Civil discourse requires the exercise of patience, integrity, humility and mutual respect in conversation. It’s contingent on our ability to discuss topics where we might disagree, and our ability to listen to each other’s perspectives to gain a better understanding of all sides of any issue. At times these conversations can be uncomfortable, but they’ve never been more important.
Policy Circles provide an open, encouraging environment that fosters friendship and purpose. As we’ve found out over the last few months with stay-at-home orders in place, the roundtable discussion model lends itself well to virtual discussions, something Lauren Hall, a Circle Leader from Indiana has experienced first-hand.
“Taking our regular Circle meetings virtual was a little intimidating at first,” Hall said. “But these virtual discussions have allowed us to stay connected at a time when I think we need that connection more than ever.”
The keys to successful virtual discussions? Consistency in scheduling meetings, being creative in how you run meetings, using multimedia like videos to expand on the brief and inviting guest speakers when you can.
Hall, who just this month started a new role as a “scholar-in-residence” with New America after three years working with Teach for America Indianapolis, leads the Women of Circle City Policy Circle. Her work with New America, and ongoing leadership through the non-profit she founded VOICES, is centered on addressing poverty and increasing educational, juvenile, and racial justice.
A friend and mentor invited Hall to her first Circle meeting and after experiencing Circle meetings as a member, Hall decided to start her own Circle. The Policy Circle’s prioritization of local control and connected approach to cultivating the knowledge, skills, and ingenuity of its member base has been influential on Hall’s leadership style.
“The Policy Circle’s consistent, creative capacity to bring in new speakers with diverse professional backgrounds and perspectives has … kept my thinking and approach to leadership agile, inclusive, and focused on leveraging the best in each member to co-create visions for how our country can live up to its highest ideals,” Hall said.
Discussions also provide an open, encouraging space for women to learn, develop and strengthen their voices on some of the biggest challenges we face.
“The Policy Circle has provided me the opportunity to reflect on my personal experiences and understanding and map these on to larger trends and create informed perspectives on what approaches might best address the challenges that geographically, economically, and racially different people face,” Hall said.
Meaningful, Fact-Based Conversation
Empowering women through meaningful conversation is a pillar of The Policy Circle. Diving deeper into a new Brief each month has helped expand Hall’s knowledge of critical issues, helping her to engage on issues in a way she hadn’t before. Leading Circle meetings has also helped build confidence in herself and her leadership style, learning how to more effectively facilitate complex conversations along the way. Strengthening that voice is vital to having complex discussions and seeding connections in communities.
“The discussion model is rooted in facts, with an emphasis on every voice and every experience matters. This has allowed all of us to speak equally, to speak our truth, with a willingness to have conversations on the data, considering other perspectives in a pragmatic way,” Hall said.
Hall noted that the practice of taking in information, deciphering the key issues, pulling out the layers of complexity, then being disagreed with has prepared her to shed light on issues impacting her and her community in a critical way. Discussions also prepare women to have a fact-based perspective when they get a seat or pull a chair up to the table so that they can speak with confidence and grace, Hall said.
When tackling the more complex issues in the library, Hall said she and her co-leader, Rebecca TeKolste, have leaned on their Circle members who are in a variety of sectors to help facilitate conversations on key issues. They’ve also brought in guest speakers as well to help expand on the topics, and to learn more about the local impacts of certain issues.
“The Policy Circle concept is not too far removed from a graduate seminar. Talk, ask questions, dissect, share,” TeKolste said. “But what makes this concept unique is the fact that we aren’t sitting in an ivory tower postulating over what might work in theory. We bring our own experience as practitioners and (in some cases) apply lessons in real-time.”
Igniting Passion in Future Leaders
This real-time, pragmatic discussion has allowed Circle members to build on their own core knowledge of issues, and come away with a deeper knowledge and understanding of those issues, and of each other’s perspectives. Which has helped ignite a passion for how they can individually and together make a difference in their community.
“This group has been a networking opportunity for the women leaders and future leaders of our city,” TeKolste said. “It has been a way to strengthen our approach to public sector challenges through gaining perspectives from multiple angles, and it has provided new and deepened friendships through our shared passion for this work.”
“The ability to do this in community with other lady leaders I love and deeply value has been one of the greatest gifts that Policy Circle, and specifically the Women of Circle City, has afforded me.”
Do you know someone who would make a great Circle Leader? Let us know and help bring The Policy Circle to other communities.
Connection is at the heart of The Policy Circle’s model and mission. More than 3,000 women across the country gather regularly to learn about public policy and take action in their communities. Circles provide an open, encouraging environment that fosters friendship and purpose. We celebrate our shared love of country, community and our growing tribe of women who are changing the conversation. Please consider supporting our mission and developing your own leadership skills by becoming a financial supporter of The Policy Circle.
The Policy Circle offers a forum for thoughtful, fact-based conversations built on the following core values:
- We are a welcoming world-class organization.
- We inspire civic engagement with truth and details.
- We are purposeful in our actions to connect and convene.
- We believe in humans flourishing in a free society and entrepreneurial economy.
- We lead by stepping out of the box.
Want to share your Policy Circle story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get involved.