Developing A Study Circle Project

Developing Civic Involvement
In Rural Communities
An Introduction
David Buchen
Mesalands Community College
Small Business Development Center
“It is their
How Do We Develop People to
Take Responsibility for Their
The growing disaffection of citizens from their
public institutions may be related to a
decline in civic engagement, and contrasts
with earlier periods when Americans had
plentiful stocks of social capital. The key to
making American democracy work, Alexis
de Tocqueville noted in his classic
Democracy in America, has been the
propensity of Americans to form all kinds of
civic associations.
Civic Practices
Tools To Develop Civic Involvement
• Building Social Capital
• Developing Smart Communities
• Starting Study Circles
What does "social capital"
The central premise of social capital is that
social networks have value. Social capital
refers to the collective value of all "social
networks" [who people know] and the
inclinations that arise from these networks
to do things for each other ["norms of
Robert Putnam
We maybe lost but we are making good time
Yogi Berra
What is a “Smart Community”
It is a geographical place, a set of interests, or
a group of people that has invented a process
of work that includes, discusses, anticipates,
and acts on its critical common issues, building
on its assets, its broad-based leadership and
its history and values
Seven High-Leverage Points
Investing right the first time
Working together
Building on community strengths
Practicing democracy
Preserving the past
Growing leaders
Inventing a brighter future
Our Process for Exploring These
The Study-Circle
A study circle is a group of 8-12 people from
different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet
several times to talk about an issue. In a study
circle, everyone has an equal voice, and people try
to understand each other's views. They do not have
to agree with each other. The idea is to share
concerns and look for ways to make things better.
A Study Circle
• is organized by a diverse group of people from
the whole community.
• includes a large number of people from all walks
of life.
• has easy-to-use, fair-minded discussion
• uses trained facilitators who reflect the
community’s diversity.
• moves a community to action when the study
circles conclude.
What is the Job of the Facilitator
Show respect
Establish rapport
Abandon preconceptions
Hand over the stick
Watch, listen, learn
Learn from mistakes
Be flexible
Support and share
Be honest
Be self-critical and self-aware
Tucumcari’s Smart Start Study
• The Group (12 members)
– High School Students
– College Students
– Hispanic members
– Older Adults
– Local Professionals
– Small Business
– Two Facilitators
Class Structure
• Meet Once a Week for Eight Weeks
• Two Hours (5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.)
• One Chapter of Smart Communities
Discussed Each Week
• One Luncheon with Local Community
Outcomes of Class
• Change in Attitudes of
Class Members
• Community Leaders
Impressed With Our
Young People
• Increased Interest in Finding
Ways to Help Improve Community
• Smart Communities: Civic Change in Your
Community and Beyond
• Study Circles
More Resources
• Social Capital:
• Civic Practices Network
• America Speaks
Books Related to Presentation
• Putnam, Robert.
Bowling Alone: The
Collapse and Revival
of American
Community. Simon
and Schuster: New
York, NY, 2000.
• Bellah, Robert N. et
al., Habits of the
Heart: Individualism
and Commitment in
Everyday Life.
Berkeley: University
of California Press,
Books (Continued)
Restoring the American
Community by
Robert D. Putnam and
Lewis M. Feldstein with
Don Cohen
(Simon & Schuster;
September 2003)
How Citizens & Local
Leaders Can Use
Strategic Thinking to
Build a Brighter Future by
Suzanne W. Morse
(Jossey-Bass; 2004)