What are Trust Circles?
Trust Circles, usually consisting of no more than ten participants, meet periodically and provide participants opportunities to share views in response to queries about social justice, othering, being an effective ally, and similar issues. Participants are encouraged to share only what they want to share – no prying, no probing, no advising, no challenging. They are urged not to try to fix things for others but to fix themselves so that others will feel comfortable sharing who they are, how they feel about things they experience in their lives, and what their wants and needs are. Through Trust Circles, we seek to help participants be less judgmental, listen more deeply to others, and focus on building trust by being trustworthy.
Why use Trust Circles?
The absence of bias, especially ethnocultural bias, is not typified by what we learned but by what we do and how we make others feel. Hence, simply learning about racism or any form of bias does not tend to result in a behavior change. For example, while there is no definitive conclusion about the degree to which implicit bias training is effective, research is consistent in showing that a one-and-done approach to training does not work well. With Trust Circles, participants meet over several months and talk in a structured environment with the expectation that change (i.e., what we do and how we make others feel) will not be sudden or large but will occur in small steps over time, first at the interpersonal level and then at the institutional level.
People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.