Our book is to a large extent the output of the Monday
Degrowth Reading group in Barcelona. For more than five years, we have been meeting every two weeks, reading and discussing selected authors from the degrowth literature, in a convivial setting, sharing food for thought and food for stomach. Much of this collective wisdom and spirit is reflected in the various entries in the book written by Research & Degrowth members in Barcelona.
We imagined and designed our book as a tool for groups in other parts of the world, who might want to reproduce our experience. Here are a few ideas and insights on how to set up and run a reading group, using the material of this book. This is of course not the only way, nor the best way to do it. If you experiment with new ways of interacting with the book, let us know!
• Set-up a group that will regularly read, meet and discuss. 5-6 participants in any given meeting is a good number to allow interaction, which means that the total can be around 10.
• Each meeting should be devoted to discuss one entry from the book. Meeting once every two weeks, or once every week, are good frequencies for keeping up the momentum and the interaction.
• For each meeting, there should be a presenter. The presenter should assign to the group in advance one or two additional readings to the entry of the week. For example, if you plan to discuss “social limits of growth”, the presenter may look at the bibliography at the end of the entry, and after browsing the texts, assign also the introduction from Galbraith´s “The affluent society”, and chapter 1 from Hirsch´s “The social limits to growth”. We have found that a total between 50-80 pages of reading per meeting is reasonable (more than this becomes too much), but the group can of course decide itself how little or how much to read!
• At the beginning of the meeting, the presenter summarises in 10 minutes maximum the main points of the entry and the readings, and sets some stirring questions for the discussion.
• The group designates one of the participants as a facilitator to pass the floor among the participants, keep times, etc. We normally start with a round of all participants, where they share their opinion and impressions of the readings, identifying unclear points, followed by an open facilitated discussion, engaging with the points raised and the stirring questions. The facilitator should not be the same person as the presenter, as this runs the risk of the latter monopolising the discussion.
• A discussion may last anything between two to maximum three hours.
• At the end of the discussion, the facilitator may summarise the main points raised, followed by a last comment by the presenter. (The presenter may also write a one-page memo after the meeting with the main points discussed and agreements/disagreements and share it with the group.)
• Before closing, the group decides the entry and presenter for the next meeting. It can be one that was referred in the entry of this week, or a concept/entry that appeared prominently in the discussions, and for which you want to learn more.
• Open a bottle of home made wine, eat the food of your potlatch, and enjoy!