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simple living for a sustainable future  
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discussion circles: how do they work?
  • Circles are peer-facilitated (participants take turns leading the group).
  • There is no teacher, no preacher, and no expert.
  • You will learn from self-reflection and through discussion with others.
  • There is no attemp to reach consensus.
  • Discussion questions are offered in the printed NWEI guides, to promote this self-reflection and discussion.
  • Circle members create their own learning experience, which is different for each group.

Introductory Meeting: People who may be interested in joining the circle come together to learn more, with no obligation to join. A SMEI volunteer may be present to help you figure out what you wish to do together, when and where you’ll be holding your regular meetings, and how to order the reading materials or videos that you've chosen to read / watch together.

At the first meeting, a SMEI volunteer will come in and model a discussion procedure that has been tried and tested by thousands of circles nationwide. This volunteer will be the group's mentor, and will be available to offer support for the entire duration of the circle.

Prior to each subsequent meeting you'll read the materials to be discussed. Or, during each meeting you'll watch a video together and then discuss it.

Most circles choses to explore practical
applications of what they're discussing, and implement action items. So, at the end of every meeting each participant commits to doing one small action. At their next meeting everyone reports on their progress (but nobody gets mad if you didn't get your action item done!).

At the final meeting ("wrap-up") participants evaluate their experience and decide their next steps, as individuals and as a group. Many circles renew their commitment and embark on a new joint activity. Some circles have been meeting for years!

For more detail please download Why Discussion Circles (PDF, 34 KB).


circles forming

see our monthly announcement or get in touch with your neighborhood's volunteer point of contact to find out about circles who are about to discuss this guide. Or, order a guide and start your own.

other pdfs