Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

E. Paulette Isaac-Savage, Ed.D.


John Henschke, Ph.D.

Virginia Navarro, Ph.D.

Mary Grigsby, Ph.D.


The Circles of Hope is a dialogue and support group process that uses personal support, education for action, and organizing for change as a method for their own personal development and change and to become agents of change in their own communities. Case studies summaries based on individual interviews and participation in a focus group were developed for seven women who have been regular participants in the Circles of Hope. Using cross-case analysis as the key analytic framework (Miles & Huberman, 1984), change was examined across three themes, the process experience, personal growth and change, and engagement in community. This analysis began the process of building a theory of adult learning based on the experiences of these women with the Circles of Hope that directly links personal change and development to increased engagement public life as a change agent. The model that emerged identified five key factors for personal growth and change affected by the participation of the women in the Circles of Hope. These factors include focus, risk taking, developing voice, exploring identities, and a changing world view. These factors were both shaped by the Circles of Hope process and contributed to the ongoing evolution of the Circle as a place for continued personal growth and change. This research found that the women were able to become engaged in creating change in their community. They became engaged by: a) representing themselves and their Circles in other community organizations and activities, b) bridging to other women and organizations involved in community change locally, nationally, and internationally, c) engaging in local community development efforts, and d) connecting their development efforts to their passions. The Circles of Hope process is generative in that the Circle made it possible for the women to grow personally and to use that growth to create change in their communities. In so doing the women also affected the growth and development of the Circle itself, incorporating their learning into the development of the Circle and transferring their learning into other areas of their personal and community lives.

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