Online Sharing Circle

Technology is excellent at allowing us to work remotely, but it can be more challenging for building community or keeping a community strong. Technology’s strength is for communication and is not as robust for building connection, especially with larger groups.

Purpose

The goal is to create the ‘lunchroom’ experience where people share and ground themselves within their respective working group/community. We believe that this type of opportunity will contribute to the art of kiyokiwin, coping with the social isolation, allowing people to raise topics outside of work priorities, better understanding of each other, and so much more. Online sharing circles could be used by instructors to facilitate “courageous curiosity” with “boundless collaboration” for “inspired communities” in their remote instruction.

Kiyokiwin is a Cree word for visiting, but it is also a means of knowledge transfer and sharing. Kiyokiwin is becoming a lost art due to a multitude of factors, one of them being technology, where we think we are connecting with others but it’s usually not at a deep enough level that fulfills our human need for connection.

Process: Four rounds of sharing (following traditional protocols)

  1. On a piece of paper, write down a word that sums up where you are at this morning. When directed, we will all at the same time hold up our words to the camera for all to see.
  2. Going around the circle, in 1-minute or less explain why you chose this word.
  3. What’s going on in your life right now that you want share with everyone? How is remote working going for you? (Or another question that is suitable for your group/meeting)
  4. On a piece of paper, write down another word (or the same one) that sums up where you are at this morning. Now hold it up to your camera for all to see.

Participant Roles and Responsibilities

  • If possible, enter the room with camera on and mic off. Seeing each other is important for the circle and giving our full attention to each other is a way to show respect.
  • Set your view to grid mode (this is on WebEx) so that you can see everyone, just like you would in a circle. This would apply for other meeting apps as well.
  • The facilitator will start the circles. This will likely be the meeting host. Wait for their direction.
  • Please avoid using the chat box. Just like we wouldn’t be texting in a circle, we want to give our attention to the person who is speaking.
  • If you’re having technical issues, please try leaving the room and rejoining.
  • Share what you need – surface level or a deep plunge. Just keep in mind that there is a set time for the meeting, and you want everyone to have the opportunity to share.

Facilitator Roles and Responsibilities

  • Similar to chairing a meeting, your responsibility is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak and to share.
  • You keep the momentum going, from one round to the next.
  • Assign a person to be the assistant before the meeting starts. The assistant will set the circle order, share it in the chat, and monitor the chat box for technical issues. The order will vary from week to week. The chat message can be worded like, “Imagine us seated in a circle for real.  At the start is (facilitator’s name), and to her left Person A, then Person B, …”.  The assistant will re-post the list if it gets bumped out of sight. If there is no chat on the app you are using, then it could simply be the names written on a piece of paper and the paper shared via camera to everyone. (with everyone’s audio off, the list of who speaks next will be good for the next person to prepare to turn their mic on.)
  • In an in-person talking circle, the direction of who goes next is to the left of the facilitator (clockwise), thus the comment about “imagine us seated in a circle”, it is a good idea to explain this as part of the talking circle protocols at the beginning.
  • You are not expected to answer questions or console someone, in an in-person talking circle, there would be an item that would be passed on to the next person, in an online format, you will be the one calling on the next person to speak. You can thank the previous person for sharing before calling the next person, but do not get into a back and forth discussion as this will disrupt the flow and power of the circle.
  • After everyone has held up their card in the 4th round, you thank everyone for sharing and explain that the purpose of the talking circle is not intended to be therapeutic (but it can be), rather it is an opportunity to share with others in a way that we may not necessarily be able to now that we are all working remotely.
  • You can end the meeting now if that was the purpose of it, or you can carry on to the next portion. Keep in mind that some people will need time to re-group, so if you have the option, call a break before getting to the next part of the meeting.
  • The first and last circle are nice ways to start and finish that can demonstrate the change in the group resulting from the talking circle. The 2nd and 3rd circles are amendable to different ideas for sharing related to the needs of the group. This can be open and expansive (how is working from home going?) or specific and intentional (describe challenges to ??) depending on the goals for the circle.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License by Rose Roberts with the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching & Learning at the University of Saskatchewan

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