Great Turning Groups

Jay Earley, PhD

I envision Great Turning groups as being the backbone of a new organization, the Great Turning Network.

These groups 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.

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 organization 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. I envision the Great Turning groups being self-propagating with aid from the organization, as some people from successful groups start new groups.

Great Turning Group Activities

Capacity Building—Internal Capacities. The members of the group may work on developing our capacities for successfully building and strengthening the organization.

  • Leadership
  • Collaboration and coalition building
  • Empowering others to participate in the organization
  • How to run a meeting that really works
  • Group leadership
  • Creating and leading new Great Turning groups

Capacity Building—External Capacities. We may also work on developing capacities for engaging with the public.

  • Assertiveness
  • Helping others to transform their worldview
  • Gaining publicity and recognition in the media
  • Public speaking
  • Engaging in social action from a spiritual perspective ala Standing Rock

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.

  • Working through conflict
  • Expressing appreciation for each other
  • Collaborating on projects
  • Empathy and compassion for each other
  • Supporting each other

Study. We will study various topics needed for the movement to be successful.

  • The current state of the world
  • How democracies work
  • The evolutionary perspective
  • Proposed components of a regenerative society
    • Political structures
    • Economic structures
    • Education
    • Religion
    • The justice system and prisons
    • Energy
    • Transportation
    • Communication, media, and entertainment
    • Health care
    • Community
    • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
    • Business and manufacturing

Personal Growth as Change Agents. We will work on ourselves to become more effective change agents and organizers.

  • Exploring our attitudes toward the current world crisis and the movement.
  • Examining the implicit assumptions behind our Modern Era worldview so we can fully adopt a transformational one.
  • Acknowledging our grief or despair, so we can transform it to active hope. (Coming Back to Life, Active Hope, Joanna Macy.
  • Learning how to love and connect with the natural world.

Power and Privilege. Understanding how power and privilege affect us and people and organizations we interact with.

  • Acting to maximize power-with as much as possible.
  • Understanding the privilege that we hold and how it affects other people.
  • Understanding how oppression has affected us and the most useful ways to respond, both internally and externally.
  • How to enhance the movement through the perspective that our oppression has given us.

Working through Blocks

  • Working on becoming aware of the psychological and spiritual blocks that limit our successful work as change agents.
  • For example, low sel-esteem, insecurity, self-righteousness, anger/judgment, rebelliousness, social anxiety.
  • Working  them through using powerful, user-friendly forms of self-therapy (such as Internal Family Systems Therapy), personal coaching, and spiritual development.

Finding Your Life Purpose. Each person in the group will have a chance to explore their life purpose and contribution to transformation. Life purpose has been important to me ever since I learned about it from Jean Houston almost 40 years ago. I used to be a Life Purpose Coach and I have written quite a bit about how to find your life purpose as an agent of the Great Turning. This Social Movement project is my life purpose right now, and I am thrilled to be working on it. It brings me a profound feeling of passion and satisfaction.

Deep Sharing. We will share with each other in a vulnerable way and listen deeply to each other. This will create profound experiences of bonding, healing, and personal growth.

  • Sharing our personal hopes, passions, successes, and spiritual experiences.
  • Sharing our struggles, insecurity, and pain.
  • Sharing difficult emotional experiences that result from actions.
  • Sharing the painful feelings and despair that can arise in response to societal breakdown and possible collapse.
  • Understanding and healing our trauma.

Dealing with Trauma. Many of us have been traumatized even though we may not know it, and trauma can be triggered by taking part in actions, being jailed, or through conflicts in the organization. Trauma can seriously undermine our ability to contribute to the movement as well as to be happy. We will learn how to heal our trauma and thrive. Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is excellent at healing trauma. It can be done on an individual basis or in a group. We will have professional psychotherapists who volunteer when someone needs special help.

Thomas Hubl suggests that in addition to the better-known individual trauma due to specific events in our lives, many of us are suffering from collective trauma because of traumatic events that have happened to whole groups of people. And there is also intergenerational trauma, which means that a traumatic reaction gets passed down to us from our parents or ancestors. I suspect that many of the destructive activities in the world are the result of unresolved trauma. Hubl has pioneered methods for healing both of these kinds of trauma collectively, and we may use these.

Internal Communication. We will learn how to communicate successfully with people in our small group and the movement.

  • Giving honest feedback to each other
  • Resolving interpersonal conflict within the Great Turning group and movement, guided by Non-Violent Communication (Marshall Rosenberg).
  • Learning how to recognize when you have been triggered by someone, especially someone in your group or the movement, and owning your reaction rather than acting it out.
  • Learning to engage in true dialogue, where you are open to hearing the views of another person and learning from them as well as expressing your own ideas.

External Communication. We may learn how to communicate successfully while waking people up, recruiting people for the movement, or engaging with the public in other ways.

  • Talking with people in despair to give them hope.
  • Learning how to have productive conversations about social issues, especially learning to empathize with people who disagree with us.
  • How to talk about the planetary crisis with people so that they wake up but don’t go into denial.
  • How to explain the social movement in ways that excite and inspire people.
  • Learning how to avoid or resolve conflicts that arise in recruiting people for the movement.

Local Resilience. We may learn how to make our local communities resilient in the face of the breakdown that is likely because of the climate crisis, as is being done by the Transition Towns Movement.

  • Developing local supplies of food, water, and other essentials to life.
  • Learning practical skills for surviving and thriving in a damaged world.
  • Connecting with local institutions to collaborate on resiliency.

Taking action together. When an action project appeals to a Great Turning group, it will act together or as part of a larger action taken by the organization.

  • Discussing which actions seem most important to participate in.
  • Taking non-violent direct-action trainings together
  • Publicizing, organizing, and supporting actions

Some of the activities listed here for Great Turning groups will need to be done in larger groupings, for example combining the Great Turning groups in a town, city, or region. And some of them may be done by trainings that the organization offers that may draw people from a variety of Great Turning groups.

As we experiment with these Great Turning groups, we will draw on what is already known about the activities 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.

Click here to read about my vision for a social movement for the Great Turning, which includes these groups.

The first group has started. It is a pilot group to work out the best way for these groups to work. It meets for 2 hours every other week by videoconference, though most groups will be in person.

If you are interested in joining a Great Turning Group, email me at