A Social Movement for the Great Turning

Jay Earley,  PhD

Rough Draft

Summary

We are undergoing a planetary crisis, which is moving us toward a historical transformation of society, which has been called the Great Turning. Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of this new way of being, built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, and an interest in the inner life and spirituality. It will also involve cultural and racial diversity, social justice, human scale institutions, and reverence for the earth.

There is a social movement with the Great Turning as its goal, but it is not coordinated or widely known. Many of the groups who I see as part of this movement don’t see themselves this way.

Here is an 8-part vision for the movement:

  • Wake people up to the danger and urgency of the moment.
  • Protect the earth, people, and democracy.
  • Provide a vision of a transformed society and how to get there.
  • Develop a regenerative movement culture with loving, empowered members.
  • Aid in the transformation of worldviews and values.
  • Create social, ecological, professional, and economic alternatives.
  • Collaborate with movement organizations and publicize the movement.
  • Transform governance.

I have started the Great Turning Network, whose mission is to train people for this movement, and also to provide vision for and catalyze the movement  This organization will be built around small Great Turning Groups which will involve not only political action but also consciousness raising, study, capacity development (such as leadership, communication, and collaboration), personal growth, group bonding, and support for each person finding their contribution to the Great Turning.

This proposal explores both the movement and the Great Turning Network.

Note: In an effort to keep this article from getting too long, I have broken out sections of it onto other pages and put bold links to them in the article. Feel free to click on those that interest you. Click here for a listing of these sections.

The Planetary Crisis

The world and the U.S. are in trouble. And not just from Trump and other right-wing demagogues. They are just symptoms of the planetary crisis and breakdown that we are facing, which is moving us toward a historical transformation. Social transformation means that the degree of change will be system-wide—all-encompassing.

The severity of problems we are confronting is staggering–climate change, terrorism, racism, mass shootings, homelessness, extinction of species, massive migrations, the rise of right-wing demagogues, and the takeover of our governments by corporations and the rich. The list goes on and on. But it is not chance that all these things are happening at this time in history. We have come to the end of a historical era, and our old ways of doing business are no longer working.

For the last 3 or 4 hundred years, most of us in the developed nations have lived in what is called the Industrial Era or the Modern Era. We have adopted a worldview based on science, rational thought, technology, and competition for power. We have treated the natural world as a machine to be analyzed and controlled. We have treated other people and other nations this way. We have even treated ourselves this way. This approach has brought us tremendous gains in knowledge, individuality, freedom, and comfort, but its very success has now spawned problems that it can’t deal with.

The tremendous explosion of our technical power, our population, and our ability to exploit the earth brings a whole new set of issues which the industrial worldview can’t comprehend. The industrial worldview can’t think in terms of limits or being part of a whole. It doesn’t understand feelings or intuition or cooperation. It has outlived its usefulness, and our continued attempts to apply it to our current problems are only making matters worse.

Our current lifestyle of material consumption and personal ambition has also outlived its day. While it once made so much sense in fueling our drive toward freedom and mastery of our environment, it is now contributing to the problems and dangers we face. Capitalism has gotten out of control leading to massive inequality and corporate dominance of the political process.

To make matters more difficult, a significant part of the world hasn’t even entered the Modern Era yet. Some of them are stuck in the religious fundamentalism of the Medieval Era, and some are stuck in the power orientation of the Empire Era.

In addition, corporations have taken over the government of many developed nations, creating great inequality, unemployment, and wage stagnation. And as a result, some people have turned to authoritarian types like Trump, thinking that they will solve this problem. Of course, it is just the opposite; these demagogues are only making matters worse. However, the good news is that the people who object to government by the wealthy and corporations may be induced to join our movement if we can help them to see who is really on their side.

 

Social Transformation

Our society is in crisis and breaking down, which is producing tremendous stresses and dangers but is also impelling us to recognize the need for change. It is pushing us toward a different worldview and an entirely new set of life-affirming social structures that are appropriate to the current historical situation.

Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of this new way of being. We don’t know exactly what it will finally be, but we have hints that it will be built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, global consciousness, and an interest in the inner life and spirituality. It will involve cultural and racial diversity, social justice, equality of power, human scale institutions, planetary governance, and reverence for the earth. Wouldn’t this be a beautiful world to live in! And we can begin to live it now, by creating loving community and innovative alternatives  which move us toward this beautiful world that our hearts know is possible (to borrow the phrase from Charles Eisenstein).

