Building resilience – web chat

September 22, 2011

In our September 22 web chat, we looked at two different models for community resilience building: Resilience Circles & Transition Initiatives. Resilience building is far from a one size fits all effort. By exploring two of the most developed models, we hope to inspire… Joining us were: * Chuck Collins, cofounder of Resilience Circles * Vicki Robin, Transition U.S. Board member, * Asher Miller, E.D. Post Carbon Institute & Transition U.S. Board member

Chuck is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and directs IPS’s Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is an expert on U.S. inequality and author of several books, including Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity, co-authored with Felice Yeskel. (New Press, 2005). He co-authored with Bill Gates Sr. Wealth and Our Commonwealth, (Beacon Press, 2003), a case for taxing inherited fortunes. He is co-author with Mary Wright of The Moral Measure of the Economy, a book about Christian ethics and economic life. Chuck Collins helped develop Resilience Circles ( He is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business leaders, high-income households and partners working together to promote shared prosperity and fair taxation. In 1995, he co-founded United for a Fair Economy (UFE) to raise the profile of the inequality issue and support popular education and organizing efforts to address inequality. He was Executive Director of UFE from 1995-2001 and Program Director until 2005.

Vicki Robin serves on the Board of Directors of Transition US. Vicki is well-known as the co-author of the international best-seller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence. The Wall Street Journal, Money, Woman’s Day, Newsweek, Utne Magazine and the New York Times, and newspapers around the world have reported on her work on lowering consumption in North America. Vicki served on the President’s Council on Sustainable Development’s Task Force on Population and Consumption. She is also co-founder of the New Road Map Foundation, the Center for a New American Dream, Sustainable Seattle, Conversation Cafes, the Simplicity Forum, the Turning Tide Coalition, Let’s Talk America, and currently Transition Whidbey which is seeking to catalyze the community on Whidbey Island to greater food, fuel, energy and economic self-reliance in light of predicted impacts of oil depletion and climate change.

Asher became the Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute in October 2008, after having served as the manager of our former Relocalization Network program. He’s worked in the nonprofit sector since 1996 in various capacities. Prior to joining Post Carbon Institute, Asher founded Climate Changers, an organization that inspires people to reduce their impact on the climate by focusing on simple and achievable actions anyone can take. Some of his previous roles include: Asher has served as a consultant to a number of other nonprofit organizations, including Just Think and Okizu Foundation. He currently serves on the board of Transition United States. He recently served as a member of Senator John Edwards’ Cleantech / Green Business Advisory Committee. Asher was born in the Netherlands, and has lived in Israel, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado, and California. He currently lives in Santa Rosa, California with his wife and two children. Asher received his B.A. in Creative Writing from The Colorado College.

Transcript Thursdays September 22, 2011 [Asher Miller]: Welcome everyone. My name is Asher Miller and I’m the Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute, of which is a program. We’ve invited Vicki Robin and Chuck Collins to join us for this chat today for a conversation about building resilience on the community level, by looking at two of the more developed organizing models that exist today — Transition Towns ad Resilience Circles. Vicki: hello! Chuck Collins: Hello [Asher Miller]: Vicki Robin serves (with me) on the Board of Directors of Transition US. Vicki is well-known as the co-author of the international best-seller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence. She is also co-founder of the New Road Map Foundation, the Center for a New American Dream, Sustainable Seattle, Conversation Cafes, the Simplicity Forum, the Turning Tide Coalition, Let’s Talk America, and currently Transition Whidbey which is seeking to catalyze the community on Whidbey Island to greater food, fuel, energy and economic self-reliance in light of predicted impacts of oil depletion and climate change. (by the way everyone… this is not Simone, it’s asher) Chuck is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and directs IPS’s Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is a co-founder of Resilience Circles (formerly known as Common Security Clubs). He is the co-author of several books, including Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity, Wealth and Our Commonwealth, He is co-author with Mary Wright of The Moral Measure of the Economy, and The Moral Measure of the Economy, a book about Christian ethics and economic life. Before we begin, just a quick explanation of how this will work. This chat will run for approximately 1 hour and then the transcript will be made immediately available online. Imagine this chat room as a restaurant, where multiple conversations are taking place at once. We’ll do our best to keep the conversations moving while not flooding the chat with two many questions and