Inclusion Begins with Listening and Being Heard

The Heart of Circles

Human beings have always had meaningful conversations gathered in Circles. Whether it is the more informal conversations we have around a fire, under a tree, or around a dinner table, or the more formal gatherings we have as a community to discuss important matters or make decisions, we understand that conversations are a key element of the process of connection and change.

Globally, Circles are used to create safe spaces for holding challenging conversations in schools, communities, conflict zones, organisations and justice systems. These spaces honour and respect each contributor and co-owner of the Circle conversation. Circles are spaces in which we listen deeply, with generosity and curiosity. They are spaces in which we courageously and honestly share our lived experiences and perspectives.

“It gives me a space where I feel someone is listening.”

The Purpose of Open Circles

Open Circles exists to ignite and fuel the transformative power of Circles in corporates, schools and other organisations. Using the Open Circle Methodology™, we provide a robust framework and pathway  towards a more inclusive culture. Through the process of dialogue, participants have the opportunity to become increasingly aware of their own perspectives, experiences and thinking, and how these differ from the people around them. 

In this process of deep listening, participants are increasingly likely to have their own perspectives challenged and their self-awareness and consciousness about issues related to diversity and inclusion raised.

The goal of this process is increased self-awareness, ongoing, sustainable change and authentic inclusivity.

“You find yourself and you find your voice within a Circle.”

The Impact of Circles

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, concrete steps (such as changes in company policies and processes) are crucial, but these changes alone can fall short of what is needed for long term sustainable culture transformation. The value of these Circle conversations lies in the fact that they enable authentic personal engagement and action to ensure sustainable change towards a truly transformed and inclusive culture.

Circles are our “social technology” for dialogue. Dialogue is not an event, but a sustained, intentional process that creates safe spaces for courageous, often uncomfortable conversations on topics pertinent to diversity, inclusion and transformation. As is true of any dialogue process, these kinds of conversations hold the transformative power that can lead to deep personal change, as well as radical societal, systemic and cultural change.

“Circles help us understand each other instead of living in
the world together but feeling separate.”

The Culture of Circles

Over time, integration of this new self-awareness and changing perspectives within every-day life should ultimately lead to action, changed behaviour and decision making for those who engage authentically with the dialogue process.

Circles should ideally become a regular practice in organisations, schools and communities. This practice is both simple enough for natural, uncomplicated implementation and robust enough to hold the most sensitive and wholehearted conversations.

Circles are hosted proactively as a way to sustain meaningful conversation, as well as reactively, to address specific issues that warrant sensitive or urgent engagement.

Holding regular Circles creates a culture of inclusion, diversity and open-hearted exchanges of experiences and ideas, ultimately leading to concrete change in attitudes, behavior and lifestyle.

Inanda Seminary is a school where Circles are part of the culture and an inspiration for what Circles can be for us.