Circles Significant Onboarding Element for The Aspen Institute’s Weave

Frances Kraft has used circle process since becoming certified in 2013. As a teacher outside Chicago, she used circles for community building in the classroom, then in after-school programs and at the local library. “So much of what is difficult in education is the formation of strong relationships between teachers and families, or teachers and students. It’s important to get to know each other so we can see each other fully, but it’s hard to find time or make it a priority.” It makes a difference for students, however, when relationships are strong. In one summer reading program Frances created at the library, 74% of students grew a full grade level in reading in just one month. Teachers began each session in circle, and Frances credits the trusting relationships built as a significant reason for student progress.

When she joined Weave’s online community–which meets in–Frances was blown away by how the technology replicated the circle process she’d seen work powerfully in education. “It felt very much aligned with what I had learned in circle process: you’re taking the group on a journey in your time together, so that you leave feeling a deeper connection with each individual. I feel the same connection when I’m using the technology with a group that I do in person.”

In fact, she says the circle group was the piece that drew her to Weave, an organization working to bring people together across the country, virtually and in person. “We work to connect and support people who are weaving in their local community so they can build trusting relationships and meet others doing similar work.”

Every month, Weave offers new and existing members an opportunity to sign up for a circle during onboarding. “Once weavers join a circle, meet a group of six or seven people, and go through four agendas, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging in the community.” Frances says Weavers who join circles are more likely to become connected in other ways in the online community, to engage in discussions, and to reach out to others. “The main value of circles is for people to form deeper relationships. The technology allows for that in a sustainable, scalable way.”

The circle Frances joined when onboarding with Weave continued meeting even after working through the four initial agendas. She attributes that to how fast people build trust in a facilitated circle process. “Circle is so simple, but it can change your life. When you have a good facilitator who sets the tone and the participants settle upon agreements together, people slow down and listen – not to respond, but to understand. We are attracting people who want to be relational, not transactional. So it’s a beautiful fit to have a platform and technology that is bringing people together to truly communicate.”