comments at once. This is your opportunity to ask our panelists questions, so please keep your comments on topic. With that, let’s start with a few questions that were previously submitted… Asher Miller: Vicki, can you describe briefly what are Transition Towns? And Chuck, can you let folks know what Resilience Circles are? Vicki: Transition US is the national hub for the Transition Town Movement which was started in the UK in 2005. Our mission is to catalyze the building of resilient communities by inspiring, encouraging, supporting, networking and training individuals and their communities as they consider, adopt, adapt and implement the Transition Model. Chuck Collins: Hi Asher and Vicki! Thanks for having this conversation. OK, well –these resilience circles/common security clubs started after the 2008 economic meltdown. A lot of folks were isolated, freaked out, fearful about their jobs –or actually losing their jobs, homes… We had worked with a small group model to help people “get out of debt” –and thought we’d retool. Basically, 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. Asher Miller: Vicki, how many Transition Towns are there in the world? Roughly. And how many in the US? And Chuck, same question to you… how many resilience circles are there? Vicki: We now have an ever-expanding network of 95 Transition Initiatives across all regions of the United States and have worked with another 300 groups who are in the process of starting Initiatives in their respective locales. the international Transition movement now spans 34 countries with over 384 Initiatives Chuck Collins: There are over 100 circles (or common security clubs) –or groups that were inspired by the Resilience circle model all in the USA Asher Miller: Vicki, you just did a call with Rob Hopkins, the founder of Transition… what did you learn from him that you thought was of particular note in terms of where the movement stands now? How are initiatives doing? Bart Anderson: Has Chuck Collins noticed any difference in the cultures between Transition and Resilience Circles? Are there any potential contlicts? Orion: Hi – Self-Reliance seems like an isolating concept, whereas Community Resilience seems to capture the important point of being able to recover readily in the face of coming shocks and to sustain the basis of thrivability. Why do we talk of "self-reliance" when it is obvious the world is increasingly interdependent? Asher Miller: A quick note for commentators, please let us know who you would like to direct your question or comment to… Chuck Collins: There is a sometimes a cultural difference –as transition towns are often motivated by people with ecological concerns. The resilience circles as a way to reach people who are not principally concerned with ecological change, peak oil, etc. The main audience are unemployed and anxiously employed –folks from the “collapsing middle class” who are making adjustments. Through the process of being in a RC –they are exposed to some of the “transition” thinking –that the economy is not going back to the old model of economic growth, etc. FYI, this is why some transition towns are using Resilience Circles as a way to reach out and broaden participation in their communities. Vicki: about the call with rob. he has shifted since the beginning from "steps" which seem like a program one does from a to z to ingredients, more like a panty you open to see what you have to cook with Vicki: here are the ingredients he talks about: Starting out, the process where you meet some friends and get together and say why don’t you do this? And then Deepening, which is where you start to really connect it out and become an organization and start to something really meaningful. Connecting, which is when you go much deeper in the community and build a broader coalition around what you’re doing. And then there’s Building, which is one of the things that distinguishes the Transition approach, which is saying, “Look, if we’re serious about the intentional localization of this place and its economy, then we need to start being strategic and start scaling up what we do and our thinking.” The fifth one is called Daring to Dream, which is about what would it look like if this is what happened everywhere, what does this look like at scale. Asher Miller: Chuck, can you talk a little about how you are starting new circles? How do people hear about them? What kind of support do you provide to them? Thomas Atwood: In Palo Alto California, we just started a round of resilience circle curriculum in partnership with Transition Palo Alto. Susan Lee: how true! David MacLeod: "pantry" rather than "panty" ๐Ÿ™‚ Asher Miller: Now, we should start "panty circles" I bet they would be popular Vicki: i think it is the first phase – getting some friends together – and second phase – deepening where you really connect and become a group. this group does become like a resilience circle, the first iteration of people working together for resilience, which is both inner and outer, relationship with others and working in the community Chuck Collins: Staring Resilience Circles: People hear about them different ways. through religious congregations, NAACP is starting…We help them with a curriculum, tips on starting groups, matchmaking people searching for groups, on the phone help. a lot at Vicki: about those panties – maybe this is part of resilience as well but not to be discussed here ๐Ÿ™‚ Asher Miller: Chuck, is IPS actively outreaching to organizations working with low-income communities? How are you working