Participation in study-action groups has given direction to my own life. When my children were in high school we met with assorted neighbors to follow a plan of study on macro-economics, reading selections, taking turns facilitating, and eventually coming up with joint projects involving a community garden and a food coop. Ten years later, wanting to learn about the care of radioactive waste, I invited selected friends to join me in a new study-action group with a curriculum we co-designed. Because of the strong concerns and emotions stirred by the subject matter, we were grateful to include a spiritual component in every session. This helped us sustain our motivation and become informed enough to testify in government regulatory hearings.
How to Organize a Study-Action Group
- Choose a guide or manual (see resources below) or make your own if you have previous experience.
- Determine the number of sessions the group will hold and the frequency and length of sessions. Experience has shown that weekly or fortnightly meetings of 1 1/2 - 2 hours work well.
- Issue an invitation (by calling up selected friends, or putting a notice on public bulletin boards, or the like) and aim for the optimal size of 8-12 people (don't expect people to commit before they've come to the first session to try it out).
- Select a venue such as your local church, synagogue, mosque, or school, or consider the possibility of meeting in the home of one or more participants.
- Take time in your first meeting to review guidelines for successful study-action groups. These are included in the manuals listed below and generally recommend rotating facilitators, which adds greatly to the group's vitality. In addition, consider the desirability of including an opening and closing circle in each meeting as a way of grounding everyone in our shared humanity and shared hopes, and as a reminder that this is more than just an intellectual exercise.
- Make use of interactive processes to help participants sustain motivation, by relating to the material with their hearts and bodies as well as their minds. You can select from the many described in Coming Back to Life (by myself and Molly Young Brown, New Society Publishers), which are specifically geared to help us feel our relationships with the larger world.
Resources for Study-Action Groups on Economic Globalization
While this list is not exhaustive, I can vouch for the quality and relevance of each of these study guides.
Contact ISEC USA or UK through their website: http://www.isec.org.uk/pages/roots.html
Tackling Transnationals is one of several online study courses offered by International Study Circles (ISC). It aims to provide an understanding of how transnational corporations operate and how they affect economy, politics and culture at local, national and global levels. Another ISC course, Women and the Global Food Industry, brings a critical understanding of how conditions of globalization affect women workers engaged in the production and retailing of food.
All materials are online at http://www.ifwea.org/isc/pilot02/index.html
Challenging Corporate Power, Asserting the People's Rights is a ten-session study guide by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Its two-fold purpose is to: "...frame learning and discussion in ways that focus on the root causes of corporate and state oppression [and] to direct efforts for change in law and culture toward those public officials and public bodies that must take the authority to place economic institutions and all corporate entities under the control of a self-governing people."
All materials may be downloaded at http://www.wilpf.org/CPOWER_10sessions.
Globalization and Its Critics, is an eight-session discussion course on economic globalization developed by the Northwest Earth Institute. This course addresses "...the structural aspects of globalization...how the global economy impacts the environment, food production, the culture, and world-wide economic and social equity...and how people concerned about globalization are taking steps to seize control of their futures."