Wilder Center for Learning and Excellence offers training and consulting services to organizations and individuals who are nonprofit professionals, government personnel, social workers, mental health practitioners, case managers, program managers

How Meetings and Gatherings Benefit From the Shared Human Experience


Who we are and how we see the world is heavily influenced by our lived experience, which ultimately gets expressed in a wide range of individual perspectives and worldviews. Nonetheless, there is another essential piece that defines our worldview: the experience of being human. It is in the experience of being human that we can explore our differences with grace and compassion towards ourselves and each other. In other words, we put “common humanity” at the center, personally and professionally. In that space, we develop the ability to see and share diverse perspectives – whether gathering with community members or attending a meeting with colleagues.

Gather with intention for authentic conversation

Putting our humanity at the center by Marcela Sotela

As we put our common humanity at the center, there is an implication that we gather and place that intention in the very heart of the conversation. Often times this gathering will take the shape of a circle (real or symbolic) as a way of being together and of being in the world. Human beings have gathered in this way since we discovered fire.

Bringing elements from different cultural traditions together for modern times, we use a gathering methodology called Peer Spirit Circle. Developed by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, this circle practice invites us into a structure for deep conversation and wise outcomes. The center of the circle represents the purpose of the meeting or gathering as a way to connect and ground all present around a common vision.

Invest in tangible and intangible resources

Putting our common humanity at the center requires an investment of resources in the broadest sense, tangible and intangible.

It requires:

  • Time, especially when we believe it is limited or non-existent
  • Attention, focused on listening with intention to understand beyond the words
  • Being present and the willingness to show up to be in the now
  • Curiosity, an open mind and the will to explore differing points of view, including the ability to pose powerful questions
  • Respect, as defined by Angeles Arrien as “the willingness to look again”
  • Offering what you can and asking for what you need

Guide decisions by values and diverse perspectives

When we put our common humanity at the center, we see and honor everyone present. Our decisions are guided by values that honor and include diverse perspectives, with the understanding that we bring with us assumptions and power dynamics into the circle. We are always inviting authentic engagement into the processes, whether we seek agreement or not.

Every gathering, meeting or conversation becomes a space for learning and growth, leading to sustainability of positive results and even transformation. People feel seen, heard and valued as important and contributing members of the organization or community. There is an increased sense of belonging through open minds, hearts and will. We show compassion with the understanding that suffering and a desire to be loved and belong are important and true for everyone. Participants are able to address difficult decisions and challenges with greater clarity, confidence and commitment. And lastly, synergy is possible, creating new possibilities.

About our guest authors:

  • Jackie Levin, M.A. Leadership Guide | Professional Development Program Designer | Social Entrepreneur
    Working in business and public education settings over the past 42 years, Jackie Levin has designed a wealth of products and programs that inspire individuals and teams to bring their full expression into “work life” and “life work.” As an independent consultant, Jackie guides self-discovery process through individual and group coaching; promotes authentic engagement through convening practices, and inspires well-being through personal and professional learning experiences.
  • Marcela Sotela Odor, M.P.A. Participatory Leadership Process Facilitator | Visual Practitioner | Professional Development Program Designer
    Marcela is an educator, mediator, creative soul, and host of participatory processes. Born in Costa Rica, she is passionate about idea exchanges and multicultural interactions. During the last 15 years, Marcela has been at the service of the Liberian, Somali, Latino, Native and African American communities in the United States, in her roles as mediator for families and young people and Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School focusing on health disparities in minority communities in the state of Minnesota.



Explore utilizing and drawing from the "Shared Human Experience" this February when the Wilder Center for Learning and Excellence will be offering the following guided workshops. Register today, space is limited.