SE Network Peace Circles

Well before the pandemic hit, SE Network used the restorative justice practice of Peace Circles for conflict resolution and social and emotional support. Now, the practice is an instrumental tool for youth to navigate the new normal. The SE Network team leads the charge to implement Peace Circles around our Clubs and in the Rainier Beach neighborhood.

Peace Circles, or Healing Circles, are based on a model developed by Indigenous peoples. With a focus on relationship building, they are well-integrated within many Indigenous cultures and happen whenever there is a decision to make or an issue to address in the community.

A set of principles guide Peace Circles to create an equitable and healing space for everyone. With shared power and ownership of the circle, participants take turns speaking and listening to one another with an open mind and an open heart. In participating in Peace Circles, youth strengthen bonds with each other and practice respectful communication skills.

As opposed to facilitators who might direct conversation or keep the group to an agenda, Circle Keepers have the simple goal of keeping the circle together. The Circle Keeper might prepare questions, but more importantly, they should let the conversation of the group move organically.

SE Network is a collaboration of community partners, including our Joel E. Smilow Boys & Girls Club at Rainier Vista, with shared goals to empower youth to excel in school, become good citizens and lead healthy, productive lives. The team embraces Peace Circles as a tool that can help young people grow and thrive.

Marty Jackson, SE Network Executive Director, is a firm believer in the power of Peace Circles, “I love that there isn’t a specific leader. It’s very equitable. It’s a non-traditional way of doing things from what most people are used to.

The SE Network team is working to expand the practice into more spaces within the community, as they witness how effective Peace Circles are at building strong relationships. Those relationships become essential to de-escalate situations and provide youth with the right opportunities for each individual.

Tanisha Scott, Smilow Rainier Vista Club alumna and SE Network Targeted Program Coordinator, works with Marty to implement restorative justice practices on a community level with three tiers of circles, including young adults, high schoolers, and middle schoolers. With this structure, Tanisha is helping to shape a platform for youth voice with other young people.