To Go Forward by Going in a Circle

In Sweden there is a long tradition of study circles as a means for popular adult education. The slogan “Want to go Forward? Join a Circle!” has been around for ages. In a study circle, there is no teacher. Instead everybody actively participates in the search for more knowledge about a particular topic. I think that this democratic aspect of learning is what attracts me most, in combination with the utilisation of the diversity of the group.

I have a background in popular movements where study circles are common. Recently I participated in the design of a study circle myself, focusing on how to do organisational development in clubs and districts for the Frisksport Association. We used the book “Våga forma framtiden” (“Dare to Design the Future”) as a basis, which includes more or less a classical business plan development model although adapted to fit this particular context.

I made good use of this experience when I joined Anne Radford in her thinking about “Wisdom Circles”. Together we started to design a concept called “The International Manager/Consultant Wisdom Circle” when we met at an intensive workshop with members of the European Appreciative Inquiry Network. True to the concept, we have also designed an interactive workshop on this topic at “The Power of Positive Change” conference in Orlando, 16-19 September 2007. In the workshop, we will present the concept but also ask the participants help us develop it even further. I’m really looking forward to this workshop, and to try out this participative activity which I find a little bit similar to Erik von Hippel’s concept of lead-user product development and democratising innovation.

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