Resilience Circles

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= mutual aid initiative in the U.S.

URL = http://localcircles.org/

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. [1]


Definition

"Resilience circles ( also known as common security clubs) are groups of eight to fifteen people who come together for learning, mutual aid and social action. They began forming in the USA in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, when the first group began in a church in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, hoping to understand what was happening to the economy." (https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-byrnes/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-new-economy)


Description

"In Resilience Circles, we say three things need to happen to make a transition to a new economy: we need a new story about the economy that dismantles the myth of “recovery;” we need stronger communities; and we need new “rules” – i.e. new policies befitting a democracy instead of rule by a corporate elite. To make this happen, Resilience Circles learn together, engage in mutual aid, and take social action. A (free and open source!) curriculum provides a guide for facilitators to lead groups through six initial sessions. From there, groups pick their own projects and self-facilitate.

I now see clearly that connected communities are essential if we’re to beat the rich and powerful elite who keep the system rigged. No matter how many e-mails we send, isolated individuals calling for change can easily be ignored, whereas networked groups of committed citizens can get things done. And, community keeps us motivated and energized by showing us that we have lots to offer each other. Cheesy as it sounds, it shows us that we have lots to share, from hair cuts to veggies to a 20-foot ladder.

All of this is slowly unfolding in my Resilience Circle, and in the Circles I talk to around the country. It’s transformative, hopeful, and fun." (http://trustcurrency.blogspot.com/2011/06/building-resilience-new-economy-in.html)

Discussion

Sarah Byrnes:

"In the current, broken economy, most of us rely on money, corporations, and technology to fulfill our needs. We depend on distant, complex systems to fill our supermarkets and our gas stations. Disruptions to these systems, which will become increasingly common because of climatic and financial instability, can be catastrophic to communities. That’s why the task of building more resilient systems is so important.

Resilience circles help to build these systems by allowing us to relearn the practice of mutual aid, which many of us have forgotten in the current “you’re on your own” economy. Participants write their “gifts” - the things they can offer to others - on one set of note cards, and their needs on another.

In the circle I belong to, one woman started the conversation by offering to help with bicycle repairs, and mentioning that she’d like to be able to hem her own pants. Two other members said that they’d like to learn to sew, and then a third woman offered to run a sewing class for the group. Moments later, I was scheduling a time for the pastor of the church to cut my hair. A dog-sitting and child-care exchange also began to bud. People began brainstorming about how to find and share a 20-foot ladder that they needed.

After this exchange, people - often - leave the room with a new sense of wealth and abundance. They see that when they pool their resources - their stuff and their skills - they are much stronger than when they act alone. They may know this in theory already, but the exchanges in the circle give them a taste of how sharing and co-operation actually work in practice.

These intimate exchanges lie at the heart of the circle. The experience also allows people to envision change on a much larger scale. They see that it is possible to shift the balance from relying on money and corporations to relying on people and their skills. They can imagine a system of resilient, interconnected communities, and a new economy characterized by ecological balance, living democracy and an equitable distribution of resources.

Resilience circles are only one place where people are experimenting with building a new economy. According to political economist Gar Alperovitz, the new economy is "just beneath the surface of traditional media attention. [It has] been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness."

Across the globe, people are building Transition Towns, worker co-operatives, community-owned banks, collaborative forms of consumption, renewable energy systems, community land trusts, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture, peer-to-peer learning networks, alternative currencies, time banks, locally-owned businesses, and other models and experiments.

In the new economy, people make, grow and fix stuff instead of buying it from distance. They borrow and barter what they cannot make for themselves. When they buy, they buy from locally-rooted businesses. People become producers, not just consumers. They participate in creating the economic system that sustains them.

Not only is economic interdependence of this kind necessary to create the world we want, it also transforms many aspects of our personal lives. In the new economy, no one can afford to be isolated. Without fossil fuels, we won't be able to construct large houses in far-flung suburbs. Many of us will have to live closer together, and do more walking, car-sharing and biking. Without Big Oil and Big Agriculture, we'll have to collaborate to figure out new regional food and energy systems. With less reliance on technology, we might get together to make more of our own entertainment.

The new economy won't be built a moment too soon. Our communities will continue to be challenged by the housing crisis, austerity-driven cuts to public services, job market instability, extreme weather, and more. Coping with challenges like these requires strong and resilient communities that can make their own decisions democratically and build shared wealth." (https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-byrnes/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-new-economy)


More Information

Directory / map via http://localcircles.org/find-a-circle/

Resilience Circle Network, http://localcircles.org/