One way to introduce circle process or to easily bring “a little bit of circle” into your meetings, gatherings and conversations is using a check-in.
Check-in helps people into a frame of mind for council and reminds everyone of their commitment to the expressed intention. It insures that people are truly present. Verbal sharing, especially a brief story, weaves the interpersonal net.
Check-in usually starts with a volunteer and proceeds around the circle. If an individual is not ready to speak, the turn is passed and another opportunity is offered after others have spoken. Sometimes people place individual objects in the center as a way of signifying their presence and relationship to the intention. From The Circle Way Guidelines
Crafting the check-in question is important. You want to think about:
- How much time do you have for the check-in? Think about how BIG your question is – does it invite a longer, heart-felt story from each person, or only a sentence or two?
- How can the check-in connect and support the rest of the agenda and the overall purpose of the gathering?
- What kind of tone do you want to create through the check-in? Playful? Serious? Connecting? Learning something new about each other?
- Is this a group that is very familiar with check-ins? Maybe it is time to mix things up!
A check-in question such as “Tell us the story of how you originally came into this work” will open the story space and would likely be a longer check-in. A check-in question like “Say a few words on how you are arriving today” could be a shorter check-in.
I am a collector of questions – anytime I come across a good possible check-in question I save it, knowing I can adapt the wording to align to the context of the circles I host. Here are some of the check-in questions I have gathered:
- What’s one new and interesting thing you’ve been thinking about lately?
- What’s one thing that brings you energy and joy?
- What kind of a day have you had so far today?
- What is your personal weather status (cloudy, foggy, sunny breaks etc)?
- Why did you accept the invitation to join this gathering?
- What’s become apparent since we last met?
- What words would you use to describe where your head is? And where your heart is?
- What are you noticing in your environment that relates to this project?
- How has the last gathering impacted you and your work?
- (For a group that has been working together for a while, preparing for an event) What makes you tremble as you look ahead at the event? What worries or fears are bubbling up in you?
- If you could invite someone you respect to sit beside you and support you in making this meeting successful, whom would that be?
- What’s one thing you hope to get accomplished at today’s meeting?
- What is one interest of yours that others in this group might not know about?
- Given our work so far, what do you feel best about?
- Share a one or two-word intention you hold for today’s meeting/conversation.
- What is something you came across recently that gave you hope or inspiration?
What are your favourite check-in questions?
Amanda Fenton (amandafenton.com) worked in the co-operative sector for nearly seventeen years with thirteen of them in Human Resources, including HR consulting, leadership and organizational development, change projects and collaborative strategic planning processes. She is a co-teacher of The Art of Hosting and The Circle Way, and is skilled in designing participatory gatherings using circle-based methods such as The Circle Way, Open Space Technology, World Cafe, Collective Story Harvest and others to host and harvest conversations for thoughtful change, working with non-profits, churches, schools, other organizations and networks.