The new era that is arising will involve transformation at every level, not just politics and economics, but also our worldview and consciousness, our values, and our social institutions, such as education, religion, the justice system, prisons, energy, transportation, health care, media, community, and agriculture.

The following summarizes this.

(The idea of a pluralist commonwealth is explained under Economic Alternatives.)

Some of the Modern Era qualities in the left column (e.g  oppression/exploitation, prejudice) will be replaced by those on the right in the Next Era. Others (e.g. rationality, individuality) will be integrated with the Next Era qualities.

A major aspect of the Next Era will be moving to the planetary level. In the Modern Era, the nation-state has been the main unit of politics and culture. As we are moving to the Next Era, we can see the beginnings of this planetary shift in the United Nations and the European Union, but there is much further to go. This will mean letting go of war and even national competitions of various kinds, especially economic. In the Next Era, we will still have our identifications with religions, ethnic groups, nations, and so on, but our most important identification will be with the entire human race and with the earth. We will create a truly planetary society. This is necessary to build the cooperative world we need and to prompt us to take care of the natural world.

There has been a lot of excellent thinking about what a regenerative, transformed society would look like. I personally have read about 20 books that cover this topic from visionary thinkers who understand the planetary crisis and the need for social transformation. Click here for a discussion of these ideas for a transformed society.

I have thought about the underlying principles for this transformed society in the Next Era.

Principles of a Regenerative Society

  1. Process perspective
  2. Decentralization
  3. Cooperation
  4. Whole-person orientation
  5. Multiple perspectives
  6. Systems view
  7. Regeneration
  8. Evolution
  9. Personal empowerment
  10. Sentience of nature

Click here for a discussion of each of these principles.

The Great Turning

This transformation has been called the Great Turning (by Joanna Macy, David Korten and others), and it is the most important thing that is happening on the planet, though it is invisible to most people. That is the way it always happens with transformations; they aren’t apparent until they have progressed far enough to penetrate mass consciousness. So, even though you won’t hear about the Great Turning in the news, it is well underway, as has been documented by many of our thought leaders.

There have been five social transformations before in human history, as I explain in my book Transforming Human Culture. The most recent one was the transition from the Medieval to the Modern/Industrial Era, which included the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the scientific and industrial revolutions. Guy Dauncey has an interesting article comparing the steps that took us from the Medieval to the Modern Era with the steps we are now taking in going from the Modern to the Next Era.

However, this transformation is even bigger than that. Not only are we moving toward a new era in social evolution, we are transitioning into a new kind of evolution. We are going from unconscious social evolution to conscious evolution (Barbara Marx Hubbard), where we are choosing the new world, to some extent, in line with this larger flow of evolution.

This means that evolutionary trends are in humanity’s favor right now, despite all appearances to the contrary. These trends are leading toward a new era, and the current rise of right-wing demagogues is just a backlash against this flow. We may face major breakdowns or even collapse before the transformation happens, but that is the direction of evolution.

It is very important to realize that we don’t have to make this new era happen, we can cooperate with the flow that is already leading in this direction. In fact, the idea that we can and should make this happen comes directly from the Modern Era mindset, which sees everything as a machine. However, society is not a machine; it is an evolving system with many trends that are leading toward this regenerative future. That makes our job much easier; we need to understand those transformational trends and flow with them.

In my research on social evolution and its relationship to today’s crisis, I realized that the new era will involve the rise of what has been suppressed—aliveness, the feminine, community, and connection the natural world. However, these rising qualities won’t just take over. They will be integrated with the positive aspects of what we have now. We will have an integration of aliveness with rationality, the feminine with the masculine, community with individuality within a world society, and nature with technology.

It is also helpful to view our current crisis in an even larger context–as part of the great biological and cosmic evolution of the universe. (The Universe Story, Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry) This helps us to recognize that we are part of nature and the universe, not separate from it.

