Tools for Cooperative Work

CirclesWork! has developed six Tools for Cooperative Work, that provide the fundamental structure for every circle gathering. The basic tools are:

•  Center Our Wisdom

•  Share Leadership

•  Check In

•  Do the Work in Circle

•  Clear the Air

•  Voice Appreciations and Complete the Circle

• Center our Wisdom
(Led by Centering Guardian))

Centering reminds us we are here for everyone’s benefit.

Place a lovely object from nature in the center (flowers, shell, stone), read words of wisdom, a poem, or simply share a minute or so of silence.

• Share Leadership
(Everyone plays a role each session)

Shared leadership supports the development of everyone’s leadership.  The diverse and complimentary skills within the circle are valued for governing the circle. Everyone is needed.

Role Selection: Roles are rotated each session and are filled on a volunteer basis (Led by Volunteer/ or Centering Guardian, until Facilitator Role is filled by volunteer.)

Facilitator – Responsible for the flow of the group though the six steps.

Guardians – Use all their senses/intuitions to support emotion health of the CIRCLE. Multiple members play this role.

Centering Guardian – Responsible for opening and closing the circle.

Timekeeper – Responsible for maintaining all agreed upon time frames. Recorder/Reporter – Uses charts and notations in their Circle Member Guide to track circle findings.

Announcements:  Members share information that is of interest to circle members (e.g. status of an absent member)

• Check In:
(Everyone checks-in. Facilitator leads.)

Check In:

Each CIRCLE member briefly describes his/her current emotional state; also includes any significant events currently impacting your life. Everyone’s voice is heard.

Individual Time Request: Facilitator leads, Reporter charts

A second Round to set Agenda with Timeframes; often stated as: What I need/request from this Circle is… (usually requested in minutes).

• Do the Work in Circle:
Can be a question for our inquiry and reflection, a shared topic for the circle, or problem solving: personal work time, or, project-focused discussion.

Group Time: Circle supporting skills are identified and practiced. Additionally any circle projects are discussed/planned (e.g., circle celebration, community endeavor).

Individual Time:  Members can use their individual time any way they choose — they can share issues, talk about projects, talk just to vent or can ask for and receive advice. An important rule governs all circle advice. An easy way to remember the rule is: W.I.S.E. Advice.

W: Willing: Is the member willing to listen to advice – alternatively they may just want to vent. A clarifying questions can help… “are you asking for advice?” If the receiver of the advice, says, “Yes, but…” they probably aren’t ready yet. At this point they just need to vent.
I: Informed
S: Successful: All advice needs to fit into one of the following three:
It must be advice you have personally tried and been successful with.
Or, it must be advice you have personally seen work with a significant other.
Or, it must be advice you have been given from CirclesWork!
E: Empathy: Is the advice you are giving kindly presented? For a minute do you stop being yourself and instead walk in the other person’s “mocassins”?

• Clear the Air:
Centering Guardian leads

Note: Clearing the air contains the few circle skills not directly transferable outside our circle. Recipients need awareness and skills to respond effectively. Without awareness and skills, feelings can easily be hurt.  These skills are best learned in circle.

Guardian or facilitator inquires for Unclear Feelings:

“Susan, I have an unclear feeling, can I check it out with you?”

Susan responds yes or no. If no, she sets a time/date in near future.

“Can you come back to me in 5 minutes” or “Can we talk on the phone tomorrow?”

Alternatively with a “yes” response:

“Susan, I had an unclear feeling. I think I may have rushed you by asking you a question when I did. I had the thought you were still sharing with us what you already had tried.”

Susan responds: “You are right. I feel like I pretty much shared what I wanted to.” She might finish with “Thank you for your sensitivity.”

• Hunches/Intuitions/Fears:

“Susan I have a hunch. May I check it out with you?”

Susan responds yes or no. If no, she sets a time/date in near future.

“Can you come back to me in 5 minutes” or “Can we talk on the phone tomorrow?”

Alternatively with a “yes” response,

“Susan, I have a hunch that you are not complete with the individual work you did tonight, and that you are feeling worried.”

Susan responds: “I can agree there’s some truth to that.” Or, “I can validate the grain of truth in what you said. Mostly I am aware of feeling tired right now, but I’m pretty sure I an still worried and have more work to do on this issue.”  She might finish with “Thank You!”

• Gripes or Grumps, Requests:

Susan, I have a grump. May I check it out with you?

Susan responds yes or no. If no, she sets a time/date in near future.

“Can you come back to me in 5 minutes?” Or “Can we talk on the phone tomorrow?”

Alternatively with a “yes” response:

“Susan, I have a grump. When you told me during my individual time, ‘I can’t believe you would let your kid talk to you that way,’ I felt embarrassed and shamed.”

Susan does not reply verbally to a grump. She just listens. Note: Remember a grump is just a vent of feelings, and feelings are never wrong.

• Appreciations and Circle Completion:
Led by Facilitator and Centering Guardian

Appreciations: Each member is encouraged to share a genuine appreciation. It can be for an individual, the group at large, or a self appreciation/ humble brag.

Self Appreciation, Humble Brags: “Susan I have an appreciation for myself. I’m really proud that I committed to writing the guide, and I took it to completion.” Or “I enrolled in an Excel class.”

For more about these tools, see How Circles Work: A Guide for Starting and Sustaining Circles.