We believe that our intentional use of circle process as our model of governance reinforces the principles of Radical Love that One Tree is founded upon.
What Is Circle Process?
At One Tree, circle process is a model of governance based on the ideas presented by Christina Baldwin in her book, Calling The Circle, teachings of Paula Underwood and other Indigenous teachings on Council and Leading, and other models of governance in various businesses, i.e. True North Health Center.
How Does Circle Process work?
Circle process informs our conduct in meetings and also our organizational chart.
Principle Ideas of Circle Process
As we conduct the business of One Tree, we are guided by the following principles:
- Speak from the heart, listen from the heart
- All voices are important to be heard
- What is said in the circle remains in the circle
- Practice compassionate self-monitoring: Compassionate self-monitoring means being considerate of the impact of our thoughts, words, and actions before, during and after we interact
- Circle process is a practice of discernment, not judgment. We use this with others and ourselves. Here we also remain conscious of the dynamics of co-opting and passivity and address them so that every voice is heard
The above tenets yield increasing authenticity from each individual as the comfort and trust level in the circle increases. Creating a safe container is critical to the work of peace and social justice.
The rest of the work involves:
Rotating Leadership – Here we level the playing field. All titles, experiences, and gifts are as important as another’s. Leadership shifts according to the needs of the circle. We continually find that the resources to accomplish our goals exist within the group.
Shared Responsibility – Each person asks for what s/he needs and offers what s/he can. It is based on the trust that someone will come forward to provide what the circle needs.
Reliance on Spirit in the Sacred Center – We created a sacred center with objects that were meaningful to members of the group. Through simple ritual and consistent re-focusing, the center, literally and figuratively, becomes a sacred space, and reminds us of the need for spiritual guidance.
Consensus Decision Making – Voting by consensus, which doesn’t always mean unanimous, where it is important to hear all the points of view and vote when everyone present is able to agree on the action. Thumbs up or down for agree or disagree. Thumbs sideways for an undecided vote or needing more information to consider. Covenants, agreements, decisions must be revised as goals of the group and the group itself change.
Whenever we meet, we open the Circle through various rituals of visualizations, readings, etc. We also engage in breathing together 4 times at the start of the meeting as a way to prepare ourselves to be fully present to the work at hand. Each breath is connected to an action – i.e., letting go of what has come before the meeting, becoming fully present in the room, inviting in what’s next, and stepping into action. We then facilitate a brief check in with each individual present and move to the business at hand.
In our organizational chart, the lines of responsibility and a hierarchy of actualization is manifested using the circle process. In One Tree’s “organizational chart,” we start from the notion that we are responsible to each other and to a leader/director who guides and empowers those they lead to support the One Tree team. The Director of One Tree or Circle of Directors may “charge” individual staff, circle members, or smaller groups to carry on the work of the organization in specific ways. When there are conflicts or questions about authority, we reflect back to the charges, values of One Tree, and if necessary, take the issue back to the entire team for feedback.
What is the Value of Circle Process?
We believe that the Circle Process reclaims the ancient wisdom of leading that values the connection between one’s mind, body, and spirit in doing work in the world. It is a process that provides a container of trust and healing, empowering the group to have fun, take risks, and manifest wonders of joy for each other and those we serve.