How to begin?

Once you have determined that you want to start a study group, you’ll need to consider some practicalities.  Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to get the group started with a sense of shared purpose, and a general feeling of trust and goodwill among the participants.  Come up with a democratic decision-making structure that works for your group, and stick to it.  Devise a mission for the group, and set goals that will help you achieve that mission.  Consider planning a time line during which you’ll work towards your goals, and build in time to evaluate your progress along the way.  Consider what kind of meeting routine works for your group – how often you want to meet, and what locations and times are available and comfortable for everyone.

One thing to consider in organizing a study group is that everyone’s learning experiences are different, and are influenced by their class, gender, ethnicity, and many other factors. If your study group is heterogeneous, and hopefully it will be, everyone should bear these differences in mind.  Take care, for example, to give time for everyone to participate in discussions.  Some people are comfortable talking right away, and can dominate the conversation without realizing it.  Other people prefer to consider their words carefully, and may inadvertently end up remaining silent simply because other people began to talk first.  If you find that your group has difficulty navigating learning style and participation style differences, have an open discussion about the problems, and build a plan for overcoming your challenges together.

What Should We Read?

Your study group can choose a book or article to read, a subject to study, or can plan out a whole syllabus covering a series of related subjects. For instance, a study group in Portland recently formed and spent a summer reading and discussing W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction. An earlier study group formed to study fascism, with a whole list of articles and book excerpts on the subject.

You can refer to our recommended readings page for some suggestions on books and articles exploring climate change and its implications for social movements.  This page will continue to be updated and expanded as our own study grows.

What Next?

Studying just to learn is wonderful, but in the political context learning is a tool we can use to inform and shape our collective political action.  Work you’ve done with your study group can help galvanize political groups, build bridges between organizations, and foster individual political relationships.  It can, as we noted above, help you to understand the past and plan for the future.  It’s important to take the step from study to action, and share what you learn with others.

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