with churches? Vicki, is there a commonality that you’ve seen in terms of issues or activities that all Transition Towns seem to experience? Chuck Collins: Low income communities. Yes, we’re actually partnering with Interfaith Worker Justice to help unemployed workers form clubs connected to congregations. It’s a natural connection. Vicki: i agree that self-reliance evokes sort of a survivalist, pull up the drawbridge attitude and resilience is a condition of a whole system in flux. resilience is open to the outside, self reliance is withdrawing. i also like the term resourcefulness as it is a quality of a person or group that keeps provisioning itself with well being with the resources at hand. it is creative and adaptive living. i find the fun of transition is in resourcefulness Alain: Any idea to develop these resilient circle in Europe? Spain, France? UK? Asher Miller: While you are working on an answer, Chuck, I wanted to mention a report that was recently published by Community Action Partnership: Thomas Atwood: I like that question, Alain. Let’s go viral! Orion: Organizing our Transition effort here in JP, I have found that people are most responsive to specific projects – a garden, a buy local campaign, a bike ride — and seem less concerned with the grander philosophy (i.e., peak oil, systemic change, Transition). Do you think it is important that people "get it" or simply get involved? Chuck Collins: Europe…not yet. We’re mostly adapting to our excessively individualist and fragmented US culture at the moment –circles as a way to reweave the broken social fabric. Social isolation is a huge barrier to participation in social movements –and transition towns. Curious if you see, Alain, a cultural equivalent? Vicki: in my view, transition groups are best at hosting events that educate, support, inform, network, celebrate. this is a key to community organizing. on whidbey we have had 3 years of monthly potlucks with a purpose and it’s been the heartbeat of the transition community; we do it all – connect support socialize inform network give and receive. it is our signature. rob says he now sees transition as a culture shift as well as a community skills and capacities shift Susan Lee: Orion’s comment about moving from self-reliance to community based interdependence is an important one. Do the transition planners and resilience circles work together to create jobs, goods, services that support and improve community life? For example pooling together to form child care groups, eldercare homes, food co-ops, etc. Vicki: susan, great question. Sheixa Love Weathertree: Vicki or Chuck or Asher – Have you had success ‘converting’ lone survivalists into community-centred people? Or do you not attract these types? Chuck Collins: The mutual aid component of Resilience Circles is very practical. Time banks, bartering networks, childchare coops –but people start practicing at very local levels job creation, people networking to start businesses Vicki: we’re seeing transition groups going in phases. building community first, then usually projects around food, then, when they mature, there are action groups – groups formed by the transition group or ntworked through transition – that take up issues like jobs and goods and services. many have reskilling classes to teach one another skills for survival as groups mature they can take on bigger issues. Chuck Collins: Sheixa: Good question. I think there are people who come in the "Resilience Circle" door when they are hurting and isolated –in search of others in the same boat. In this way, its an entry point to the larger transition/resilience work. people have a hard time connecting to larger solidarity efforts if they haven’t had such an experience in their personal lives. They can find that in a resilience circle. Asher Miller: Hi Sheixa: Good question. There are certainly different worldviews and personality types out there in terms of folks concerned about these issues — just like with anything else. But I have seen people move from focusing on the "me" and "mine" to the "we" in part because they realize that no one man or woman or one family can be an island to themselves and thrive. We all need community. But thinking first about the implications to ourselves as individuals and our loved-ones is a healthy, human reaction. Thomas Atwood: Our first circle in Redwood City CA has created a time bank by piggybacking onto an existing web-based program. martin g: what about protecting our communities? i used to be in a transtion group but they ddint seem to understand the need for security and so im’ drawn to common securty. is there a difference there? chuck do you see a need to build any type of community defenses in worst case scenario? not to be pranoid i just found transition didnt want to talk about it Chuck Collins: yes, time banks or simple bartering gives people a vision of self-reliance and interdependence Orion: Systemic change seems to require new modes of job creation, and promotion of community asset building over individual asset building – e.g., Community Land Trusts, Cooperative Banks, Worker Owned and Operated Businesses — has there been any effort to explore these type of institution building strategies that can leverage systemic change over the long-haul? Vicki: while it isn’t transition sourced, in our community we are doing two systemic projects. one called food2020 looking at interlinking our food system and another is based on a model from Port Townsend WA called LOCAL INVESTING OPPORTUNITY NETWORK, sort of speed