From the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment:
“The Samoan circle is a leaderless meeting intended to help negotiations in controversial issues. While there is no ‘leader’, a professional facilitator can welcome participants and explain the seating arrangements, rules, timelines and the process. As with the Fishbowl process, the Samoan circle has people seated in a circle within a circle, however only those in the inner circle are allowed to speak. The inner circle should represent all the different viewpoints present, and all others must remain silent. The process offers others a chance to speak only if they join the ‘inner circle’.”
It is a useful method to promote listening as the outer circle is not allowed to speak, but participants are still free to speak if they move into the inner circle. When participants are tired of a given seating arrangement, the Samoan circle gives a new cohesive vision of the group: everybody sitting in a circle concentrating on the listeners.
For example, I used this method in an office retreat to allow listening by Management to the views of all participants who wished to speak.
The facilitator should explain the method very clearly before starting and make sure the outer circle stays quiet.
Discussion topic should be very clear and should lead to a discussion; if not the discussion dries up and nobody wants to move in to talk.
Working principles of Samoan circle:
Method listening leaderless