Circle Process with storytellers

At SCVRJP we run our Underage Consumption Panels, Safe Teen Driving Circles and Victim Empathy Seminars all in Restorative Justice Circle Process.  Depending on the emotional depth and participants I will run a Victim Offender Conference using RJ Circle Process.

I completely lean on the principles outlined Peacemaking Circles, by Kay Pranis.  The stages as I explain them are 1.) Getting Acquainted 2.) Building Relationships 3.) Addressing Issues 4.) Taking Action.  I will post other blogs on each of these stages.

I have found it crucially important that as a keeper you are aware of these stages.  Setting intentions and letting the Circle know how it works, is helpful in the consensus element.  The more I can transistion the operation of the circle to the participants the deeper the process.  Just recently it occured to me that no tears had emerged in the Circle Training (very different from Circle).   I asked a “building relationship” storytelling question, and the tears appeared.  It was very healing for me.

The stage that I introduce a speaker is the “addressing issues”.  I turn the talking piece over to a guest speaker.  Often times these speakers are volunteers that help with Victim Impact Panels, speaking to an audience in a classroom style setting.

I’ve seen that speakers prefer the Circle process for sharing.  They get immediate feedback, and feel more connected to the audience.  I think the SCVRJP speakers are just amazing, and in part, because they have the “speaking from the heart” experience from Circles.  I met an experienced speaker, she volunteered for years talking about how her daughter’s tragic death, caused by a drunk driver.  After experiencing a Safe Teen Driving Circle, she approached me.  She shared that the Circle process was very different and much better than just speaking at students.  She said that students would sit an listen, unengaged, because they just needed to be there to get their driving permits.  In Circle they are completely engaged.

In traveling with a speaker, after a storytelling circle, he shared he prefers to speak to people in recovery.  We held a Circle to demonstrate the process, hoping eventually to do more circles in this setting.  I had our speaker come and tell his story.  He volunteers frequently and is a remarkable speaker.  I thought he would role model storytelling in the Circle.  He also accepted questions from others in the Circle (the talking piece was in the center), this allowed the speaker to be a role model about living in recovery.

When I use a storytelling in the Circle process, I make sure the round following the story is a “reflection” on what we just heard.  It is important for listeners to make the content relevant.  We know from brain research that helps us remember.  Sometimes I go two rounds, and reframe the question. 

The “taking action” stage is a time to reflect on our Circle experience and make a statement relevant to what we will take from the Circle.  In Safe Teen Driving Circles, I make sure the students state a “public committment” a specific behavior they will do as a result of hearing the story.