COMMUNITY PROBLEM SOLVING CIRCLES
MN Dept of Corrections Jan 1998
Circles are not a solution to all problems, but they demonstrate a
fundamentally different approach, a missing piece of social technology
to tap into the power and resources of unstructured or informal
o Social institutions play important roles, but the process is centered on
the community context of the situation.
o A wide net is thrown to capture possible points of support of assistance
and gather all relevant knowledge.
o Potential contributions are expected even from those who are part of the
problem. There is an assumption that everyone has something to offer.
o Multiple issues are dealt with at once. The approach recognizes that
the issues interact with one another and cannot be effectively dealt
with in Isolation.
o Shared responsibility.
This process facilitates:
o Taking individual responsibility in a community context - i.e.
individuals identify specific acts they can take which fit with others'
actions for a longer common good.
o Democratic participation in community decisions and in enhancing
o Mutual responsibility - recognition that individual well being upon the
well being of all. Process provides an avenue for concrete individual
action which increases understanding of broader social policy issues.
The outcome is not just the creation of a solution to an individual
problem but increased community capacity to support its members. The
process also humanizes what are otherwise abstract issues of social policy.
Circles as storytelling.
o The circle process is one of sharing stories.
o Public policy is shaped more by stories than by data.
o These processes allow more stories to be heard by more people, thus
shaping perceptions about key social issues.
Goal is twofold:
o Influence individual citizens to take action in small ways to support
one another in community life for the common good.
o Influence citizens to support social policy which will result in the
larger common good.
Circles provide a process to identify individual actions which will make
a difference in someone's life and they provide a direct experience with
human struggles to a broader community than just those who were
This page is maintained by Fred H. Olson fholson at cohousing.org
Circles-MN home page
Last update to this page 6/4/99