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The Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach To Peacemaking

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Circle processes offer a way of bringing people together to understand one another, strengthen bonds, and solve community problems—a necessity in an era of division, polarized politics, and angry debate.

Our ancestors gathered around a fire in a circle, families gather around their kitchen tables in circles, and now we are gathering in circles as communities to solve problems. This peacemaking practice draws on the ancient Native American tradition of a talking piece and combines that with concepts of democracy and inclusivity.

Peacemaking circles are used in neighborhoods to provide support for those harmed by crime and to decide sentences for those who commit crime, in schools to create positive classroom climates and resolve behavior problems, in the workplace to deal with conflict, and in social services to develop more organic support systems for people struggling to get their lives together. The circle process hinges on storytelling. It is an effort bringing astonishing results around the country. Chapters include:

Circles in Practice
A Circle Story—Finding a Way to Move Forward after a Workers Strike
Foundations of Circles
A Circle Story—Finding Understanding in the Classroom
Key Elements of Circles
A Circle Story—Finding Healing from Violent Crime
Organizing a Talking Circle
A Circle Story—Finding Respect Across Generations
Circles in Perspective
A Circle Story—Finding Connection within Family

A title in The Little Books of Justice and Peacebuilding Series.

76 pages, Paperback

First published December 31, 2005

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Kay Pranis

10 books3 followers

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5 stars
110 (31%)
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165 (47%)
3 stars
53 (15%)
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18 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
Profile Image for Brandon White.
35 reviews1 follower
October 3, 2015
This book is extremely concise and avoids the over-intellectualization and over-theorizing of social and educational practices. This book would empower any adult/young adult in their desire/ability to be a circle keeper. If more books where written like this, a lot of us, scholar and non-scholar, would be able to learn quicker and DO more effectively.
Profile Image for thalia.
146 reviews
April 4, 2019
A lovely primer to peace circles and restorative justice. Definitely has very specific contexts with its examples and narratives, but is still able to pull out the lessons, values, techniques, and methods of circle groups for various other applications. This was an assigned reading for a transformative justice class that is taught in a peace circle, and so far it seems very relavent to the class works. Generally great for counselors, therapists, youth workers, social workers, community organizers, educators, and activists. But also maybe everybody?
It is very short and a bit repetitive at times. I love Ann Russo’a book in conjunction with this one— deeper analysis and a bit more history plus the praxis of this work.
Profile Image for Carin.
13 reviews
December 5, 2021
This book was concise and easy to understand. I really enjoyed the different examples used throughout the book. I am interested in reading others in the “Little Book of …” series.
Profile Image for Sherri.
172 reviews7 followers
August 11, 2010
This is the first of my assigned books for class this semester, and now I'm kind of afraid to go to class. Its only 73 pages, so luckily the agony didn't last very long and even more happily, there are 8 other books for the class, and hopefully many of them will be less cutesy. I gave this 2 stars mainly because the writing style is clear, concise and easy to understand. There were no points where I had to re-read in order to understand the lesson involved. It is intended to be an introductory book to the idea of Peace Circles, and it does it very well.
On the other hand, the subject matter itself made me gag. To give a simple definition of Peace Circles as I understood it from this book: Take group therapy, throw in a half-trained instructor who is into New Age jargon and thinks white, industrialized cultures all suck. Force some "enlightened" spirituality down people's throats and and have no rules of conduct at all except that everyone has to talk in order. Oh, and to top things off, make them talk in order while hanging on to some sort of object (called a "talking point") so that everyone will feel like they are in grade school and no one can actually respond to anything anyone says. Might be good for solving grade school problems, but for a criminal justice class?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
935 reviews7 followers
August 12, 2021
About the author: ​Kay served the Minnesota Department of Corrections in the position of Restorative Justice Planner from 1994 to 2003. In that position she provided education to the criminal justice system, other agencies and the general public about restorative justice. She also assisted groups interested in implementing the principles of restorative justice in their communities through system change and community empowerment. She worked with leaders in corrections, law enforcement, the judiciary, civic organizations, neighborhood groups, faith communities and education to develop a comprehensive response to crime and conflict based on restorative justice.
I would like to introduce this book with the introduction of the book. “ We’re all lovers and we’re all destroyers. We’re all frightened and at the same time we all want terribly to trust. This is part of our struggle. We have to help what is most beautiful to emerge is us and to divert the powers of darkness and violence. I learn to be able to say,”“This is my fragility. I must learn about it and use it in a constructive way.”” -Jean Vanier Canadian Philosopher
The theme of this book is that we are all connected and that all the violence, chaos, hurt and injustice can be talked about in a way that indignous people of old would gather in a circle and make decisions about the choice of one person as a community and in a circle. Some cultures still have this in place, which is the circle, it can be a talking circle, understanding circle, healing circle, sentencing circle, support circle, community circle, conflict circle, reintegration circle and celebration circle.
The basics of a circle are: A talking piece by allowing only the person holding the talking piece to speak, a circle regulates the dialogue as the piece circulates consecutively from person to person around the group. Second : A facilitator or keeper- The facilitator of the pacemaking circle, often called a keeper, assists the group in creating and maintaining a collective space in which each participant feels safe to speak honestly and openly without disrespecting anyone else. Third guidelines - participants in a circle play a major role in designing their own space by creating the guidelines for their discussion. Lastly depending on what kind of circle is taking place you may have to have a​ consensus decision-making​ - decisions in a circle are made by consensus. Consensus does not require enthusiasm for the decision or plan, but it does require that each participant is willing to live with the decision and support its implementation. Also is The Four Relational Elements of Circles: Developing Plans/Sense of Unity, Meeting getting acquainted, Addressing Vision/Issues (content) and Building understanding and trust. These are the basics of a circle. In conclusion this book is a very small book but it's very powerful and has many stories about circles that have been implemented with positive results, this is a book that wants to prepare the future leaders to have a reflective discussion and encourage peaceful solutions for conflict.
This book relates to my AmeriCorps service experience because we are looking for ways to move in restorative justice and this is a wonderful way to do that.
I would like to recommend this book to every CTEP member because the more people understand that what we do to one we do to us all, we are all connected, we are all hurting, we are all looking for answers and we can all come together if we can focus on our similarities rather than our differences.
Profile Image for Tibby (she/her).
913 reviews
September 28, 2020
I picked this up to re-read in hopes that it might have some tips and tricks for a course I'm currently facilitating. With the pandemic in full swing, we have changed our course to run over Zoom and it just does not offer the same level of intimacy we want and need. Nor do I expect it to, but it would be nice if we could incorporate a few techniques from these deeply connected circle processes to help bridge some of the gap.