dating for connecting investors and people with local biz plans Asher Miller: Vicki, I’m glad you brought up LION. There are organizing models like this out there that could be very useful for both Transition Initiatives and Resilience Circles to pick up and adapt. Vicki: martin g. i notice as well that transition groups are better at being upbeat than defensive. it is in the DNA of the model – that life could be better, that a resilient community, like a resilient body, is the best defense against "pathogens" Chuck Collins: Martin: Good question….this is a practical consideration –and to be honest, we’ve focused primarily on getting people to back down to fear based responses –which are a default position for most of us. But it would be very interesting to do a chat among some of our more experienced groups about how to think about that. David MacLeod: "a culture shift as well as a community skills and capacities shift" – Vicki, I think this is a huge insight. Can you say more about strategies for culture shift? Asher Miller: Chuck, can you talk a little bit more about Resilience Circles and how they talk about other sustainability issues … climate change and peak oil… Do you feel that it’s strategic to not engage in these because they are controversial? Vicki: david – culture shift comes from new stories that make more sense to people than the old ones. transition events, even if they are about peak oil or climate change or how to grow a garden, are providing a new social space for people to feel like they belong and they can contribute. Asher Miller: I can’t help but respond to Orion’s comment about job creation and local economic development. I think this is key. We need re-investment in local economies both because of the socio-economic issues we are experiencing (and will likely worsen) and because we need to re-localize our food, energy, and other services. Vicki: when people embody the new story, when they live it, when for eg sharing is a natural response to need and there is an expectation of safety among neighbors and community that ones needs will be met, where the story is that we are in this together and we can engage our love and creativity and everyone matters, that makes a difference in the culture – and then out of this new mindset people act differently. imho Mark: Being a newbie to this, What is the timing and what are the steps to preparation? where do I start? Asher Miller: Mark, can you explain which model you are asking about..? Bart Anderson: To Chuck or Vicki (and Orion)… It is my impression that Transition and Resilience Circles work best as facilitators / infrastructure — networking with other groups and people — rather than trying to do everything themselves. Chuck Collins: Asher: RE: Sustainability: Our 7 part initial curriculm that participants go through brings people along to a sustainability/transition analysis. But we start with the assumption that people are there because they are worried about their economic security. At the end of the process, people see the connection between economy and ecology…we sometimes use language like "end of cheap oil" and how weird weather will impact food costs. Bart: Yes, in some communities there is a lot going on. But in some communities, the resilience circle is the first wave of transition type activity. so it depends on the environment…what’s already there. Vicki: right on bart! my view precisely. i see transition whidbey where i am as a catalyst and hub and enabler – a sustained conversation about what is happening and what is possible Asher Miller: Chuck: Do you find that folks worried about very real here-and-now financial issues are responsive to the larger sustainability message. That is, do they not fall into the trap of economy vs. environment? Mark: either model. I’m exploring what the topic of resilience is all about. Asher Miller: Vicki & Chuck: Can you please recommend to Mark the best place for him to go to get more info? Chuck Collins: Asher: re: economy v. environment. That is the first response by some people: Why are we talking about the environment? I’m worried about rent $$. But this is a great opportunity for folks –through articles, videos, conversation, some of the tools that PCI have developed –to FACE the reality that the old economic growth engine is over –that they need to think about their security, jobs and livelihoods in the new economy…. Vicki: mark, the first step in transition – and in most change – is gathering a group of friends to talk about how your community can respond to the challenges of peak oil, climate change and economic "collapse" (so cheerful! Asher Miller: Question to our live readers: Any of you currently involved in either a Transition Town or Resilience Circle? Susan Lee: how do transition efforts in various towns share ideas and network? IAre there interactive online resources? Vicki: i find these core assumption s useful in asking what the group talks about/engages in 1. That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it is better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise. 2. That a world with altered weather and resources as a result of some degree of Climate Change is now inevitable, and that it is better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise. 3. That our communities currently lack resilience. [The Transition Movement defines resilience as “The ability of a system, from individual people to whole economies, to hold together and maintain their ability to function in the face of change and shocks from the outside.”] 