Relational Learning Circles and Relational Pedagogy

June 4, 2017

From Afghanistan, Maryam invites all to Relational Learning Circles

Dear friends,                                                                                                                                                                                                                    June 2017

Salam ( peace ) from Kabul, Afghanistan!

Douglas Mackey, Andrea Leblanc and I are international friends of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, a non-political group of young peace builders. Despite daily challenges, they organize small, local programs to address climate change, inequality and violence with its nuclear-risk wars, under the three general themes of ‘Green, Equal and Nonviolent’ (#Earth! GEN).

Over the years, they’ve found that when they connect personally with others from different parts of the world, it energizes them. It’s touching & exciting for us to see how, when three to ten persons converse for about one hour online in Relational Learning Circles, they can learn more than they do from books, ‘un-learn’ manufactured media narratives and move one another to positive actions. Relationships can change our lives!

Recently, three youth participated in such a Circle: An Afghan, Maryam, a Russian, Ivan, and an American, Cameron, have had several meaningful conversations, exchanging diverse views and shared wishes.

Maryam, a 17-year-old student & volunteer teacher of Afghan street kids, testifies: “In my Relational Learning Circle with Cameron and Ivan, I shared about how my mother always encourages me, especially when I feel hopeless.”  Maryam was so inspired that, along with three other Volunteers, she participated in another Relational Learning Circle with friends from Mexico, Spain and Italy ( see photo below )

RLC between APVs and UWC Italy students small

We invite you to join in a Relational Learning Circle conversation. Each small group will get to know one another as participants explore areas of mutual interest. We trust you will enjoy the learning and mutual encouragement. Please write to  and we’ll make arrangements.

“I’m so grateful tDr Hakimo these Afghan friends who have re-educated me.  I can no longer see, hear, learn, think and live in the same way. It has been my personal as well as a community revolution.”  Dr Hakim Young, a Singaporean physician

Doug Feb 2017 Crop Small“Listening to the Afghan Peace Volunteers opened my eyes, ears, and heart to their wisdom. There is a way forward even during such difficult times – if we truly listen, and find our way to act in solidarity.”   Douglas Mackey, a Park, Fish and Wildlife professional in the U.S.

Andrea LeBlanc“The Volunteers are in their compassionate wisdom light years ahead of the majority of us. Stories like theirs are vitally important for all of us, especially the young, to hear in order to begin to understand that there are more and better choices than just the choice between doing nothing out of helplessness or despair & waging violence & war in response to conflict.  There is, in fact, a middle nonviolent way for us to care about & nurture one another globally & value & protect our Mother Earth.” Andrea LeBlanc, a mother & grandmother, retired veterinarian & member of Sept 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Relational Learning Circles

What are Relational Learning Circles?

Relational Learning Circles are online conversations ( via Zoom, Viber, Skype, Facebook etc ) in which three to ten participants from different parts of the world get to know, understand,  relate with, learn from and encourage one another to adopt mindsets, lifestyles and actions that nurture a green, equal and nonviolent world without war.

In the circles, participants:

  1. Get to know and better understand one another, building nonviolent friendships with one another.
  2. Learn by asking questions and listening actively.
  3. Learn from one another’s local and international knowledge and experiences, considering each other as valuable ‘live’ books.
  4. Exchange ideas on small, local and concrete nonviolent alternatives and societal structures for a green, equal and nonviolent world without war.

Each Relational Learning Circle lasts up to a maximum of one hour.

Relational Learning Circles are currently arranged by the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their international partners, including Global Days of Listening  and September 11th for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Who would be excited to join Relational Learning Circles?

Participants who would be excited to join Relational Learning Circles are those with one or more of these interests and passions:

  1. Relationships are important to the participants’ purpose and meaning in life, relationships that seek to be personal, open, true, courageous and above all, loving.
  2. Participants enjoy learning from Nature and any member of the human family, recognizing that ‘lessons from the diversity and depth of life’ can often teach more than books, and that current economic-driven education systems have significant limitations to grow their humanity.
  3. Participants are keen to develop a curious, creative, critical, communal and compassionate way of learning and doing.
  4. Participants seek to care for all of Nature, the Earth and the human family.
  5. Participants want to live beyond the pursuit of money and popularity/power.
  6. Participants believe that our short human lives should be lived happily, meaningfully and passionately.
  7. Participants who wish to do small things that will build a green, equal and nonviolent world without war.

Structure of a Relational Learning Circle

Duration: Recommended to last up to a maximum of one hour

Timings: Accommodating the different time zones of the participants. Some participants may need to be awake at slightly inconvenient times.

Number of participants: Three to a maximum of ten ( preferably three to four persons )

Subject Matter: Pre-determined subject matters, topics and issues are preferable, as the conversation tends to be more focused. Before the conversation, participants are encouraged to read up on and research the subject matter, and to use Relational Analysis and Application to think about the subject matter, so as to increase their learning.

Agreement on ‘ground rules’ for conversation

  1. Participants should do their best to be present on time
  2. Use nonviolent speech and communication
  3. No insults, expletives, accusations, racial or religious slurs
  4. Respect for all
  5. Active Listening
  6. ‘Raise hands’ to speak when needed
  7. No interrupting, except by facilitator in guiding speaking turns and duration
  8. Every participant should have ‘speaking’ time
  9. Questions are encouraged and welcomed
  10. Participants are encouraged to give permission for conversations to be recorded for study and follow up.

