Reflect Methodolgy

The Women’s Circle facilitators keep the groups democratic by using the Reflect Method.

Reflect is an educational methodology inspired by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire in the 1990s. It challenges the conventional teacher-student relationship and encourages both the participants and facilitatiors to learn from each other. The main purpose of this approach is to create a democratic space in which enables everyone, especially the local people to express their opinions equally. No one is leading, dominating or imposing instructions or ideas to one another.

With various tools such as maps, diagrams, matrices, rivers or tress that help participants to identify the social, economic or political problems in their live without being constrained by language barriers, the participants could also share their knowledge, experiences, feelings and ideas through drawings, dramas and songs to explore possible solutions to the problems on their own.

Generally, Reflect is designed for empowering the repressed to liberate themselves by standing up, speaking out and making social changes. Thus Reflect actually means to Regenerate Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques.

Reflect Methodolgy

The Women’s Circle facilitators keep the groups democratic by using the Reflect Method.
According to the Reflect Training of Trainers (TOT) Guidelines for Practitioners, Reflect incorporates nine core principles:

1. Power and Voice

Reflect is a process that aims to strengthen people’s capacity to communicate by whatever means are most relevant to them. Although part of the process may involve learning new communication skills, the focus is on using these in a meaningful, practical way.

2. A Political Process

Reflect is premised on the recognition that achieving social change and greater social justice is a fundamentally political process. It is not a neutral, short-term approach, but rather seeks to help people in the struggle to assert their rights, improve the socio-economic and political position in society. As such it requires us to work with the poorest and most marginalised people.

3. A Democratic Space

Reflect involves creating a democratic space where everyone’s voice is treated as equally important. This can challenge local culture where power relationships and stratification have created inequality. It is never easy to achieve this, but it should be a constant focus.

4. An Intensive and Extensive Process

Reflect is rarely a short or one-off process. Groups usually meet for about two years, and sometimes continue indefinitely. Generally, groups meet twice a week for two hours. This intensity of contact is essential for a process that seeks to achieve social or political change.

5. Grounded in Existing Knowledge

Reflect begins with respecting and valuing existing knowledge and experiences. However, this does not mean accepting people’s existing opinions or prejudices without challenge particularly where these contradict the principle of creating a democratic space. Moreover, there is always part of the process where participants are enabled to access new information and new ideas from new sources. The key is to give people control over that process, and confidence, so that they can be critical and selective.

6. Linking Reflection and Action

Reflect involves a continual cycle of reflection and action. It is reflection for the purpose of change and action linked to reflection, as pure activism rapidly loses direction.

7. Using Participatory Tools

The Reflect process uses a wide variety of participatory tools to help create an open, democratic environment that enables everyone to contribute. Visualisation approaches such as maps, calendars, diagrams, matrices and other graphics provide a structure for the process. Many other participatory methods and processes are also used, including theatre, role-play, song, dance, video or photography.

8. Power Awareness

All participatory tools can be distorted, manipulated or used in exploitative ways if not linked to an awareness of power relationships. Within Reflect groups, all relationships must be equitable, and structural analysis is needed to ensure that issues are not dealt with at a superficial level. Only through such analysis can effective strategic actions be determined.

9. Coherence and Self-Organisation

Reflect needs to be used systematically, and the focus of the processes should always towards self-organisation, so that groups are self-managed where possible rather than being facilitated by, or dependent on, outsiders.

Reflect Training of Trainers (TOT) Guidelines for Practitioners is published by South Africa Reflect Network (SARN), and it was used as the training guide in The Women’s Circle’s facilitator training workshops