Peacemaking Circles

Circles provide an alternative communication process in conflict resolution, healing, support, decision-making, organizational structure or other activities for organizations (both public and private sectors). As a leading consultant and educator in peacemaking circles and community health work, Victor Jose Santana brings together individuals who wish to engage in honest communication, relationship development and community building. Derived from aboriginal and native value systems, Circles bring people together in away that creates trust, respect, intimacy, good will, belonging, generosity, mutuality and reciprocity. The process is never about “changing others”, but rather is an invitation to change oneself and one’s relationship with the community. It works because it brings people together in a way that allows them to see one another as human beings and to talk about what matters. Circles can be understood in terms of the values and principles upon which they operate and the structures used to support these.

Circle Training

Circles have many applications and have been used for community building, healing, conflict resolution, democracy work (consensus building) and as an alternative to court sentencing. Circles tend to focus on reflection, support and healing––making them a powerful way for communities and individuals to come together to help identify issues and generate ideas for problem solving (Pranis, 2005). Circle trainings are generally three to four days. The time span can be determined upon consultation and evaluation of the service(s) requested/recommended. Circles come from the oratory traditions that are part of the fabric of the daily lives of many Indigenous and Native American cultures. Though there are historical foundations, the Circle process I practice has been adapted for contemporary times.

What to use Circles for:

  • Building team and or relationships
  • Problem-solving
  • Healing and transformation
  • Empowerment
  • Accountability
  • Addressing the deeper causes of conflict
  • Developing cognitive behavioral skills
  • Increasing productivity in the workplace
  • Strategic business planning 

When to use Circles:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Court related issues
  • Peacemaking
  • Healing
  • Support
  • Education

Circles are effective in any group settings in which there is a desire for:

  • Healing rather than coercion
  • Repairing harm done
  • Individual and collective accountability rather than only individual accountability
  • Democratic, egalitarian and spiritual values focusing on the commonalities, instead of the differences between people
  • Building community Individual and collective change and transformation
  • Conflict transformation 

Outcomes

Increase in productivity. Increase in post-secondary education among high-risk participants; a marked decrease in prison recidivism among previously incarcerated youth and adult participants; increases in the percentages of participants who have secured and retained employment; a significant increase in the rates of college graduates among high-risk participants; high levels of process replication throughout multiple and diverse participants’ communities, schools and families. Circles strengthen relationships, businesses and builds community. They do so through processes and structures dealing with issues specific to a community. As they experience Circles, participants develop the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual habits of peacemaking. The Circle process helps to shift old patterns in how individuals and communities interact, a shift that over time becomes reflected in interactions outside the circle. The art of Circles work is not learned in any academic institution, but rather, from the work of a handful of people who have maintained an ancient practice and incorporated it into the problems of today’s world.