A New Political Axis

Otto Scharmer suggests that there is a shift in political reckoning away from left vs. right to open vs. closed, which means how much our hearts are open or closed. He sees this axis as a better way of understanding political dynamics. He puts the right-wing demagogues and their followers on the closed side and the Green Party (and therefore our social movement) on the open side. He believes that a transformation must be based on our culture developing curiosity, compassion, and courage–the opening of the mind, heart, and will, and that the heart is the least developed aspect of this, and therefore the most important for the movement.

While I appreciate Scharmer’s emphasis on heart, I see the new axis in politics differently. It revolves around this transition to a new era in social evolution. This axis is Next Era vs. Modern Era. It has, on one side, Next Era attitudes and, on the other side, Modern Era attitudes (and also those from the previous Medieval and Empire Eras). 

To illustrate how Next Era visionaries are different from left thinkers, consider the idea that what characterizes the left is being in favor of big government. This is certainly not true of Next Era people. Here is a quote from Tom Atlee, a Next Era theorist, where he is imagining what a regenerative society would look like in 2047: “There’s less need for top-down government as we return to doing more things for ourselves and each other, activating collaborative networks, and building mutually supportive communities.”

The Need for a Movement for the Great Turning.

I believe that we need to nurture a social movement for the Great Turning–for whole-system, life-affirming transformation—as our best chance for survival. A movement is different from an organization. It is a collection of individuals, groups, and organizations working toward a common social or political goal.

This movement won’t be limited to people willing to take to the streets. It must involve many kinds of study, self-reflection, innovation, and action. There is a place for everyone who wants to come together to transform the world.

The beginnings of this Great Turning movement already exist and are growing, but they aren’t coordinated, and I suspect that many people, organizations, and initiatives that are making a contribution to the Great Turning may not even realize it. I think explicit collaboration is essential for reaching our goal. I am proposing two things:

  1. Create the Great Turning Network, which is explicitly dedicated to achieving the Great Turning while educating and strengthening its members.
  2. Catalyze the Great Turning movement by
    1. Putting forth a vision of the movement
    2. Helping existing organizations to see themselves in this context
    3. Coordinating movement organizations
    4. Bringing the movement to public attention

The movement must be global in scope, involving as many nations and cultures as possible, so the whole world is involved in the Great Turning!

There has been a lot written about how we, as individuals, can orient ourselves to the Great Turning and take appropriate action, but we aren’t going to succeed at this as individuals alone. Our orientation toward individualism is actually part of the problem (though we will still have healthy individuality in the new society). People who care about the world and want to make a difference often come together in conferences or online events, but these rarely lead to something on-going. We need to come together in a sustained way.

A Social Movement

Joanna Macy has delineated three types of activism that are needed at this time in history.

  • Holding actions in defense of the earth.
  • Changing people’s worldviews.
  • Creating new healthy social structures.

I have expanded this to an 8-part vision for the movement, which I will elaborate over the rest of this article.

  • Wake people up to the danger and urgency of the moment.
  • Protect the earth, people, and democracy.
  • Provide a vision of a transformed society and how to get there.
  • Develop a healthy, regenerative movement culture with loving, empowered members.
  • Aid in the transformation of worldviews and values.
  • Create social, ecological, professional, and economic alternatives.
  • Collaborate with movement organizations and publicize the movement.
  • Transform governance.

There is tremendous power in a movement that is working together. Let’s look at a simple example. There are lots of individual actions that any of us could take, such as boycotting Amazon or putting our money into a credit union rather than a big Wall Street bank. But when I think about doing one of these actions, it seems sort of pointless because I don’t know that many other people are doing it. With a movement, we could reach out to all members and suggest such an action, such as moving our money to credit unions. Then we could ask everyone to let us know when they have done that and which bank and credit union were involved, and we could continuously publicize information about the growing numbers of people doing that, both to the world and to the movement. Most people would be much more likely to take action under these circumstances.

I have found a few suggestions for such a movement, which I am exploring collaborating with. We all need to work together on this, and it doesn’t matter whose ideas succeed or who gets the credit.

The movement needs to be diverse in terms of race, culture, gender, class, age, and so on. Diversity is needed not only to be inclusive but also because diversity is a source of greater insight and strength.

This movement also must be intergenerational, (In Our Hands: Handbook for Intergenerational Actions to Solve the Climate Crisis, Wilford Welch) probably led by young people and drawing from the wisdom and experience of elders, like myself. We will need to work hard on overcoming barriers to this collaboration. Youth must be central to the movement because they have the most to gain by having a regenerative society in which to live their lives, and because they have the energy and passion we need.

