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Creating Healthy Communities:An Alaskan Talking Circle

Healthy Alaskans Partnership Council
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Volume II. Healthy Alaskans 2010. Targets and Strategies for Improved Health. State of Alaska, Department of Health and Human Services.

It quickly became clear that the talking circle was the format that we sought for the strategic health planning volume of Healthy Alaskans 2010. Stories are a traditional teaching tool of the circle. The circle’s rules encouraged participants to be good listeners and honest speakers, to learn, to teach, to appreciate complexity, context, sadness, humor, insight and the validity of diverse points of view. The format and procedures of the circle are respectful and egalitarian. The circle may have many or few participants and could adjust to any size. The talking circle concept highlighted the importance of the voice of the storyteller. So retaining the voice of the community and of the individuals who owned the problems, experience and the solutions was essential. In some cases we were fortunate to have members of the community itself tell the whole story. In other cases we were tasked with providing the “story shell” and illuminating it with the words and insights of the participants. In many cases, numerous rounds of participant reviews followed taped interviews. The most rewarding part of the story project has been learning how to get out of the way and let the story and the storytellers enrich our understanding.When all is said and done, the plan that you have in your hands is not a talking circle, no matter how much we wish it were. Our goal during this project has been to promote a talking circle among communities and neighborhoods to enable Alaskans to share their experiences making our communities healthier and happy places. This plan comes closer to a real talking circle when you read, consider, share, expand, and retell these stories and add new ones. (excerpt)


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