Story Circles


Modeled after traditional storytelling gatherings, Story Circles allow people to come together to share experiences and stories. This process can help communities explore and identify unifying values, which can inform the planning process.

Tool Description

Summary of Costs

Associated Costs
  • Facilitation
  • Project Management
  • Other


  • Story Circles are an inclusive and comfortable way to discover common values in a community. Everyone can share stories that connect them to their town no matter their age, job, education, or how long they’ve lived there.
  • Story Circles can include as little or as much technology as desired and can be run in many different types of space, with a variety of materials.
  • Story Cirlces are relatively easy to organize and are a fairly inexpensive way to explore a town’s character.
  • By touching on the emotional and personal connections people have to their town, values may arise that would not come up in other, more formal, settings like planning board meetings or design charrettes.
  • Sharing and listening at Story Circles helps build trust and relationships in a community. It's an intimate, non-threatening way to start broaching controversial topics.
  • Story circles can be used at many different points in the planning process and for different purposes. They can be tailored to a specific place or issue or used to broadly investigate community values and character.


  • Story Circles can typically engage only a limited number of people, since they rely on people showing up at an event and can't accomodate huge crowds. This requires the facilitator to think carefully about who is invited and how, and other engagement methods should be used to reach additional people.
  • Depending on the planning process, it could be challenging to integrate the values distilled during the Story Circle into future town plans.
  • Overall, Story Circles require a good amount of planning and organization to make sure they run smoothly, include everyone, and that the results are used appropriately.
  • Story Circles can take a wrong turn if group members try to comment on or judge other people’s stories in inappropriate ways. A skilled facilitator in each group can help, and clear ground rules are important.
Submitted By: h.orcutt
Last Updated: June 25, 2015, 8:53 am