The movement must also be bioregional, so that we will really connect with the local regions where we live–learning how the earth operates locally; loving our forests, grasslands, lakes, mountains, and so on; restoring our ecosystems, regenerating our soil and water cycles. This makes our love of the earth real and not just a nice idea.

This movement for the Great Turning is large and far reaching. It can be summarized as follows:

  • Working for a regenerative society at all levels.
  • Focused on multiple social, ecological, and political issues.
  • Personal and spiritual as well as political and social.
  • Focused on changing consciousness and worldview as well as social structures.
  • Bioregional and planetary
  • Diverse and intergenerational

We won’t just aim to gain political power as have many past movements. We need to transform everything as we enter a new era in social evolution. We have an opportunity to contribute something significant to the fate of humanity. What a time to be alive!

This proposal is focused primarily on the U.S. and other developed nations. However, ultimately it must spread around the world. Wise and caring people in other parts of the world are contributing their ideas, organizing their people, and joining the movement.

Breakdown

How might this movement help us when the world is experiencing social and ecological breakdown, and it will get worse? Too much breakdown can lead to collapse, creating immense suffering, death, and extinctions. Not enough breakdown can mean that most people stay in denial about the need for transformation. Breakdown can also lead people to cling to the old way, hunker down to protect themselves, or turn to demagogues.

However, under the right circumstances, breakdown can wake people up and impel them to transformative action. The movement can help to create these circumstances—by providing a vision and constructive action for people to take—which will instill hope and move people in a healthy direction as breakdown occurs. Hopefully, this will allow us to transform society before the breakdown goes too far, or to rebuild it after collapse.

At some point, if collapse appears to be inevitable, then we will have to modify our approach to the Great Turning, to take into account the radically different world that we will operating in. Some groups are already taking steps to build our resilience in preparation for hard times ahead. Michael Brownlee is a leader in the local food movement, and the Transition Towns movement has been working on local resilience for decades.

Existing Movements

Click here for a discussion of how existing movements relate to the Great Turning.

The climate movement is a key part of the Great Turning, especially because there is so much action happening right now since it is so urgent. Some of you may even feel that we can only afford to focus on the climate emergency and not the Great Turning. However, I believe that the Great Turning will be necessary for the climate movement to succeed, as do many others. Click here for a fuller discussion of this.

Caveat

The rest of this proposal contains lots of details about how I imagine the Great Turning Network operating, but I want to make it clear that these are just preliminary ideas to show what is possible and how this organization might work. I don’t expect the organization to be bound by them. There will be lots of room for everyone’s creativity, and for dialogue and learning as we go.

Components of the Great Turning Network

Now let’s turn from looking at the overall movement to the Great Turning Network. It may consist of the following:

Great Turning Groups

I envision Great Turning groups as being the backbone of this organization. These will need to be cohesive, committed, and long term. They will involve not only political action but also consciousness raising and education (about the current state of the world, the prospect for transformation, the evolutionary perspective, and more), capacity development (such as leadership, communication, and collaboration), group bonding, and support for each person finding their contribution to the Great Turning based on their life purpose.

Strategy Group

We have already begun to study and dialogue about the best ways for this movement to work. Our Strategy Group is discussing various options for how the Great Turning Network might be successful and coming up with strategies for getting there.

As the Great Turning Network develops, visioning and strategy will be more broadly distributed in the organization, along with power. We will try to understand as much as we can from what is already known about how to make such an organization work, and we will keep observing the Great Turning Network as it develops and modifying our strategy as we go.

The Strategy Group is also studying the movement for the Great Turning, devising ways to coordinate and publicize it, and to inspire people and groups to perceive themselves as part of it.

Local Chapters and National Organizations

As people begin to become deeply connected with their Great Turning Groups, there will be a natural desire to connect in larger groupings for trainings, festivals, local actions, joint projects, and so on. Many of these will be temporary gatherings or working groups for specific purposes. And in addition, there should be a chapter of this Great Turning Network in each city, metropolitan area, or other region, consisting of all the Great Turning group members from that area. Many of the actions will be taken by these chapters. They will also handle local media, fundraising, local strategy, technology and systems, and so on. Similarly, there will be need to be national organizations, which will handle similar activities that belong at the national level. At both levels, I imagine that there will be semi-autonomous groups that handle these tasks.

