What is a Resilience Circle?

—    An overview

A Resilience Circle is a small group of 10 – 20 people that comes together to increase personal security during these challenging times. Circles have three purposes: learning, mutual aid, and social action.

The economy is going through a deep transition, and economic security is eroding for millions of people. We’re worried about our financial security and about the future we are creating for our children. Many of us aren’t part of communities where we can talk openly about these challenges and fears.

In response, people are forming small “Resilience Circles” of ten – twenty people. These groups are exploring a new kind of security based in mutual aid and community support, and helping build a new kind of economy that’s fair and in harmony with the earth.

Resilience Circles help us:

  • Courageously face our economic and ecological challenges, learning together about root causes.
  • Build relationships and undertake concrete steps for mutual aid and shared action.
  • Rediscover the abundance of what we have and recognize the possibility of a better future.
  • See ourselves as part of a larger effort to create a fair and healthy economy that works for everyone in harmony with the planet.
  • Get to know our neighbors, find inspiration, and have fun!

How it Works

Across the country, people are starting Resilience Circles in their communities. The free, open-source Curriculum provides a guide for facilitators to lead groups through seven initial sessions, and after that groups determine their own activities and projects.

Three Components of a Circle

Learning – A Resilience Circle is a place to face the real nature of our economic and ecological challenges. Facing these realities may be overwhelming for isolated individuals, so a Circle is a place to learn with a supportive community. We analyze the economy to expose its structural flaws, and ask if “growth” is really the only way to create financial security.

Mutual Aid – Resilience Circles take concrete steps toward enhancing personal security by slowly stretching our “mutual aid muscles,” which are often badly out of shape. In Session 5 we exchange “gifts and needs,” where participants write down things they can offer – such sewing skills, tools, or child care – and things they need. During this activity we gain a new sense of the wealth and abundance present within the group and the community.

Social Action – Many of our challenges won’t be solved through personal or local mutual aid efforts alone. They require us to work together to press for larger state, national and even global changes. While there is no official Resilience Circle social action agenda, many groups choose to take action based on their own values and interests.

Stories from Circles

“We used to meet in the basement of the local library, about twelve of us, each week.  The librarian was always asking us what we were laughing at.  Somehow we just always had a lot of fun when we met. And we helped each other in all kinds of ways.”
- Bill R., Indiana

“At the fifth meeting of my Resilience Circle, we exchanged “Gifts and Needs.” Participants had written their gifts – things they could offer – on one set of note-cards and their needs on another. The facilitator started  the exchange by offering to give bike tune-ups, and mentioning she’d like to be able to hem her own pants.  A few moments later, after two others also said that they’d like to learn to sew, one woman offered to run a sewing class for the group. And moments after that, I was somehow scheduling a time for the pastor of the church to cut my hair.  A dog-sitting/child-care exchange began to bud. People began brainstorming about how to find and share a 20-foot ladder.”
- Sarah Byrnes, Roslindale MA

“Our group shared lawn mowers, books, and tools; brainstormed job possibilities; and shared inexpensive recipe ideas and savings tips.  We would bulk shop together and we’d tell each other about sales.  One woman started teaching exercise classes after the group helped her get started, and a few others published books using suggestions and expertise from the group.  We even kept an “emergency jar” at the center of the table. People would often put 50 cents or a dollar into it at meetings, though it wasn’t required. The money didn’t get used very often, but much like the group itself, it provided a sense of security just in knowing it was there.”
- Connie Allen, South Paris ME

“Facilitating a Common Security Club feels like providing water to desperately thirsty people. People are hungry for this information, hungry to share their experiences and frustrations, and hungry to gain some control in a world that often seems out of control.  During the first session one participant commented that ‘this may well be the most important program the church has ever offered.’”
- Trudy McNulty, Portland ME

“This is one of the best pastoral tools I’ve used in terms of giving members of my congregation a sense of agency in their economic lives.”
- Rev. Cecelia Kingman, Edmonds WA

Read more stories here, and see a full list of “Profiled Circles” here.

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