4. That we have to act collectively, and we have to act now to build community resilience and prepare. 5. That by unleashing the collective genius of our communities it is possible to design new ways of living that are more nourishing, fulfilling and ecologically sustainable. David MacLeod: David MacLeod: Mark, check out this link to Transition U.S. Chuck Collins: Mark and everyone…check out There was also a cool webinar with Transition US here: See FAQ on the best size of a circle and other questions for organizers here: An overview of the 7-sessions here: Thomas Atwood: Resilience isn’t the most cheerful subject out there, but we have a lot of fun at our resilience circle meetings… Asher Miller: Thomas, did you join a resilience circle with people you already knew or are they new faces? Chuck Collins: Thomas: Fun is key. If people meet together for 5-7 meetings, usually some new bonds form. Asher Miller: Chuck, is there an end point to resilience circles? Chuck Collins: One group of unemployed workers in Maine were almost kicked out of the public library because they were laughing too much at their meetings Vicki: susan, transition us has a very rich website. with stories about other communities plus you can join free webinars on many topics related to transition plus there is a monthly conference call open space for community transition leaders to discuss topics of interest – both celebrations and perplexities Asher Miller: For Transition, there’s no necessarily an end point but a major goal — the development of an Energy Descent Action Plan. Do Resilience Circles have something similar as a goal? Vicki: also, rob hopkins website is super good. Thomas Atwood: Asher: Our first circle was based in a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Redwood City. Last week, we began our second circle with transition Palo Alto folks. The easiest way to start is with a group of people who know each other, a "base" if you will… Mark: Thank you !! David MacLeod: I helped start Transition Whatcom, and helped get the word out (with Transition Whatcom as co-sponsor) the first public talk about Resilience Circles here in Bellingham. We now have an ongoing Resilience Circle that includes some Transition members and non-Transition members. Chuck Collins: Asher: RE End points. Sometimes people decide to stop meeting…after an initial phase. But we encourage folks to reserve the right to reconvene in the future, especially as future economic/ecological shocks. Other groups continue for years. Asher Miller: David: How are the local resilience circle and transition whatcom working together? Bart Anderson: Chris, Vicky …. When would you advise starting a REsilience Circle and when a Transition group? Orion: Asher: I am involved with starting and Chuck Collins: David: We’d love to learn what you’re seeing. I think a resilience circle might be one of the outreach/organizing avenues for transition. Excuse the church image here, but if Transition is the "mega-church" then resilience circles are the small group ministry, the face-to-face small group that is the glue for people’s participation. Vicki: thomas, where i am we started wtih a group of friends, so pretty culturally similar. it helps begin. the assumption in transition is that this organizing group will sunset and cede power to a new group of self identified leaders. in that year of initiatiion it is impt to reach out to diverse communities or you will be branded/pidgeonholed. diversity is a key – because it is key to our reslieince as well as to any transition initiative sorry for poor typing so much to say, so few fingers Chuck Collins: Bart: Transition is community wide. Resilience circle is the small group approach. They are complimentary. Asher Miller: Chuck, how are you guys working with other faith-based organizations? Have you been in touch with Interfaith Power & Light? David MacLeod: Asher, The Resilience Circle is about a month old, and we havent’ coordinated any activities together yet. But our TW networking site was a great tool to get the word out for the small circle that has started. Asher Miller: Transition folks who have introduced a resilience circle (or vice versa): Have you found that introducing the new program has brought in new people or is it for existing members? Chuck Collins: Asher: Yes, re: interfaith power and light…Most Circles that stay together have the glue of being tied to an existing institution –that has a meeting space. It’s hard for 14 complete strangers. Ideally a congregation can be a base –but welcome others from outside the congregation… Vicki: there is another curriculum i just became aware of for groups and it is great. it is called BE THE CHANGE. You can find it at it is an accountability group for individuals to commit to and make change, individually and together. it is quite action oriented but the groups themselves are soulful Orion: Vicki, Asher: do you see a need for "global" organizing and networking? as distinguished from trans-local networking? It seems some issues (Climate) can not simply be addressed through local efforts. Thomas Atwood: "in that year of initiatiion it is impt to reach out to diverse communities or you will be branded/pidgeonholed. diversity is a key – because it is key to our resilience…" – that sounds like really good organizing. Chuck Collins: All: balancing having enough familiar faces for their to be common ground/language, but reaching out to new people… Asher Miller: Good point Orion. You are right. Towns cannot put a protective bubble over themselves. And that’s