Task Groups

There also must be groups whose task is to reflect on their local chapter or national organization–to ensure that its culture reflects our aspirations for a transformed society, that its systems are working well, that its decision making is distributed and fair, that its vision is guiding its actions, and so on. We will also need a strategy group whose task is the create and update the larger strategy for the Great Turning Network. I don’t imagine that the ideas I am presenting here will be final.

People in the Great Turning Network will form special interest groups in order to work together on projects they care about. For example, they might want to work on growing more food locally; they might study how to have greater diversity in the organization; or they might craft a set of principles for the movement or working agreements for Great Turning Groups.

Attitudes and Processes

In the Great Turning Network, we need to integrate the following two poles:

  1. Each person and group will choose the actions they want to take based on their passion and their understanding of their life purpose.
  2. The organization is coherent and works together for its larger goal.

The Process View

I think it is very important that we don’t think that the movement can make the Great Turning happen by force of will and hard work. The idea that we can make things happen in this way comes from Industrial Era thinking. Reality rarely works that way. Using Next Era process thinking, we recognize that societies are not objects that can be pushed the way we want if we apply enough power. Instead they are processes always in motion, and we can discern the trends already operating and choose to flow with them. These natural trends are toward healing, wholeness, learning, evolving, and connecting with spirit, nature, and each other. This is especially true during this transition in social evolution, so we must aim to understand the trends leading toward the Great Turning and align with and support them.

Here is an example of this perspective. Ecosystems develop over time. At first, when organisms in an immature ecosystem aren’t limited by the available resources, “pioneering species” flourish. They tend to be less diverse, less complex, and relatively isolated from and competitive with each other. Over time, the ecosystem grows past its carrying capacity, and it becomes a “climax ecosystem.” Here species are diverse and complex, and they tend to have cooperative relationships with each other. Humanity passed the carrying capacity of the earth, our ecosystem, about 1970, so we are now in a climax ecosystem. Yet we are still acting like a pioneering species and trying to dominate our ecosystem. So there is a natural flow towards becoming a climax species in alignment with the ecological reality.

This process perspective applies not just to societies but to virtually everything. This means that almost all the alternatives that will form the basis for the Next Society operate by flowing with relevant natural processes. See Visions of a Transformed Society for details about this.

Appreciation for Other Perspectives

In interacting with people outside the movement, it will be helpful if we can appreciate some of the positive aspects of our current society, even as we recognize that these haven’t gone nearly far enough, and our culture is driving us toward calamity. For example, in the U.S., we can appreciate our belief in the rule of law and the importance of democracy, the empowerment of women, freedom to speak our minds, and a healthy scientific culture,

After all, if someone came to you and said, “You are bad and destructive,” you wouldn’t be very open to hearing their point of view. Similarly, it would be great if we could appreciate the positive aspects of conservatism, such as a commitment to freedom and individuality, without giving up our understanding of its problems.

Fun

The Great Turning Network will need to have local, national, and international conferences where its members come together to learn, plan, connect, celebrate, and enjoy each other. In these and other places, we will have play, dancing, singing, art, storytelling, theater, meeting in nature, and other fun activities. so that we will love being part of it. I imagine that being in the Network and the movement will be joyful and deeply satisfying.

I hope that these ideas will expands people’s understanding of the possibilities for what is normally considered activism.

Decision-Making and Power

The question of power is tricky and crucial. Who makes decisions and how? How do we coordinate our actions? This question will become more difficult as the Great Turning Network grows larger, but it even applies within a Great Turning Group. There is a tendency to exert power from the top down because that is easier, but it is rarely optimal, because it puts too much power in too few hands. And because the people at the top often don’t have the information to make the best decisions, and they may be corrupted by ego, power needs, and so on.

Decision-making should be decentralized as much as possible, so that only decisions that affect the whole organization or large segments of it should be made by leaders or governing bodies. Whenever possible, decisions should be made at a local a level as is feasible. And they must be made in a way that is truly democratic, inclusive, and empowering. However, the decision-making process also must be relatively efficient and enjoyable. There are various ideas for how to handle this well in organizations, and we will experiment with them to discover what works best for us.

