Communities & Banking: Resilience Circles Born in a Struggling Economy

Posted September 7, 2012 in Blog, Press hits. Tagged: ,

by Sarah Byrnes, Institute for Policy Studies
Communities & Banking, a Publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Fall 2012

Think back to September 15, 2008. Lehman Brothers had just crashed. No one was sure what it meant. Would other banks go too? Would the economy unravel, even collapse?

In the midst of the confusion, a group of people at a church in Boston decided to meet and talk about what had happened. “People were worried, and no one knew what was going on,” recalls group member Andree Zaleska. “We just started getting together to talk about the meltdown and what it meant for our own personal economic security.”

In hindsight, we know that people were right to be worried. After the events of 2008, we entered a global recession. In America, millions of jobs and homes were lost, and trillions of dollars in savings.

The group in Boston found that their meetings were a huge help in weathering the downturn. “As we started talking,” Zaleska says, “we realized that as a group, we had a lot more shared wealth than we thought. It was incredibly helpful to share stories and resources and savings tips with each other. We kept meeting together every month for over two-and-a-half years.”

This group turned out to be the first Resilience Circle. Since then, hundreds of Circles (also called Common Security Clubs) have met across the country. They have discovered that when 10 to 20 people get together and begin speaking honestly about their economic fears and concerns, they come up with all kinds of ways to help each other, and they discover a new sense of wealth and abundance. Additionally, they often end up taking social action to address what they see as structural economic and social problems.

Resilience Circles use and adapt a free seven-session curriculum provided by the Resilience Circle Network.[1] The curriculum focuses on learning, mutual aid, and social action. Many groups continue meeting after finishing the curriculum, engaging in activities and projects of their choosing. They have been convened through congregations, neighborhood associations, activist networks, and the like. New ones are forming all the time.

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