It's a short read, especially since about half of the chapters are anecdotes or stories of experiences in circles. The book will give you a basic run down of what circles are, how they should be run, and what they can accomplish. It will not, and Pranis is very clear about this, prepare you to begin facilitating peace circles or to start a transformative justice practice. I would say it's a good first step to wrapping your mind around how this type of justice works and help plan next steps if it is something you want to get involved in doing. I certainly took away few things I am going to try to apply to improve the course I'm working on.
Profile Image for Eleanor.
26 reviews17 followers
December 6, 2021
Very deep insights on how to collectively resolve issues and conflict in a communal way that encourages equality and values everyone’s voice. There was even a section at the end that explained how to implement this in a school setting, which is helpful to me because that is what my school district is wanting to do. My only complaint was that I feel like the book was a bit repetitive at times and could have been shorter or possibly varied the types of examples used.
124 reviews1 follower
July 31, 2019
A good introduction to peacemaking circles. I appreciated the rationales given for each element of circles. They can be very deliberately set up to create opportunities for community and problem solving. I wish this was more in-depth, but when accompanied by a in-person training this guide is helpful.
Profile Image for Skylar L. Primm.
438 reviews9 followers
July 10, 2021
This was a re-read as I start thinking about my advisory’s needs for next year. It helped re-center my practice in Circles, gave me some ideas for where I can shore up and refine my practices, and reminded me of my Why, which is: “Circles assume a universal human wish to be connected to others in a good way.” (24)
7 reviews
March 10, 2023
Good overview of circles, but doesn't have any new information compared to so many other texts out there. Also some issues when talking about Indigenous Peoples (see Colorizing Restorative Practices for more).
Profile Image for Johnny Cordova.
82 reviews5 followers
July 24, 2022
If you’re interested in learning about circle work, this is the place to start. I highly recommend.
491 reviews6 followers
July 29, 2022
This is a great book on different types of circles and how to implement them. Very short with great examples, although they could be more detailed at times
Profile Image for Tu.
30 reviews6 followers
January 9, 2020
Conflict resolution with circle.

A must read for people who are interested in being in circle and learning more about creating community. Kay Pranis uses her experience to benefit families and communities with opportunities to bring people together.
Profile Image for Rebecca Driver.
153 reviews7 followers
September 13, 2022
I had to read The Little Book of Circle Processes for class. Like The Little Book of Restorative Justice, I like circles and was glad to learn more about them, but this book could have been shorter.
Profile Image for Mike.
74 reviews
October 3, 2015
Excellent introduction to circle process, it's native roots, reclamation as a "restorative justice" tool in Western criminal justice systems, and overview of current and prospective uses of circles as tools for peacemaking and community building. I worked in restorative justice, and Kay Pranis was one of our key trainers.
Profile Image for Rui Da silva pinto.
18 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2016
Great book. The little book series is amazing, it introduces your to the topic and provides you with a quick review of how different approaches have been used. The best thing is you can read it in less than a two hours, and if you feel like diving into the topic the suggested references enables you to do that.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,326 reviews14 followers
June 9, 2009
Quick, concise, and easy to understand. If you plan on facilitating a circle process, you'll want more than this. But to get the feel for whether it's right for your program, this is a great place to start!
Profile Image for Paul Burkhart.
100 reviews4 followers
October 2, 2015
Great intro to the topic. Incredibly practical and easy to understand. Very quick read.
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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