not just true for climate but large scale energy and economic issues. I think the response is both/and. We build local resilience and advocate for large-scale change. It’s more resilient that way anyway! Vicki: orion, i agree. transition to be real must be local and on the ground and embodied by people in groups. yet it is impt for info and courage and hope and accelleration to be networked globally. to sense onself as part of BLESSED UNREST Asher Miller: Chuck, beyond the meetings, what kinds of joint activities have you seen resilience circles engaging in? David MacLeod: Chuck, yes, I think the Resilience Circles offer something vital that we haven’t yet promoted in Transition: a framework for organizing small support groups where people can interact one to one. I must sign off now, my lunch break is over. Thanks for the conversation! Chuck Collins: All, our common security club/resilience circles and our local transition effort has benefited by a great neighborhood forum, that gets people out for education events –many of which have transition themes. Asher Miller: Thanks David. Always good to hear from you! Vicki: thomas, that diversity question: ideally we achieve it, in actuality every group i’ve been in has been challenged in this diversity shift. on whidbey we are now seen as solidly "grassroots" club. there are other efforts here that are bridgeing across diverse communities – and since whidbey is very white, the diversity is economic and faith rather than race Chuck Collins: David: Rob Hopkins talks about "home groups" in the Transition Town manual. so I’m curious if the small group/cell model was part of UK transition towns in some places. Asher Miller: Chuck, Transition in the UK has started up something called Transition Streets, which is a small-group organizing model for reducing carbon footprints and such: Orion: Vicki, Ahser: following up on"Global" — is this incorporated in your Transition discussions about what is possible? Do people talk about global community or global society or planetary civilization? Is it important in your view to help people dream hopefully about Earth community? Chuck Collins: Transition Streets…similar to the block by block organizing that we can do with immediate neighborhoods. Some Resilience Circles are neighborhood based, but far fewer. Asher Miller: Orion, I know that in our conversations at Transition US (both Vicki and I are on the board), we’ve talked a lot about how to tie Transition efforts into movement-building. So we’ve made efforts to promote things like’s days of action and start our own things for transition initiatives to do together on the same day. Thomas Atwood: Vicki: I’m pondering the diversity question too. I wonder if bringing people together across socioeconomic class makes sense, or whether it’s a better tactic to have them take the curriculum separately and perhaps come together later. Vicki: bart, when start resilience circle and when transition group? i think of transition as whole systems community organizing and resilience groups as circles ofmutual support. both are very needed. one core idea in transition is "heart and soul" supporting one another as we go through this civilizational shift post peak everything. it is traumatic if we face it. home circles where you can share resouces as well as personal grief/celebration are really important Asher Miller: Transition Streets is similar to Low Carbon Diet. Asher Miller: BTW, folks, check out the "Moving Planet" action coming up on the 24th! Asher Miller: Chuck & Vicki: are their organizing models (related or unrelated to economic & ecological sustainability) that you’ve been impressed by? Chuck Collins: Organizing models: As part of the local transition group in our Boston neighborhood, there is an effort to get "blocks" or streets organized around retrofitting buildings, doing the low carbon diet, sharing food growing and production. There’s a ton of interesting stuff related to food which can be the glue for other work. Vicki: i like, as i said, the BE THE CHANGE. I also like the old simplicity circles model developed by cecile andrews. and for community organizing i LOVE what has done in Port Townsend. they have really done miracles in getting the community moving towards resilience. one key to all of them: a spark plug leader, someone who is unstoppable. they don’t have to be charismatic but they do have to be THERE Bart Anderson: Vicky, Robin, anyone …. In my experience, it is the small-group experience that is the draw. The philosophical underpinnings of peak oil, climate and economics are nice … but typically, we talk about them some at the beginning, but then go on to personal experience, projects, opportunities. This is a nice antidote to the blogosphere, where it is **ALL** talk! — Comments? Asher Miller: Vicki, I think your last comment is so important. People in our circles often tend to be suspicious of "leaders" (with good reason) but all these efforts require at least one catalyst. Vicki: agreed bart. face to face human connection is where it happens. if it doesn’t happen in the heart, i think it doesn’t really happen Robert: We have a high degree of drug addiction, alcoholism and crime in our former mill town. Have any circles dealt positively with those sorts of issues? Chuck Collins: Bart: Yep, we need to revive the face to face. Sarah Byrnes and I talk about how we want to have a lot of tools in place when people really see the XXX hit the fan –and need to find their neighbors. Orion: To my mind we need a new narrative to help support