Arrowyn Ambrose, the President & Founder of Story Tribe, runs a Ben Franklin Circle in Los Angeles, California. She shares the following post about her experience leading the Circle:
Council is an age-old practice that involves bringing people together in a circle for candid and heartfelt conversations.
Participants speak one-at-a-time, sharing their personal stories and experiences, rather than opinions, and listen intently while others do the same. Sharing and listening to universal stories about love, loss, fear, and hope enables participants to recognize that, despite their many differences, they have much in common.
By fostering attentive listening and authentic expression, Council builds positive relationships between participants and neutralizes hierarchical dynamics formed by the inequality of status, race, or other social factors. It supports a deep sense of community and fosters recognition of a shared humanity and interconnectedness. It enables individuals to give voice to their stories, develop mutual respect, cultivate a compassionate response to anger, defensiveness, and violence, as well as strengthen emotional health and resilience.
I have been practicing council since 2008 when I sat in my first circle. It felt like home. Since then I have been weaving it into the creative writing programs that I run with at-risk youth and the incarcerated, young and old.
It seemed a no-brainer to me, after the election, to align my monthly circles to Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues.
I wanted to bring people together to celebrate what was good in each of us and to inspire us all to create more compassionate communities. Ben Franklin’s virtues give us a template to build from that allows for some deep personal reflection around iconic themes. Council circles facilitate a collective wisdom that is priceless and more than the sum of it’s parts.
I am incredibly grateful for this work, as I know, it has transformed me and those around me, making us all more empathetic and thereby better able to act compassionately. Something our country could use a lot more of.
Arrowyn Ambrose is a council facilitator and trainer, writer, and mother. She has been practicing council since 2008, weaving it into the curriculum of the non-profit, The Young Storytellers, that she ran for a decade before leaving to pursue her own work, Story Tribe. Story Tribe is a dynamic council experience that incorporates journaling and personal narrative to enhance social and emotional connections. With Center for Council, Street Poets, and Story Tribe, she brings this work to inmates in state prisons, incarcerated and at- risk youth, young people impacted by HIV, high school students, and teachers. She is most passionate about introducing people to this practice who might never in their lives encounter it on their own.