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What is a study circle?
A study circle is a group of 8-12 people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet several times to talk about an issue. In a study circle, everyone has an equal voice, and people try to understand each other's views. They do not have to agree with each other. The idea is to share concerns and look for ways to make things better. A facilitator helps the group focus on different views and makes sure the discussion goes well.
How study circle programs work
In a large-scale study circle program, people all over a neighborhood, city,
county, school district, or region meet in diverse study circles over the same
period of time. All the study circles work on the same issue and seek solutions
for the whole community. At the end of the round of study circles, people from
all the study circles come together in a large community meeting to work
together on the action ideas that came out the study circles. Study circle
programs lead to a wide range of action and change efforts.
No single organization or person can create an effective program like this without help – though most large-scale programs start with the vision of just a few people. To ensure diverse large-scale participation, the program organizing must be driven by a group of community leaders and organizations that represents the diversity of the whole community, not just one sector, constituency or group.
The Topsfield Foundation created the Study Circles Resource Center in 1989 to
help all kinds of people engage in dialogue and problem solving on critical
social issues. Since then, SCRC has worked with many kinds of communities, on
many different issues, to develop a process for bringing people together for
creative community change.
Hundreds of communities across the country have organized study circle programs. SCRC works directly with these communities, to refine and improve the process for organizing large-scale community dialogue that leads to action and change.
From neighborhoods to large cities, broad coalitions of community groups are bringing together hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people from all walks of life to deal with important issues like these:
racism and race relations
crime and violence
growth and sprawl
building strong neighborhoods
neighborhoods supporting families with children
In addition, many colleges and high schools are organizing study circles to
engage young people in dialogue and problem solving.
As SCRC staff and associates work with regional, state, and national organizations interested in active citizenship, study circles are becoming a more widely known and well-tested process for large-scale citizen involvement. Throughout the country, study circles are increasingly recognized as a dynamic part of what many are heralding as a new movement for strengthening democracy and community building
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