Kiva – A Process for Inclusive Dialogue


The Kiva process is a method for facilitating inclusive group dialogue and decision-making. It is intended to offer a process where all participants have a chance to share input, listen to others, learn together, and build consensus. 


The Kiva process is inspired by the traditional Pueblo Indian practice of gathering in a circular, underground chamber (kiva) for important discussions and ceremonies. It aims to create a respectful and inclusive environment for open dialogue, where all participants have an equal voice and opportunity to contribute.  Participants sit in a circle, representing equality and interconnectedness. A talking piece (e.g., a stone or stick) is used to manage the flow of conversation. Only the person holding the talking piece can speak, while others practice active listening. The facilitator introduces the topic or question for discussion and sets the intention for the dialogue. Participants take turns sharing their perspectives, experiences, and ideas related to the topic. Participants are encouraged to speak from the heart, listen deeply, and respect differing viewpoints. The dialogue continues until a sense of collective understanding or resolution is reached. 


The process aims to create a safe and respectful space for open communication, build trust and understanding among participants, and facilitate collaborative decision-making or problem-solving. The Kiva process can be applied in various settings, such as:
  • Community meetings and decision-making processes
  • Organizational team meetings and strategic planning sessions
  • Conflict resolution and restorative justice practices
  • Educational settings for fostering inclusive discussions

Sample Activity

Arrange participants into three concentric circles based on their experience and seniority levels.
  1. Participants are organized into an inner circle consisting of the most experienced and senior members, a middle ring with key personnel, and an outer circle comprising those with the least experience or seniority.
  2. The discussion commences with only the inner circle actively participating, while the middle and outer circles observe silently. The senior members deliberate on the issue at hand and formulate an initial proposed decision.
  3. Once the inner circle concludes, they share their proposed decision with the entire group. The middle circle then moves to the center, while the outer circle steps out and remains an observer.
  4. The middle circle engages in a discussion, providing their perspectives on the issue and the proposed decision from the inner circle. They offer insights and potential modifications to the initial proposal.
  5. After the middle circle's discussion, the outer circle takes the central position, while the other two circles listen without contributing.
  6. The outer circle, comprising the least experienced participants, now has the opportunity to share their viewpoints, ideas, and feedback on the issue and the previous discussions.
  7. Finally, the inner circle reconvenes at the center. Having absorbed the inputs from the middle and outer circles, they revisit the initial proposal, considering the diverse perspectives shared.
  8. The inner circle then finalizes their decision, either reaffirming or modifying their original proposal based on the collective wisdom gathered through the circular dialogue process.
This approach ensures that all levels of experience and seniority have a voice in the process, fostering inclusivity and shared understanding. While time-consuming, it aims to generate decisions with broad buy-in by leveraging the collective knowledge and insights of the entire group.


The Kiva process comes from the culture of many Native Americans. The term "Kiva" comes from a Hopi word that means "ceremonial room".

Target Audience:

  • Community organizers
  • Consultants
  • Teams
  • Educators

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