facilitating & hosting

Circle Process: More Than Changing the Chairs

Art of Hosting practitioners – as well as others who use participatory process as part of their facilitation practice – are often familiar with circle mostly as a tool for check-in and check-out, or as a way of arranging the chairs to create an environment for something different to occur.


And it is much more. There are many other facets of circle process and how it can be used: for the whole length of a meeting, as a management process, to make collaborative decisions, and more. It can be adapted to organizational settings, the boardroom, classrooms as well as the living room. I appreciate the components of circle process, based on PeerSpirit’s The Circle Way, as learning them has helped me understand how to create a strong container for the different kinds of conversations needed now in our families, communities and organizations.


For those of you who want to go deeper, further in your capacity and ability as hosts of conversations that matter, I invite you to learn circle process. Get the listening, get the silence, get the experience of creating a center through which inspiration can arrive. Understanding the power of circle means being able to take the other practices and methodologies to a deeper level (such as World Café and Open Space Technology) as they all share the pattern of circle.


 Whenever I host in Open Space sessions, I follow the pattern of welcoming, checking in, sharing, harvesting, checking out, closing. Such a good rhythm. I still see aha’s from people when they participate. “Oh wait, I get it. You’re hosting a circle in this Open Space learning group. Cool.” Fun to see the lights go on.  ~ Tenneson Woolf, Art of Hosting steward and practitioner

Diverse circle

Here are some of the ways I have used circle process in my life and work:

  • During a year-long leadership development program for directors and regional managers at a financial institution.
  • To help a task force move forward on their project to select initiatives that will prevent and reduce violence against women in their community.
  • In the core team planning sessions as well as the design and hosting of a day-and-half strategic reflection retreat for a faith community.
  • At an evening “catalysts dinner” with members of the graphic design community and others to discuss the future of an annual event.
  • Over a multi-day gathering that integrated circle process with project management to support action-orientated work under a year-long initiative.
  • At a bi-monthly gathering to reflect on how we are really doing and what we can learn when we pause and listen.


Five years ago I would not have imagined bringing circle process into these environments. I remember how my heart pounded the first time I introduced a talking piece, the first time I put something in the centre, the first time I rang a bell to slow down a high-heat moment. And I also remember how the talking piece (a flip chart marker!) travelled around the circle and allowed each person to have a voice, how the centre shifted the dynamics of where we put our words, and how the bell permitted a much needed breath where before someone would have been steam-rolled in the discussion.


Join us at Leading Transformative Meetings, where we will explore how circle process can be used to lead collaborative and transformative meetings. Discover how the circle is made strong by the importance given to the center, the topic, the issue and the potential of each person’s voice and participation. Don’t just change the chairs. Change the conversation.

Register today: