The Circle of Courage
Source: Reclaiming Youth Network. “The Circle of Courage Philosophy.” 2007.
At Building Bridges, we aim to adhere to The Circle of Courage in all that we do. In South Africa we use the Circle of Courage because it is closest to African traditions and it captures the developmental approach within an appropriate indigenous model. This is a model of positive youth development first described in the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk, co-authored by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, and Steve Van Bockern. The Circle of Courage is based in four universal growth needs of all children: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity.
A Broken Circle: When the circle is broken, the young person experiences their self adversely, while feelings and perceptions about self then tend to result in behaviors that “shut others out” or push people away. A typical response from adults is “fear,” anger, or a need to punish or hurt; adults will also prevent the young person from the very activities needed for growth. “Moral panics” about “who young people are” can ensue detraction attention away from the real issues behind gangs, harmful behavior, substance abuse, and more (oppression, discrimination, poverty, racism, and the like). While all aspects of the circle are essential for balance, belonging and mastery are the foundation steps towards generosity and independence.