Group Expectations

To create a supportive and effective space for everyone, it’s recommended that the group agrees on a set of norms for their meetings during the first meeting. It is the facilitator’s role to uphold these expectations and remind participants when they are not upheld.

Creating Group Norms

Here are some suggestions (adapted from Our Data Bodies’ Digital Defense Playbook) that work well for most learning circles:

  • Respect the speaker: When a person is sharing, allow them to share their complete thoughts without interruption. Listen actively and push past distractions from digital devices and your environment when possible.

  • Speak from “I” and eye: Share from your own experience and perspective. Don’t assume the experiences of others and avoid making comments or generalizations about entire communities. Keep your shares focused on what you see, what you notice, and what you feel.

  • Lean into discomfort: Some topics may be uncomfortable to talk about because of personal experiences or oppressions felt in your everyday life. The emotions and feelings that may arise are normal and can help enhance authentic learning together if shared. Participants are asked to lean into their own discomfort and honor the space for others to do the same.

  • Step up, step back: A learning circle is most effective when all voices can be heard. If you find yourself speaking often, step back and create space for others to share their ideas. If you’re someone who prefers to listen, push yourself to speak out and share at least once per meeting.

  • Keep it confidential: What happens in the learning circle stays in the learning circle. Respect the privacy of your fellow participants and don’t share others’ stories without consent.

Setting Goals for Learning

Shared goals can strengthen engagement within groups and help participants to overcome conflicts when they arise. Common ground opens the door for dialogue! This activity has three steps that can be adapted according to the number of participants in your learning circle:

  1. First, each participant writes one to three personal goals.

  2. Next, participants pair up and combine their ideas to define shared objectives.

  3. Finally, all pairs disclose their ideas and the group defines its collective desired outcomes through discussions.

Group norms are not just for the first day - you can revisit them at the end or beginning of subsequent meetings to make sure that your group norms still fit your group’s needs. It's okay for the group to change them to make sure that the learning circle continues to be a comfortable and fair exchange of ideas and information.

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