GETTING UNSTUCK: SOLUTION CIRCLES


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Marsha Forrest, Jack Pearpoint, and their colleagues have developed a simple process we can use when we get stuck. They call this process, solution circles. Solution circles are process tools in which a group of people can quickly generate ideas for solutions for a specific problem. We begin by gathering our group with a facilitator who agrees to work with our circle and a graphics recorder. There are four sections to this process. Each section is five minutes long.

 

Step 1: Present problem

We present the problem for five minutes . During this time the group cannot talk at all. We are given a full five minutes with no interruptions. It is not necessary to clarify the problem. Rather, the group listens carefully.

 

Step 2: Brainstorm

For five minutes members of our group brainstorm ideas and solutions to the problem. As we present the problem, we listen to the group without talking. Sometimes this is very hard. This is a time where the collective wisdom of the group is used to throw out helpful ideas. The facilitator insures that the process is kept short and focused.

 

Step 3: Dialogue

Now all of us talk together for the next five minutes. We sort out what might actually be helpful. The dialogue is led by us–the person with the problem–with help of the facilitator. The focus is on picking ideas that might help and discussing these. What does not work is ignored. The dialogue focuses on constructive possibilities.

 

Step 4: First step

For the last five minutes, with the help of the facilitator and the group, we identify a first step and a coach — a person who is willing to contact the individual within a short time to provide support. The first step must be something that can be done within one week, preferably within one to two days.

Adapted from an exercise and presentation at the Toronto Summer Institute on Inclusion, Diversity, and Community. July 6-13, 1996.