your Circle as you move toward the community building process. These principles are:

  1. Circles call us to act on our personal values.
  2. Circles include all interests.
  3. Circles are easily accessible to all.
  4. Circles offer an equal opportunity to participate.
  5. Involvement in Circles is voluntary.
  6. In Circle, everyone participates directly as themselves.
  7. Circles are guided by a shared vision.
  8. Circles are designed by those who use them.
  9. Circles are flexible in accommodating unique needs and interests.
  10. Circles take a holistic approach.
  11. Circles maintain respect for all.
  12. Circles invite spiritual presence.
  13. Circles foster accountability to others and to the process.

The Outer Frame

The outer frame represents the part of the tree that we do see: the trunk, the branches, and the leaves.

The trunk of the tree represents:

  • Circle keeping: the facilitator of the Circle process
  • Talking piece: a material object used to allow each member to speak
  • Guidelines: they guide the way we live out the Circle values
  • Ceremony: rituals that open and close a Circle
  • Consensus: the decision making process for Circles

The branches and leaves represent the output circles create:

  • Connections
  • Community building
  • Healing

The inner frame and outer frame create the foundation, structure, and process of Circles. It is through these aspects that participants can weave together stronger connections.

Test your knowledge

The structure used for Circle process builds all of the following EXCEPT: