Q&A Facilitating Circles Online

Question: I want to continue to hold circles with my students/staff during this time of social distancing. I feel we need the connection now more than ever! How can I facilitate a circle through video chat without the ability to actually sit in a circle together or pass a talking piece?

Answer: I agree! Cultivating meaningful connections is more important now than ever before. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to adapt the circle process to the online format. Here are a few things to consider.

  1. Rather than passing one talking piece around the circle, each person can bring their own talking piece to hold when they share. Giving each person the chance to share their talking piece and why they selected it is another opportunity for relationship building. 
  2. Because you aren’t sitting in a circle, it isn’t automatically clear whose turn it is to speak next. You can address this issue by drawing a circle ahead of time and placing the names of participants around the circle. Share the image with the participants before the process so that they know the speaking order. Or, you can also ask each person to say the name of the person they are “passing” the talking piece to after they share. 
  3. You may need to add additional norms or ground rules such as to “mute” when you aren’t speaking, how to indicate that you are “passing” the talking piece without sharing, and what to do when kids, pets, etc. show up in the process. 

For an example of an online circle plan with processes and norms specific to the online context, check out this resource from Loyola University Chicago School of Law or this guide for a virtual circle of support in response to social distancing from Kay Pranis. 

I would love to hear the other solutions readers have identified for facilitating circles online. Please share your ideas


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