Recently, we were introduced to the concept of Reciprocity Circles, which we excitedly participated in, and subsequently fell in love with. The idea is simple – sit together in a circle with a group and go around one at a time and share something you’re looking for, and something you might have to offer. We participated in one that explicitly had no limits; the needs/offers could be personal or professional in nature, and although all of the participants were part of the same alumni network, they didn’t all know each other intimately.
While one might think that all participants should be in similar professional or personal situations, we have actually seen the Reciprocity Circle work very successfully when all of the participants worked in different sectors and ranged in age and life stage significantly.
So how does it actually work? The first person in the circle opens with an introduction of themselves, and follows with their needs and offers. Other participants respond to their need request with offers to help which might include introductions to specific individuals, suggested groups to get involved in, and more macro level coaching. Conversely, individuals can ask to take the first individual up on their offer. After a scribe, or the individual speaking writes down the offers received (ie. follow up with x for introduction to y, ask z about more information on leadership development program x, etc…), the next person in the circle starts with their needs and offers, and the cycle starts again.
Because the Reciprocity Circle is based on reciprocity it creates a rich network in which each participant has a strong interest in others’ filling their needs. The introductions and network building that results tends to be richer than having met the exact same person for the first time because of the vulnerability shared on both sides of the discussion. Further, the offers to lift each other up, even if the two participants did not directly fill both a need and an offer for each other, but instead did so across the circle, creates a web of connectivity.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Starfish Impact approaches real connections and networking building, check out Purpose Driven Connections.
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