Doing Democracy with Circles

Workshops for Public Sector Professionals


Dr. W.J. Caldwell, Professor,
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
University of Guelph


Dr. Jennifer Ball, Kay Pranis,
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
University of Guelph


Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)

executive summary
This KTT project builds on the knowledge translation outcomes of a previous community-based research project on solving water quality issues along Lake Huron. This project was funded by OMAFRA and carried out in 2005. One of the primary results of the original project was a published book on the use of the circle process as a citizen engagement tool, called “Doing Democracy with Circles: Engaging Communities in Public Planning” (Living Justice Press, 2010). The circle process is a method for open and inclusive dialogue and active listening.

This proposed project will move the resources developed in the book into a practical learning context for public sector professionals. The main deliverable will be the development of a series of training modules for professionals such as planners, rural development practitioners, public health officials and others who regularly engage the public in their practice. The main KTT objective is to improve public consultation process through the adoption of innovative techniques that ensure meaningful dialogue and effective avenues for conflict resolution. The nature of the circle process lends itself particularly well to sensitive and potentially controversial issues.

This project reaches across the strategic priorities of OMAFRA, as a public sector well trained in citizen engagement can contribute to improved public policy and decision making around economic, environmental and social issues in rural communities.
goals and objectives
  • To develop resource materials for a series of training modules for public sector professionals on the use of the “Circle” in the citizen engagement process
  • To organize and run a series of training sessions