How to Build the “New Economy” in Your Community

Posted June 26, 2012 in Blog, Featured

According to Annie Leonard, three-quarters of Americans support tougher laws on toxic chemicals and more than 80% want clean energy laws. 85% think corporations should have less influence in government and more than six in 10 Americans say the government should attempt to reduce the gap between the wealthy and less-well-off.

In other words, Americans are ready for a new economy.

The million dollar question is: how do we build it? While there are many paths, it’s clear that we all need to be on one, not just “experts” or leaders. Everyone has something to contribute to the new economy, and every contribution is essential.

Many of the social change paths we read about are either at the itty-bitty individual level, or the super-huge global policy level. These can be disempowering. Sure, we can change our light bulbs, but at some level we all wonder how much impact my few bulbs really have. Even harder, how can I possibly get world governments on board with a fair energy descent plan?

But like that third bowl of porridge Goldilocks found, the community level solution feels just right. One way to be involved at that level is through a Resilience Circle.

Using and adapting a free 7-session curriculum, folks are meeting in Resilience Circles to talk about their economic struggles and redefine security in our changing world. Participants learn about the true causes of the economic downturn and the threats of climate change and resource depletion. Processing all of this with others helps them overcome feelings of shame, overwhelm, and paralysis.

Resilience Circles also enable neighbors to do what they used to do naturally: help each other in tough times. Participants exchange “Gifts and Needs,” where they name their gifts, i.e. skills and things they can share with each other, as well as things they need help with. This exchange never fails to create inspiration and connection. Folks see with new eyes how much common wealth they have right in their group.

Concrete action almost always follows the exchange. As Connie Allen explains of her group in Maine, “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.”

The new economy will be built on communities like Connie’s, where folks know and help each other.

To get involved in a small group like a Resilience Circle, check the map for a group near you. Or, start your own small group. Click here for tips, tools, and inspiration.