This ordinary man comes to the outskirts of a village, tired and hungry. He asks the first people he meets for food. They tell him the village is starving. Beating a garbage can lid and chanting in a strange jargon, he advances to the town square. As the villagers cluster around him, roused briefly from their lassitude, he announces that he is a magician from an exotic land, come to solve their problem. Pulling a stone from his pocket, he tells them of its powerful magic, handed down through the generations of wizards, and says that if they bring him a piece of string and the largest kettle in the village, the stone will feed them all.
He fills the kettle with water, puts it on a fire and suspends the stone in it. The magic, he says, will take some hours to work. In the meantime, if anyone would happen to have an old soup-bone to throw in, the flavor would be enhanced. Someone does. Perhaps someone has a bay leaf, some wilted carrot tops, a handful of corn form their cow-feed. Someone else remembers a potato they had forgotten, another contributes a hoarded piece of suet. In time the kettle is filled with rich, nourishing soup. The magician fishes out his stone, cleans it reverently, and announces dinner time. Everyone has a bowl and there is enough left over for him.
I think of this story every time I tend an open circle process. The circle is the kettle, where resources are shared and flavors marry; the soup has no recipe, or rather a recipe only for the process of its cooking. In particular, Stone Soup describes a style of Open Interview in which the gamekeeper plays an unusually active part. I’ll give two examples, one loose and one open-ended, the other disciplined and focused to an end.