Use a circle to address a specific incident. First, think of an example of harm such as an assault that people in your group could possibly experience. Describe the important background information that you will all need to know about the incident.

Next, think of the people involved and affected. In addition to the person(s) harmed and the person(s) who harmed, think of the family members, friends, and community people who were somehow affected. From this list of people, assign different roles for people to act out.

Here is one EXAMPLE to help think about how to deal with an incident for which a young person is responsible for committing the act of harm.

INCIDENT: One high school youth has severely beaten another high school youth to the point where the youth who was beaten will have partly deformed facial features for the rest of his life.

BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE: The high school youth who committed the act of violence has an alcoholic father who beats him. Add other background details that might reflect your own particular community. Feel free to spontaneously improvise details during the role play.

CAST of CHARACTERS: If possible have at least the youth, their parents or guardians, two discussion facilitators, a high school teacher, and a neighbor. Other case members could includes siblings of the youth or classmates of the youth.

After you have taken the necessary steps to develop a situation and case of characters, follow this circle process:

  • Sit in chairs arranged in a circle.
  • Use a talking piece that can be held in your hands and passed from one person to another. This talking piece shows who is speaking. Only one person speaks at a time. The talking piece passes around the circle from one person to another so that all have an opportunity to speak if they want to.
  • The facilitators will the lead the group through a discussion highlighting the following questions:
  1. What values or principles should guide our circle as we discuss both what happened and how we plan to address it?
  2. What happened? How were you affect by what occurred?
  3. As much as possible, what can we do to repair the harm that has been done?
  4. What can we do to prevent future forms of harm in our community?

*Note: For some of these questions, the talking piece may need to go around the circle more than once.

When the circle has arrived at its final resolutions, step out of character and discuss the experience. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Do you think circles are a potentially effective way of addressing harm? Why or why not?