On The Issues Magazine: Resilience Circles are Consciousness-Raising Groups for Tough Economic Times

by Sarah Byrnes

Originally published in On The Issues Magazine, October 20, 2011

Here in the U.S., our economic system is just not working for most Americans. The official unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, costs are rising, savings are diminishing, foreclosures are continuing.

Even worse, the future is likely to bring even more challenges. We’re facing stronger impacts of climate change and peak oil, and the gambling Wall Street financiers who crashed the economy in 2008 have shown no signs of changing their ways. They continue to siphon wealth away from the real economy and into asset bubbles that only benefit the wealthy.

The silver lining is that many Americans are taking their economic security into their own hands. One response has been to form “Resilience Circles” or “Common Security Clubs,” which are small groups of 10 to 20 people who gather for learning, mutual aid and social action.

Obviously, that’s a big task. But groups start small. An essential first step is opening up and sharing our stories. Much like the “consciousness raising” groups of the women’s movement, circles are a place to name and share experiences which are usually considered taboo.

Debbie Mytels, a Resilience Circle facilitator in Redwood City, California, explains this analogy: “Back in the ’70s, we talked about ‘the problem that has no name’ – that is, women’s feelings of disempowerment and frustration. These feelings are remarkably similar to today’s unnamed feelings of economic and civic disempowerment.” Getting past the shame and getting real with each other, as many feminists can attest, turns out to be a hugely powerful personal experience.

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