cultural shift — we need to situate our selves within the profound transition taking place on a global level, and understand our community building as part of reaching outward to other community, but also as part of building something new under the sun – Earth community. This story telling, moving beyond nationalism or mere survivalism, seems essential for combating the xenophobic hunker-down fear based politics that often spreads during times of great uncertainty. I feel stretch though between my self as "global citizen" and "local organizer" – I know the two are connected, but it is hard to make the connections clear and meaningful. Any advice or reflections on this challenge? Vicki: yes, asher, this is tricky. people have to trust the leader/s to have the well being of the colledtive in mind. Asher Miller: Orion, I think you are naming a very big challenge. How to think and act locally and globally, at once. You are right that we need a new cultural narrative, but it’s a hard one to fabricate. I think it comes from lots and lots of little conversations happening in circles around the world. What we can all collectively try to do is to provide the right mix of hope and realism, and to show through our own actions. Thomas Atwood: Bart, Vicki, Chuck: You’re nailing it. Small consciousness raising groups are what’s missing in public life (such as it is) in the US… Chuck Collins: Robert: good question: In a way, if people have been part of an AA support group, there are similar elements to a Resilience Circle -in terms of mutuality. A functional circle requires people to have some ability to engage in reciprocity — listen, participate, share. We need other more intensive support for people who need intense healing around addiction, etc. Susan Lee: tagging back to vicki’s comment about new stories. the orton foundation has available resources online that help a community come together to tell its story and create community identity. Google Storytelling and Identity and it may come up. Using art and creating artfully together are sure ways to create community and to move beyond ideas/forms that are language and habit based. Do circles use expressive art as a means for exploring/expressing ideas and circumstances? From a global perspective art and music are common languages of image/sound that cross cultural barriers with ease. Vicki: orion. all you say is right to the heart of it for me. I was on the global stage for decades and after a life threatening illness (and gwb) i brought myself home and have been working locally. that i have global connections and perspectives is part of what i bring to my community. it isn’t easy to situate oneself, to truly live somewhere not everywhere, but if sharing and ‘we’ is a keynote of the future, we actually have to do that ‘we’ work. i find the global stories let me take heart and give me courage Asher Miller: Susan: Absolutely! Storytelling. And oral histories. I’ve longed to see Transition intiatives engage in more of that work. When you ask open-ended questions, and practice empathetic listening, you build true engagement with others. Vicki: also, i think the silos of transition vs. resilience circles vs. be the change vs. pachamama are going to break down. we are in a re-mix era. we need to create quality stories and forms and structures and then offer them to the collective to be used uniquely in place. Chuck Collins: We have a blog at YES Magazine on line –and Sarah Byrnes has written a lot about the missing small group component. Some people think we can organizing national campaigns without small groups. Check out at and google "common security clubs" Asher Miller: Chuck, why did you guys change the name to resilience circles, by the way? Orion: Leadership: a major challenge among activists, especially youthful activists, is valuing the importance of transparent hierarchy that can be held accountable. Leadership needs to be cultivated and supported, but is often obfuscated by faddish language, "self-organizing" "networked". No human endeavor is ever "self-organizing", and to have accountable leadership it must be made clear. This problem is deep and philosophical and often I fear Transition groups fall apart because they are shy about tackling it head on. How do groups sustain leadership? Mary Lou: I’m following this from Canada. I’m fascinated by "all" that is going on ‘under the surface’ of the denial that seems to be happening at official levels. I’m also interested in the desire to change language sometimes so that people aren’t "left out" by politically charged terms like "peak oil." Really what this comes down to is getting to know your neighbours! Chuck Collins: Asher: Changing Name. We did a poll and asked people. Security triggered dark images of police states, and "club" seemed too clubby. We actually did a big polling and input process –and it was great. We were inspired by the 1930s "Share Our Wealth clubs" and the "Townsend Clubs" –so initially thought club was a good idea. Bad idea Vicki: there are various initiatives/types of organizing/types of education curricula that get at the same need to transition/resilience. people work hard on their unique offering and sometimes aren’t very easy about letting others use them and especially break them apart and use elements in their own local work. this is a barrier i hope we can transcend because my experience as an activist is that i grab whatever works and forget where i got it. we are all standing on the shoulders of the past wisdom and one another and things are moving so