While “study circles” as a methodology has received its criticism from activists who believe that group discussions without concomitant policy action is representative of “diversity awareness” talk and not the ever important “diversity inclusion” work that brings about real community change, we acknowledge that study circles methodology--especially employed among youth--has significant value. Below is a description of study circles and ways it has impacted our community.
Study Circles is a community-wide program in which ordinary citizens come together and engage in public dialogue about difficult issues facing their communities. Study Circles are small voluntary diverse groups, usually 10 to 15 participants, who consider many perspectives, rather than advocate a particular point of view. Study Circle sessions do not require consensus among its participants, but rather uncover areas of agreement and common concern. The circles groups meet for five weekly sessions, each lasting two hours and are facilitated by a well-prepared discussion leader. More information about Study Circles can be found at www.studycircles.org
The following organizations have partnered with CVDAT and the Waterloo Human Rights Commission to participate in the Study Circles Program:
- Affina and Waterloo Fire Department
- Area Education Agency (AEA7)
- GMAC Study Circles
- Hawkeye Community College
- Jubilee and St Timothy’s
- Neighborhood Associations
- Promise Jobs
- University of Northern Iowa Departments
- Veridian Credit Union
- Waterloo/Cedar Falls School Board
- Waterloo Community Schools Study Circles
- Waterloo Community School Administration
- Waterloo Police and Community
- West High School Staff Discussion Sessions
Youth Study Circles
The CVDAT assisted Columbus High School’s Social Ministry class, in partnership with the Volunteer Center of the Cedar Valley, with an area Youth Study Circles Sampler. The discussion guide, Youth Issues, Youth Voices was used for the Sampler. Over eighty students from six area high schools (Columbus, Don Bosco, Hudson, Walnut Ridge, Waterloo East, and West) attended the half-day event. Thirty of the students attending expressed interested in a full Metro Youth Study Circle and nine students expressed interest in becoming a youth facilitator.
The following spring, West High School held an intra-school Study Circles Sampler. This led to five (5) groups of students completing the full Study Circles program in March. All together, seventy-one (71) students took part in the Youth Study Circles with forty-eight (48) students completing all five (5) sessions.
Supported by a grant from John Deere Community Credit Union - Diversity Alliance, close to 300 high school students through out the Cedar Valley completed Study Circles. Altogether over 400 students participated to some degree in the Circles. For the conclusion of the fall semester of Circles, 100 students gathered at AEA7 on Martin Luther King Day to watch The Color of Fear, eat pizza, and discuss the film.
As a continuation of the Fall Circles another 60 students participated in a Youth Study Circles School exchange with another 15 students participating in at least one or two rounds of Circles. The concluding event was a Youth Conference held on April 9th at AEA7. One hundred an forty-four youth attended this exciting event.