What is a learning circle?
Learning circles are a type of community engagement process that can help people explore complex issues, make decisions and take action. During learning circles, members come together to have dialogue on an issue. It is a community driven process. Learning circle participants are recruits from all parts of the community. The learning circle process begins with community organising. It is followed by facilitated, small group dialogue and planning that leads to change. Learning circles are not designed to advocate a particular solution or someone’s wheelbarrow. Instead, Learning circles welcome many points of view around a shared concern. They can then democratically and collectively prioritise action options and choose and enact the circles choice of action and of enacting that action.
A single learning circle is a small, diverse group of 5 to 12 participant citizens who meet for about 2 hours weekly or fortnightly for 4 to 6 times (a ’round of learning circles’), to address a critical public issue in a democratic and collaborative way. Often there may be a gap of up to two weeks while actions are carried out. They are led by a neutral facilitator, who can rotate from meeting to meeting, and all circle members seek to consider an issue from many points of view. A Discussion Guide allows the participants to progress their conversation from personal experiences, to sessions that examine many points of view on the issue, to a session that considers strategies for action and change.