fast that we need to be generous with our "intellectual property" is that clearer? Asher Miller: Well said, Mary Lou. It’s so tragic (and funny) that much of what we need to do is re-sew the threads of community that used to be the fabric of human existence. So basic and yet so foreign now, for too many of us. But there is a yearning there. Chuck Collins: Mary: Some resilience circles jokingly refer to themselves as "reality support groups" — Asher Miller: A few years ago ELLE Magazine (of all things) wrote a story about Transition Towns. The writer got lots of letters in response. The overwhelming response was… "I don’t know about this peak oil thing, but I want community!" There’s a yearning out there, for meaning and connection. Vicki: wow orion i agree totally with you. i love the idea of transparent hierarchy that can be held accountable. a lot! i’m stealing that ๐Ÿ™‚ Guest: RE the question of our new name, we had a lot of interesting conversations about the words "resilience" and "security." You can see some of the conversation here: Thomas Atwood: Many conflicting stories orbit the term "security…" and it was confounding some people. Bart Anderson: @Chuck and Vicki – how do you handle politics? Is there some way to make connection with political parties and campaigns, without breaking the Transition/Resilience model? Asher Miller: (Just a head’s up folks… we have only five minutes left.) Chuck Collins: All: Vermont just got hammered by Hurricane Irene –but they are going to recover quickly because –strong resilient communities, a tradition of local government, people with skills, and less polarized. I think this will help. Mary Lou: I’m appreciating the idea of leadership as well. These initiatives don’t happen without that energy and drive and inspiration – yet leadership needs to be "democratic" – ie accessible to all people. Any good resources on how to develop and maintain leaders who don’t get burned or burned out? Chuck Collins: Bart: Resilience circles have 3 purposes: learn together, mutual aid and social action. While not explicitly party-politics, part of what we have to heal is political participation. So many people are disconnected –and the idea of doing something together with a group of people increases participation. Asher Miller: My personal take on leadership w/ regard to Transition Towns (for what it’s worth): That the initiating groups need to be very careful about the personalities/strengths of the people involved, and that there is a mix between doers, thinkers, planners, and networkers. Because the work involved takes all of those different personality types. Vicki: bart – i think there is politics (polarized blow hards) and policy (changes in our collective agreements that channel energy in a healthy direction). i think transition groups will get to policy level eventually as they experience the barriers to going beyond events and gardens and get into the questions of the barriers to communities transitioning. i am working on this now in a book i am writing re local food. it brought me to looking at barriers to integrating and strengthening the food system Orion: Peak Oil: The Tar Sands has the potential to make the cost of oil relatively stable, i.e., no imminent collapse, while also ensuring Climate destruction. Conservatives might argue Economy vs. Environment, and gain many sympathizers when gas prices rise. Also, Transition could be tarred with "crying wolf" if Tar Sands and Coal prevent massive economic break down at the expense of long-term sustainability. Thoughts? Asher Miller: Orion, for some complex reasons, it’s not that simple. Susan Lee: Vicki & Orion: check out an organizational model called Dynamic Governance. it offers fluid leadership within a group, the benefits of both mobile/changing hierarchy and circle formation. it is based in transparency and accountability at the individual and group level. i have witnessed this model of organizing for action/outcomes work very well. it has been applied globally to a number of endeavors. Chuck Collins: Susan: Thanks for tip… Asher Miller: Ok, time to wrap things up. Any last comments from Vicki or Chuck? Mary Lou: Thanks, Susan Thanks. Have some new language and things to think about. Vicki: in my whidbey experience when all these great ideas land in real communities you hit the good old boys backlash, not invented here, we always do it another way. i’ve seen mean and petty responses to good ideas about governance here in my little corner of the world. this is bigger and longer and more systemic than any of us imagined my last comment. wow, thanks everyone Chuck Collins: Great action packed conversation. I think we’re in deep…SHIFT –and the reasons for our work will become more timely every day. Thanks to PCI for providing so much of the intellectual work that our Resilience Circles are learning from. I sometimes think we’re creating support groups for the "end of growth" economy Asher Miller: One quick plug: PCI is working on a presentation (script and slides) that folks can customize and use to give presentations in their own communities. To learn more and sign up to be a presenter, see here: Chuck Collins: THANKS! Asher Miller: all right, thanks everyone! Susan Lee: thanks to all Robert: Thanks, all! Bill Lang: Very good info, thanks. Thomas Atwood: Appreciation to Vicki for bringing up LION and Susan Lee for Orton Foundation and Dynamic Governance – these seem worth investigating for our circles. Orion: Susan: thanks, is this similar to "sociocracy"? Thanks!

Tags: resilience, web chat