Overview: The goal of Forum is to reveal what is alive but not known to all. The community sits in a circle, forming a stage for one person at a time to stand and show what is true for them. Facilitators may assist the person (or “presenter”) to reveal themselves more deeply. Afterward, community members may offer reflections, or “mirrors” on what they saw.
Sharing: One person goes in the middle and shares something that is alive for them. There is no particular goal except for that person to show themselves authentically.
Guidelines for sharing:
* Everything is welcome – joy, sadness, confusion, amazement, even not knowing what you want to say or do.
* You are encouraged to but not required to stay in motion.
* If you choose to speak about someone else in the circle, you should speak in the 3rd person and not look directly at the person you are speaking about.
The Circle: The role of the group is to pay silent, compassionate attention to the presenter, and to appreciate that what the presenter is sharing is at the same time their personal story and also a part of the universal human drama. Please do not enter or leave the circle while there is a person in the middle. Please do not speak to or react to requests by the presenter unless requested by the facilitator.
Facilitation: The facilitators are like the midwives for the process. They will ask questions or make suggestions that help the presenter reveal their authentic self in a deep way. Unlike some personal growth formats, the facilitator’s intention is to help you be seen by the group. You may also experience an emotional shift but this is more of a byproduct than a goal of the facilitation.
Guidelines for working with the facilitator:
* Be prepared to spend more time with your feelings than your story.
* The facilitator may suggest a rant so that you can explore a deep emotion like anger or frustration with a time limit. It may be helpful to try this with humor or exaggeration.
* You are encouraged to consider all suggestions from the facilitator but feel empowered to say no if the suggestion feels wrong.
* If your emotions feel so raw that you cannot play with them or if you are overwhelmed with rage, Forum may not be the right format for you in that moment. You should consider getting emotional support instead of getting up for a longer piece.
* The facilitator may ask you to sit down if they feel that you have done what can be gained from the Forum at this time.
Mirrors: After the speaker shares, the observers are invited to give mirrors. A mirror is feedback about what the listener felt or observed about the presentation.
There are three main kinds of mirrors:
1. Something that wasn’t said- this kind of feedback may be spoken or may be done in a more theatrical way.
2. What was it like for the listener to experience this person’s forum- What emotions arose? What were you curious about?
3. Global mirror- How that person’s forum piece relates to larger world issues. These are difficult to do well and are mainly given by the facilitator or others highly experienced in Forum.
Guidelines for giving mirrors:
* Mirrors are only to be given in the spirit of contribution to the speaker. They are not a time to share your own story or to express your own emotions. Please don’t do a mirror if you are triggered by the person or their presentation.
* Resist the temptation to give advice.
* Speak in third person and don’t look directly at the speaker or anyone else in the circle.
* Keep mirrors short!
* If you have a particularly critical mirror, please do not share first.
* Mirrors may be lightly facilitated for clarity and may be stopped if inappropriate or if they go on too long.
Forum Traditions: In some communities it is common to begin forum with a song, and to open and close Forum with clapping. Groups may also clap after each check-in, longer piece or mirror. Between long pieces and in the transition from check-ins to long pieces, many groups “clear the space” with a breath and waving hands. These traditions can be part of setting up the container.
Two Minute Check-ins: Brief check-ins are a way to try out the space or just do a quick sharing with the group. These are almost always done without facilitation or mirrors.
24 Hour Rule: The presenter is requested to wait 24 hours before discussing mirrors to allow them time to digest. This may be revised for brief gatherings.
Approaching the presenter: After sharing in the Forum, a presenter is often emotionally raw . While it is fine to approach the presenter and offer support, please do not speak to the presenter about their piece without asking their permission – and please wait a few hours before asking permission!
Confidentiality: If you need to discuss something that happened in Forum with people who were not present, speak about your own experience without naming names if at all possible, and speak from a place of compassion and contribution. If the speaker would like additional confidentiality, they should request it at the beginning of their sharing.
Close with feedback: There will be time at the end to give feedback to or ask questions of the facilitator about the process.