Re: Sharing Circles, and Discussion Circles
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 13:26:02 -0600 (MDT)
At RoseWind Cohousing in Port Townsend Washington we use a set of meeting 
types first described to us by Rob Sandelin of Sharingwood, and evolved a 
bit among ourselves. (We have 24 households, most of whom live on site.)

We have a "business" meeting once a month. Since we get the closest to 
full attendance at these meetings, we have noted that they are also good 
opportunities for community-building exercises, brainstorming and other 
non-business uses of time. For a while, if there was no Business, the 
meeting was cancelled, but people objected, and now we have decided to 
call these not "business" meetings, but monthly meetings, for business 
AND other stuff.

Discussion Circles are usually tools for gathering input from the 
community about a specific issue. Often they are initiated by a committee 
or task force, to try out an idea, to learn what other input or concerns 
exist, and take it back to committee for more refinement, prior to 
bringing it up as a business item for decision. The advantage is getting 
to proposals which have a better chance of passing when they are on the 
business agenda, and letting those who are interested in an issue hash it 
out and sparing others from having to sit through it! Discussion Circles 
don't make decisions, though sometimes a near-consensus emerges from 
those present. We WANT to still allow discussion at the whole-group 
meetings, and sometimes have to struggle with the impatience of members 
who feel "Why are you asking this now, when you didn't come to the 
discussion circle?" Attendance at discussion circles varies with the 
topic, typically about 12, but running from 6-20. They always feel 
productive to me. Usually a proposal or description of the subject is 
circulated via email ahead of time, so those who can't attend, or don't 
want to, can choose to give input by email or in person to someone 
Discussion Circles are on one of our meal nights, after the meal. Usually 
about 4 a month. 

Sharing Circles are less frequent, but have been well attended. These are 
about feelings and personal matters, with no intention of coming up with 
"useful" conclusions, per se, but with the goal of knowing each other 
better. They can be called by anyone, with a specified topic. A 
surprising success was a three-part series a couple of people initiated, 
about health concerns, old age and dying, and legal planning for old age 
and death. I was able to go to the first one, and it was very useful to 
learn so much that people volunteered about their physical and mental 
health, and what sort of understanding or support they would appreciate 
from others. Quite a bit of information was shared, also, between those 
with a medical condition and others in the group who had some experience, 
or from a couple of medical professionals in the group. Given the rather 
intimate potential of this, it was surprising to me how much people 
shared, when given an opportunity to do so. And realizing that many of us 
would be living here, among each other, eventually through disabilities 
and terminal illnesses, was a rather different perspective than we have 
day-to-day. I heard that the other sessions were also well attended. Now 
I see that someone has called a Sharing Circle about "Work at RoseWind." 

I doubt if we'd currently have much participation in a regularly 
scheduled circle that wasn't topic driven. Oh, we also have had a yearly 
"retreat" where we devote a weekend to a variety of activities, some of 
which are non-business items such as games and skits. 

Lynn Nadeau

PS- I get the list in digest mode and people are being really careless 
about including great huge chunks of what they are responding to! 
Puhleeze clip just the bits you need...


Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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