Kay Pranis (in pink), with other members of the restorative justice consultation held at Eastern Mennonite University in spring 2015, returns to campus in February 2016 to host a three-day class in circle process. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Circle process course offered by Kay Pranis trains facilitators for dialogue, healing in variety of settings

Expert Kay Pranis returns to Eastern Mennonite University Feb. 5-7 to teach a three-day, weekend course that will introduce the foundational values and philosophy of the circle process, as well as give students opportunities to practice facilitation and explore application.

“Kay Pranis is a one of the best teachers of circles in the world,” says Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) program director Jayne Docherty. “We are very fortunate to have her working with us.”

Used in many settings

Pranis is an international leader and freelance trainer in restorative justice and peacemaking through circle practices, which bring together victims, offenders, community members, and police officers to discuss how best to respond to a crime. Moving beyond cases of crime, she has worked with others to facilitate the use of peacemaking circles in schools, social services, churches, families, museums, universities, municipal planning and workplaces. (For an overview of her work and her background, view her 2013 Chautauqua Institution lecture on “Peacemaking Circles: A Restorative Justice Practice That Builds Community.”)

The circle process is one of the core foundational concepts of CJP’s training for peacebuilders and has been used with positive results in many regions with a history of long, entrenched conflict, Docherty says.

“This is an important, transformative and deceptively simple process for engaging people around really hard issues,” she added.

The course begins Friday, Feb. 5, from 6-9 p.m. and continues Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m.

Pranis has taught a 1-credit course on circles at CJP every year for the past 13 years. She returns to teach a second course for CJP in response to high demand. (Pranis is currently a member of the CJP Board of Reference, a group of expert advisors who help guide and shape the mission and work of the center.)

Circles ‘balance needs’

Diana Tovar Rojas, a CJP graduate student and political scientist from Colombia, took Pranis’ class in November. The course was a “wonderful learning and healing experience,” she said. “Not only is Kay a highly experienced circle keeper, but also a warm and spiritual one.”

Rojas has worked with UNICEF Colombia and within the juvenile justice system in the United States. She sees a great value in utilizing circles to “develop the ability to create a space for emergence and unlock the potential for collective knowledge sharing.”

Pranis first encountered peacemaking circles in the mid-1990s when studying with Barry Stuart, a judge in Yukon, Canada and also with Mark Wedge and Harold Gatensby, First Nations people of Yukon. Before that time, she worked six years as the director of research services at the Citizen’s Council on Crime and Justice.

From 1994 to 2003, she served as the restorative justice planner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Since 1998, Kay has conducted circle trainings in a diverse range of communities—from rural farm towns in Minnesota to Chicago’s South Side.

Of her own journey learning about and working within the circle process, Pranis says: “The circle became a way for me to see how humans can live more successfully with each other and the natural world, balancing group and individual needs and gifts. The circle became a way to move to a kind of world that I want to live in.”

Pranis has written widely on the subject: two recent publications are Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School with Carolyn Boyes-Watson (Living Justice Press, 2014), and Doing Democracy: Engaging Communities in Public Planning with Jennifer Ball and Wayne Caldewell (Living Justice Press, 2010).

More information about course content is here.

For more information and registration, email Janelle Myers-Benner, CJP academic program coordinator, at bennerj@emu.edu.