Notice that this is similar to the question of healthy decision-making and power for society. Therefore, what we discover may become a model for governance of the new society.

Spirituality

I believe that the Great Turning Network must be spiritual. I see the widespread interest in experiential spirituality today as an indication that it will be part of the new culture that is emerging in this next era of social evolution. Up until recently, for most people, spirituality meant following a set of religious rules or ethics, while experiential spiritual practice was relegated to the few monks and nuns at the mystical core of each religion. Now it is becoming democratized, with large numbers of people participating.

Joanna Macy’s work is a great model for including spirituality in activism. Some indigenous groups have also shown us how this can be done, as happened at Standing Rock.

Spirituality often includes having some sense of a higher power or deep source where we are all interconnected in love. It means being open, caring, loving, conscious, and present, and not rigidly attached to your identity, at least some of the time. The Great Turning Network won’t foist spirituality or religion on anyone. People will be free to relate to spirit in their own way or not, though some Great Turning groups may be based on a certain spiritual path or religion.

Some people sense an unseen force or flow, perhaps evolutionary, which is moving us toward the Great Turning. At times, we may open ourselves to this to guide us.

Ideally, we would be able to view a person who is doing harm as a human being who is struggling with life circumstances and being driven by unconscious pain. We could be open to them as people while not losing sight of destructive things they are doing that must be stopped. The same applies to a person in the Great Turning Network who may act in ways that harm it or their Great Turning group.

We want to avoid unnecessarily making other people into enemies in our minds. On the other hand, we need to recognize when someone is truly an enemy of the movement and life, where it would be foolish to try to cooperate with them.

Experimenting

Not only do we need to be open to experimenting with various proposed structures for a regenerative society, we also need to experiment with various ways for the Great Turning Network to operate and strategies for reaching our goals. In this proposal, I am laying out my ideas for how this organization and the movement might work best, but I don’t imagine that these will be final. There will be much discussion within the Great Turning Network aimed at coming up with the most effective approaches and structures for various situations.

For example, I have focused a lot on Great Turning groups and personal development of change agents, changing people’s worldviews and consciousness, and the creation of alternative social structures. One of my colleagues, Michael Goldstein, has focused more on political goals, local chapters, and the movement taking power. So far, our differences have been resolved by discussion, but if they aren’t, we will create or join different organizations. Each organization will experiment with its own structure, tactics, and focus. Unlike those old radical splinter groups that disdained each other, we will keep in touch, learn from each other, and see which approaches work best under which circumstances.

Click here for a more detailed look at the 8 parts of the Great Turning Movement. This is really the second half of this article, but I have separated it out to keep the article from getting too long.

Difficulties the Movement will Face

Time

One problem is that many people don’t have the time to devote to social change work because of busy lives with work and family. Youth and retired people may initially be a large part of the Great Turning Network because they are more likely to have the time to devote to it. It will be helpful for us to support people in dropping out of the rat race, to improve their lives and evolve their consciousness, and also so they have time for movement activities.

Attacks

The powers-that-be won’t allow the movement to get very far without attacking us. They are deeply invested in the status quo and will react to any sign of real change. We must know how to handle and rebuff attempts to covertly undermine the movement or directly attack it. One hopeful element is that it will be virtually impossible for the establishment to infiltrate the Great Turning groups because their personal nature would expose anyone who wasn’t genuine.

Our Power

These attacks could easily lead us to feel hopeless because of the enormous power the establishment wields, but we have power of a different nature. As Michael Goldstein says: We, the people, ultimately have the greatest power because we do the work, buy most of the goods and services, and pay the taxes. And we have a further source of power because we are aligned with the flow of social evolution. Therefore, when we are large enough, we can be successful, especially since we won’t be trying to take power through force or violence.

Great Turning Groups

I see the Great Turning groups as the heart of the Great Turning Network I am proposing. According to Leslie Crutchfield (How Change Happens), who studied many social movements, empowering the grass roots and helping them to connect to each other is crucial for success.

