Roots Of Change Study Circle Program

Einstein once remarked, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” If this is so, then the process of building a better world must begin with rethinking basic assumptions and exploring root causes.

To this end, Local Futures is pleased to offer our ground-breaking Roots of Change curriculum and study circle program. The curriculum, comprising voices of leading political, economic and ecological thinkers from around the world, lays out both how we’ve arrived at our present predicament and what we can do about it. The emphasis is on education for action: moving beyond single issues to look at the more fundamental influences that shape our lives. No academic background is required.

The program has three main goals:

  • to encourage a broad analysis of the origins and workings of the global economy;
  • to promote discussion about the impacts of corporate globalization on our own communities, as well as communities around the world;
  • to generate effective strategies for local action and global partnerships.

The readings challenge me to reconsider things I ignore or take for granted, and help to counteract the mesmerizing effect of everyday life in urban America.”

—Diana Young, Berkeley, California

How It Works

Roots of Change is a guided study circle program. ISEC helps people organize small groups in their own community (usually six to twelve members) and provides a series of readings to generate discussion. Study circles usually meet once or twice a month to discuss the readings and, eventually, to forge strategies for effective local action. There are no ‘teachers’, though most groups choose one of their members – sometimes on a rotational basis – to act as facilitator.

Local Futures staff are available throughout the program for logistical and intellectual support. We will also help facilitate the move from education to action by giving groups the resources they need to start or join global-to-local resistance and renewal initiatives.

“Taking part in a study group was very supportive and empowering, giving me the confidence to get involved in local action.”

—Pam Hine, Totnes, UK

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Curriculum Synopsis

Over the last 500 years, numerous, predominantly local and human scale societies have been transformed—becoming increasingly industrialized and globalized. In the process, both the distance between people and power, and the separation between production and consumption have grown, and people have become alienated from each other and from the natural world. These broad, structural changes—and the forces that have animated them—are at the root of many of the crises we face.

The first part of the Roots of Change curriculum (‘500 Years of Progress?’) unravels this history. Along the way, readers will read selections from powerful voices that question a number of widely-held assumptions about progress, growth, wealth, and development. Deep questioning of this nature can be exciting and liberating, but it can also be overwhelming.  In recognition of this, the curriculum also includes the Hope Trove, full of beautiful and moving excerpts of poetry and prose on hope, on working through despair, on expanding our boundaries, and on personal/social transformation.

The second half of the curriculum (‘Resistance and Renewal’) provides readers with a broad understanding of the steps needed at the local, national, and international levels to shift the world in a healthier and more sustainable direction. We have taken pains to showcase brilliant ideas and initiatives – representing both resistance to the dominant order and renewal of local possibilities.  For every critical problem described in the first section, we hope to inspire you in the second with new ideas and tangible, instructive, living solutions.

Where the curriculum ends, the journey of action begins.

Learning for a change

Roots of Change is specifically designed to help participants move from education to action. The program seeks to expose the assumptions that diminish our ability to bring about real and lasting change. Among these is the deterministic assertion that ‘there is no alternative’ – that the world we live in is the inevitable result of evolution or human nature. Enhancing our historical and economic literacy is an important first step toward freeing ourselves from these stories and becoming more effective agents for positive change.

Since the program began in the early 1990s, participants have gone on to initiate numerous projects in their own communities – from farmers’ markets and co-ops to alternative currencies and local food councils. In doing so they have joined millions of others around the world who are resisting the destruction of people and the planet, while renewing their local economies, communities and cultures.

Start a Study Circle


Rather than leaving things to the so-called experts, it’s time to heed the words of Alice Walker: “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”.