Guidelines for time structure of conversation

  1. Introductions – of participants and subject matter
  2. If there is a guest ‘teacher’, he/she speaks for a maximum of 5 minutes on the subject matter
  3. Participants take turns to speak to the subject matter:
  • Expressing feelings
  • Expressing views / describing realities/ sharing knowledge and experiences
  • Express doubts or questions*
  1. After each participant, anyone can raise their hand to ask questions or give brief opinions or answers
  2. Any other questions and answers
  3. Each participant takes one minute to express key lessons learnt, especially what they have learnt about ‘connecting the dots’. They express their appreciation for each other’s time and friendship.
  4. Brief conclusion and plans for follow up

Follow up

  1. The participants can agree among themselves to arrange a follow-up conversation, over the same subject matter or a new subject matter
  2. The participants can keep in touch with one another outside the context of the Relational Learning Circle.
  3. The participants can request to participate in another Relational Learning Circle


 How can I participate in a Relational Learning Circle?

If you’re interested to try out a Relational Learning Circle, you can write to

This is what happens after you’ve written to

  1. You will receive an email asking about and clarifying
  • Your nationality and country/place of residence ( necessary to coordinate time zones )
  • Your age
  • Your current occupation
  • What subject matter and issues you’re interested to talk about, as broadly related to building a green, equal and nonviolent world without war.
  • Which days and times of the week you can participate in a Relational Learning Circle ( maximum one hour duration )
  1. The organizers will help place you in a suitable Relational Learning Circle, starting with three persons in a Circle, up to a maximum of ten. Once a Relational Learning Circle has formed, they will write to suggest possible connection times and subject matter, and get your feedback.
  2. You will receive confirmation of the date and time of the Relational Learning Circle, instructions on the use of Zoom ( an online conference service) and the subject matter for the Relational Learning Circle. There may be suggested pre-set questions.
  3. You take note of the date and time of the Relational Learning Circle and ‘turn up’ on time.
  4. A facilitator will start the first conversation with introductions, a brief review of the conversation ground rules, and the subject matter for that Relational Learning Circle.
  5. You enjoy your one hour conversation.
  6. After the conversation, there will be follow-up correspondence between you, the other participants and the organizers.


“I think Maryam brings up a very valid point about the power of human relationships. I think it’s important to have these conversations not only between young people but between people of all ages all across the world. It’s the power of humanizing one another; I don’t think it can ever be surpassed.” Cameron ( U.S. ) , in conversation with Maryam ( Afghanistan ) and Ivan ( Russia ) on the 4th of September 2017

Three Unique Friends from US Russia Afghanistan

From Afghanistan, the ‘unsurpassed power of human relationships’

Youth from four countries ‘meet’ an Afghan for the first time

Afghan, Mexican and Spanish youth say, “We’re the future human family!”

Relational Pedagogy is curious, creative, critical, communal and compassionate enquiry and practices based on the science and humane-ness of relationships with all of Nature and the human family, whose purpose is to build egalitarian Nonviolent Relational Peace.

Relational Pedagogy developed in Afghanistan out of multiple crises. The Afghan education system, ‘copied’ from today’s global mainstream pedagogies, is not able to resolve the many pressing challenges of Afghans or of humankind. We’re all facing the life-threatening crises of climate change, socio-economic inequalities and violence with its nuclear-risk wars. Mainstream pedagogies were established in previous epochs before humanity’s relational consciousness was sufficiently developed and have been based primarily on ‘things’ which the bronze, iron, industrial, information and digital ages have been manufacturing, ‘things’ like money, weapons, and sophisticated gadgets. Our pursuit and addiction to these ‘things’ under the ‘old’ systems have distracted us from developing our relational consciousness of a borderfree, shared existence with Nature and humanity, and has driven us to crises which threaten our very survival and well-being. Even in Albert Einstein’s time, he had said that it had “become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. Fresh approaches to learning and education are urgently needed, approaches that can help us, especially new and future generations, to nurture and learn from relationships with everyone and everything.

Relational learning can help us to question ourselves. It can inform us, teach us and empower us to take concrete actions to solve our global crises together. It can help us go shake off old ways of thinking, propaganda and lies. Mother Nature will be a book for us to relate with and to study, and we will be one another’s ‘books’. Learning about and applying our relational consciousness can help us to be in solidarity with one another. We will be happier. We can work with ‘stone, bronze, iron, money, computers and other futuristic stuff’ and not be slaves of them. We can be hunter-gatherers, agriculturalists, scientists, industrialists, digitalists and lovers, without imprisoning, exploiting or killing ourselves and ‘others’.

Relational Pedagogy can contribute to a critical mass of nonviolent egalitarian relationships that will guide us to not only know and care for ourselves, but also to know and care for all, so that our learning and practices can help all of us survive and thrive beyond these challenging times.

Relational Pedagogy is clearly not the only alternative pedagogy; Critical Pedagogy is a well-developed alternative. Nor is Relational Pedagogy a new pedagogy. It merely pieces together different existing educational methods which are relevant to the conditions and circumstances of the earth and humanity in early 21st century, and it emphasizes learning through relationships with Mother Earth and Nature, the cosmos, and all in the human family.

Please download the Introduction to Relational Pedagogy here: Introduction to Relational Pedagogy

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