Common Security Clubs
= mutual support clubs created after the meltdown in the U.S., that aim to obtain real life security, founded on three key principles: learning together, mutual aid, and social action.
From Chuck Collins in On the Commons.
“Borbeau was facilitating the first gathering of a “common security club” at her church in Concord, New Hampshire. These clubs, a cross between a study circle, mutual aid association, and social action affinity group, are a concept being piloted cooperatively by a loose coalition of organizations that includes the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and On the Commons.
The dominant messages in the U.S. economy are “you are on your own” and “some people are going to be left behind.” Countering this isn’t easy. For many, talking about their economic anxiety and asking for help is difficult and shaming. But to survive the coming period of uncertainty, we must regain use of our mutual-aid muscles, many of which have atrophied from lack of use.
As the economic crisis deepens, our churches are places where people can come together—not only to share one another’s concerns, but as centers of education, support, and social action. Organizers see common security clubs as one way to facilitate this work in congregations, as well as in union locals, women’s groups, and in other civic and social groups.
Indeed, for a growing number of faith communities, the economic crisis is a catalyst for action and spiritual reflection, a chance to consider what is most vital. “The church has a pastoral and prophetic role around this economic crisis,” said Rev. Cecilia Kingman, pastor of a church in Edmonds, Washington, that is piloting a common security club. “Most of us feel the economy is something that acts on us. We need to find our voice and agency—to realize we can act to make the economy more just.”
The common security club model was born out of work done in the last few years by people struggling with overwhelming indebtedness. Participants spend some time discussing the root causes of the economic crisis, drawing on readings and materials provided by the network. But they mostly focus on what they can do together to increase their economic security and press for policy changes.
As theologian Walter Brueggemann writes we need to shift from “autonomy to covenantal existence, from anxiety to divine abundance, and from acquisitive greed to neighborly generosity.” Common security club participants are experimenting with ways to make the practical, political, and spiritual changes this entails.
Clubs can be autonomous or affiliated with an existing institution, secular or religious. The ideal size is 10 to 20 adults who make a commitment to an initial five meetings with a facilitator. Clubs then decide whether to continue meeting and self-manage. Starter sessions have been developed and include “The Roots of the Economic Crisis,” “Personal Re sponses to Economic and Ecological Change,” “Things We Can Do Together,” and “Actions to Transform the Economy.”
Among the things “we can do together,” the clubs examine stories and examples of various economic and mutual aid activities. These have included teaming up to help each other weatherize their homes, helping each other rework their personal budgets and reduce debt, and forming food-buying clubs. Faith-based groups weave together reflection, prayer, and action.
“We can’t be a bank for each other,” said club participant Paul Monroe of Boston. “But there are so many things we can do to support one another and increase our economic security.” (http://www.onthecommons.org/content.php?id=2383)
From Sam Pizzigati in AlterNet:
"Local Common Security Clubs have already started up in over four dozen communities. The clubs typically bring from 15 to 20 people together for face-to-face sessions where they can grapple with their personal financial stresses, learn more about why our economy isn't working, and explore what people can do, through mutual aid and shared action, to increase our economic security.
"It’s important we learn together," says Chuck Collins, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality and the Common Good and an organizer of the Common Security Club network. "We ceded too much power to the experts — and now it's time for us to think for ourselves."
Common Security Clubs are drawing participants from a variety of sources. Some have formed out of church congregations or union locals, others from neighborhoods.
To help all these groups get up and running, a small national staff, assembled by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Massachusetts-based Grassroots Policy Project, has prepared a facilitator’s manual and made all sorts of other resource materials available.
What are the clubs doing? Their efforts vary.
In the spirit of mutual aid, clubs are helping people deal with immediate personal crises — like foreclosures. They're also raising issues around long-term family financial planning, through a club network partnership with Vicki Robin and Monique Tilford, co-authors of Your Money or Your Life, a widely respected program that helps people rethink how they relate to money matters.
These mutual-aid activities, says club organizer Andrée Collier Zaleska, are helping create "tremendous energy for local and community responses."
But the clubs take that energy further.
"We can’t ignore," says Zaleska, "how larger economic policy failures wrecked the economy — and the need for ordinary citizens to weigh in on the direction of future economic policy."
Local Common Security Clubs are starting to do that weighing in. They’re campaigning, for instance, to beat back the Wall Street blitz against the proposed national Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
The club network currently extends from Massachusetts, where the first club formed in Boston, to Washington State, and the press is just beginning to take notice. Organizers see a steady expansion ahead. Want to learn more — and maybe start a Common Security Club within your neighborhood or organization? The Common Security Club Web site covers all the basics.
The current recession, club organizers note, will eventually fade. But the economic ground beneath us has shifted. We can’t return, they note, to the cheap energy and unlimited fossil fuels that used to "grow" our economy — and we don’t want to return to the “bubble” economics that grew our vast inequalities of income and wealth and triggered last fall's crash.
"We need to prepare ourselves and our communities," sums up organizer Chuck Collins, "for more fundamental changes and a new economic model." (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/143235/a_little_help_from_your_friends:_how_common_security_clubs_can_mend_our_social_fabric?)
"There are now over one hundred clubs, averaging fifteen to twenty people, across the nation--with clusters in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Over 900 groups or individuals have requested the facilitator guide and other club materials but IPS doesn't have the resources to track everyone. Some religious and community groups have used the materials to go in their own direction." (http://www.thenation.com/blogs/edcut/498636/real_simple_economics)
- more detailed review in The Nation at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/edcut/498636/real_simple_economics
- Video: Why People Are Joining Common Security Clubs