Samoan Circle

Samoan Circle

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Training tool similar to fishbowl but leaderless useful to help a group of people to deal with controversial issues. As with Fishbowl process, participants form two concentric circles; only the ones sitting in the inner circle are allowed to speak, while the rest of the group listens and observes. Attendees composing the inner circle have the task to expose all the different perspectives on the main topic and, therefore, there should be one or two representatives for each point of view present in the group. However, at any time participants from the external circle can join the inner one, simply taking an available seat or standing up behind a chair and waiting for the person sitting on it moving on the external circle. Since the discussion is not guided by a leader, a facilitator should explain the attendees the rules of the process before beginning the session.

Samoan Circle can be used to:

  • Encourage active participation in discussing a controversial issue while avoiding polarization;
  • Develop different perspectives on a specific topic;
  • Enhance the knowledge of participants about the main theme (they have to listen to all different points of view);
  • Build relationship and community capacity in the group;
  • Promote respect of the other.

Toolkit.png Conducting a Samoan Circle session

Step by Step

  1. Invite a group of 20-40 persons to participate in your Samoan Circle and introduce the controversial issue to be discussed during the session.
  2. Set-up the room with chairs disposed in concentric circles.
  3. Identify which are the different views present in the group concerning the topic to be discussed
  4. Select one or two representatives for each perspective and let them sit in a semi-circle surrounded by 2-4 open chairs. The rest of the group will seat in the external, bigger circle.
  5. Before beginning the discussion explain the rules and ask all participants to agree with them: a) People composing the external circle are not allowed to speak. They can only listen and observe. b) Anyone who wants to join the discussion can move to the inner circle by taking an available chair or by waiting behind a seat. If there is anyone waiting for joining the inner circle, people sitting there have to move to the external circle.
  6. Clarify that the representatives might briefly present the different points of view before starting the discussion.
  7. Inform the participants that the facilitator may withdraw when the discussion begins.
  8. Record the different perspectives expressed as well as common points or agreements reached.[1]

Job Aid

Pdf.png Conducting a Samoan Circle session


  1. (14 Septmebr 2009) (14 September 2009)