The “Successful” Small Group – What the Heck Does That Mean?

I once heard from a Resilience Circle facilitator in Michigan that his group “hadn’t really worked out.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well, all we did was start a community vegetable garden.”

What? I was flabbergasted. I tried to assure him that in my mind, at least, his group was a huge success. After all, what could be more exciting than folks digging in the dirt together and creating a source of food?

This kind of doubt echoes across the Resilience Circle Network. People aren’t sure what “success” means. Bruce Baker in Takoma Park, MD, recently convened a group from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Despite initial concerns that their differences might be overwhelming, the group bonded and helped each other in all kinds of ways.

“We shared gardening knowledge, and ideas for entrepreneurialism,” says Bruce. “There really was a sense of equality. The divisions just seemed to melt away.”

Even still, Bruce isn’t sure his group was “successful.” So we talked about some ideas for how his group and others could define success. For example:

  • Mutual aid – Did many people exchange Gifts and Needs?
  • Resilience – Did the group’s collective score on the YES! Magazine Resilience Quiz improve?
  • Connection – Did people open up and share stories?
  • Economic Security – Did anyone get a job, find a new livelihood, find housing, or otherwise increase their economic security?
  • Longevity – For how long did the group continue to meet?
  • Action – Did the group take any action together, such as creating a community garden or attending a protest? What impact did the action have on the community? (Click here for lots of action ideas.)

How does your group define success? Have you thought about the measures above? Are there other ways to feel successful? Please share your thoughts — help us unpack this interesting and important concept.

Photo: Running on Vegan