In the Great Turning groups, we will be fostering the regenerative culture that we want for society—a culture of caring, mutual respect, connectedness, cooperation, empowerment of all, generosity, love of nature, appreciation of diversity, and active hope. These must not just be intellectual ideas but deeply felt values. This way they will infuse the Great Turning Network as it gets larger and must deal with more difficult conflicts and temptations. The Great Turning groups will also provide a deep sense of community, which has largely been lost in the developed nations as the Modern Era has progressed.

In this essay, I am focusing on the Great Turning groups because they must come first and because I know more about them as a psychotherapist and group leader. I envision the Great Turning groups being self-propagating with aid from the Great Turning Network, as some people from successful groups start new groups.

Here is a partial list of activities the groups will engage in:

  • Capacity Building. We will work on developing our capacities for successfully building and strengthening the movement and for engaging with the public.
  • Group Bonding. For each Great Turning group to be successful, we must bond with each other in a way that keeps us connected and committed.
  • Study. We will study various topics needed for the movement to be successful.
  • Personal Growth as Change Agents. We will work on ourselves to become more effective change agents.
  • Finding Your Life Purpose. Each of us can explore our life purpose as an agent of the Great Turning.
  • Working through Blocks. Working through psychological and spiritual blocks that limit our effectiveness as change agents.
  • Power and Privilege. Understanding power and privilege and working to create power-with as much as possible.
  • Deep Sharing. We will listen deeply to each other, sharing our hopes and passions, our insecurity and pain, and any difficult emotional experiences that result from actions.
  • Working through Trauma. Many of us have been traumatized, and healing this can lead to greater empathy and capacity as an change agent.
  • Communication. We will learn how to communicate successfully with people in our group and the Great Turning Network, and also with outside people while waking them up, recruiting them for the movement, or engaging with them in other ways.
  • Local Resilience. We will learn how to make our local community resilient in the face of the social breakdown that is likely because of the climate crisis.
  • Taking action together. When an action project appeals to a Great Turning group, it will act together or as part of a larger movement action.

I am not assuming that each Great Turning group will operate in the same way. Some of them will develop different norms and processes that work for them, and some will focus on specific social issues that are meaningful to them. The Great Turning groups will operate in a variety of nations, cultures, and subcultures, and each will have its own insights to contribute.

Click here for more details about Great Turning group activities and the varieties of groups that may develop.

Great Turning Group Development

As we experiment with these Great Turning groups, we will draw on what is already known about the topics listed above. We may learn from existing groups such as transition towns, personal growth groups, affinity groups, and others. We will experiment with a variety of different personal growth methods and processes. For example, when a Great Turning groups needs to make decisions, we will use sophisticated methods such as Dynamic Facilitation. This may mean bringing in an expert or skilled leader from time to time.

However, the goal will be for group members to develop the capacities to lead their own groups. We will help interested group members to learn the skills and attitudes that will enable them to start new Great Turning groups. We will probably have a training program for group leaders and maybe also for the groups themselves.

Your Contribution

If you would like to contribute to the beginnings of the Great Turning Network, you could do it in the following ways:

  1. Join our email list.
  2. Contribute your ideas by giving me feedback on this proposal or dialoguing with me in some way. Tell me about initiatives you know that have a similar goal.
  3. Contribute your organizing or coalition building experience. We need more people with serious chops in organizing movements.
  4. Pass on this proposal to as many people as possible, through email, personal contact, social media, etc. If you are talking with someone, here is an easy-to-remember link to this proposal: https://personal-growth-programs.com/socialmovement.
  5. Arrange for me (and other people from the Great Turning Network) to speak at gatherings, conferences, and so on.
  6. Contribute your talents in art, graphic design, website design and production, social media promotion, editing, proofreading, videography, video editing, fund raising, creating non-profits, and other areas. We will need a flyer, a website, videos, and other materials to spread these ideas.
  7. Join a pilot Great Turning group where the focus is on creating a vibrant group while learning the skills and procedures to make the Great Turning group culture successful. Right now (Aug 2019), I have started a pilot Great Turning group that meets by videoconference so people can participate from anywhere, and in the fall I plan to start a second videoconference group, and a third group that will meet in person in the SF Bay Area.

Please contact me at earley.jay@gmail.com if you want to join one of these groups or discuss this further with me. I welcome feedback on this proposal.

I want to express appreciation to Michael Goldstein for many illuminating discussions about these topics, for presenting together, and for influencing this proposal in helpful ways.