Story Circles

“The rules of the story circle are the rules of civil participation in society.
You agree to listen. You agree to respect.”

– John O’Neal, Founder of Junebug Productions

Calling Up Justice has used story circles as a central part of their practice for years. The story circle is a great tool for community building, conflict resolution, and creative devising. Read more below and access this guide.

What is a Story Circle?

A Story Circle is a small group of individuals sitting in a circle, sharing stories—usually from their
own experience or imagination—focusing on a common theme. As each person in turn shares a
story, a richer and more complex story emerges. By the end, people see both real differences
and things their stories have in common. A Story Circle is a journey into its theme, with multiple
dimensions, twists, and turns.

Story Circles are often understood as deriving from indigenous traditions. There are many
variations. Theatermakers such as Roadside Theater and John O’Neal have been central in
developing the practice for use in creating original performance and community telling and
listening projects. Story Circles can become practical interventions for building shared power
and moving to action after hearing themes from the stories and building relationships between

Each Story Circle is unique and can take on the energy of the group. They can support
perspective taking, empathy, cultural humility, listening, courage, vulnerability and healing. Story
Circles can be light or deep – depending upon the hopes, intentions, and outcomes of your

The Story Circles tool was brought to OSU through our participation in the People’s State of the
Union, Dare to Imagine, and Imaginings campaigns (2015-2018) by Charlene Martinez who
served in the role of Integrated Learning for Social Change, a program within Diversity &
Cultural Engagement and as an USDAC Cultural Agent

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