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NCDD Commentary by Cecile Andrews

Simplicity Circles, NewsNite, and Grocery Line Activism: The Slacker's Guide to Dialogue for Social Change
Submitted by Cecile Andrews, author of The Circle of Simplicity,, on September 20, 2003.

It all fell into place when I became a slacker.

A slacker, of course, is someone who is trying to live more simply, someone who wants to work less and live more, have less stuff and more fun.

The problem is ?— what do we call ourselves? If we're interested in Simplicity, does that mean we're simpletons? Some people call themselves simple livers, but that sounds too much like something you might feed your cat.

So slackers seems like a nice name to me.

So, as I started to say, it all came together when I started Simplicity Circles. I had been interested in the idea of study circles for many years, and I had often tried to start them ?— without success. But when I gave people the chance to be in a Simplicity Study Circle things took off.

This is what happened: In 1989 I set up a workshop at my community college on the subject of simplicity. But only 4 people signed up, and we had to cancel. Ten would have been enough; twenty would have been fantastic; but not four.

I waited three years and tried again. (Why should a slacker move any more quickly.) In 1992 I listed the workshop in my college schedule again, and this time we had 175 people! (Once before we'd had as many as fifty people for one of our classes, but that was a boating safety class, and people got a discount on their insurance for enrolling.)

So 175 was a phenomenal response.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what made the difference, and I concluded that one of the main things was that in the second time around people got to participate in simplicity study circles. I discovered that people were hungry for a chance to talk about their everyday problems ?— how to find more time; how to save money; how to help the environment, and so on. As a bonus, in simplicity circles they got to experience community, something they were starved for.

Then I wrote The Circle of Simplicity , published by HarperCollins in 1997, and became the director of The Simplicity Circles Project for the nonprofit Seeds of Simplicity. ( ) while working with the online program of The Simple Living Network ( ). All over the country people formed simplicity circles to help each other learn to live better on less.

But, being a slacker, I realized I wanted to find a method of social change that took even less effort than a simplicity circle. My husband and I, looking for an easy way to see all of our friends, started NewsNite ( ). We sent out an email to about twenty of our friends inviting them to bring a newspaper clipping that had got them all fired up. (You know how it is ?— you're sitting there sputtering and flustering about something you read, but your spouse is too busy reading his section of the New York Times and doesn't want to stop to listen. You need to talk with someone!)

So, the first night rolled around, and there were only a few people at 7:30 , and we thought, ?“Oh, well, we tried?….?” But within ten more minutes our living room was full and we talked at a breakneck speed for two hours. Every Thursday night, the same thing. It was wonderful . ( I'm trying to get the Seattle Times to fund me, because I think this could bring back newspaper reading.)

But again, being a slacker, I've been on the alert for something even easier. It came to me one day as I watched my husband buying groceries in Whole Foods. Someone complimented him on his hemp shorts, and soon the whole line was discussing the right-wing ban of hemp products! Grocery line activism!

So my idea is this: carry around a newspaper with you, and whenever you're in line, pull it out and start commenting in a voice that carries. I'm looking forward to something like this:

?“My God, look at this story! Isn't it incredible! People still think the 9/11terrorists were linked to Iraq ! What are we going to do to reach people with the truth!?”

Or: ?“This is terrible! Did you see this story on global warming? When will we cut back on using oil??”

Or: ?“Only thirty percent of eligible voters vote. What can we do!?”

I'm expecting some pretty lively discussions. A simplicity circle, NewsNite, and grocery line activism all rolled into one!

No sweat.

Cecile can be reached at . For more information about Cecile's work, go to For a complete study guide to Simplicity Circles, see The Circle of Simplicity, by Cecile Andrews (HarperCollins, 1997). Available at bookstores or online at

Past Commentaries:

July 31, 2003:? Commentary by Libby and Len Traubman of San Mateo's highly respected Living Room Dialogue Group about the first Day of Global Arab Jewish Dialogue.

July 1, 2003: Commentary by Tom Atlee and Sandy Heierbacher entitled Declaring & Celebrating Our Interdependence. Outlines a variety of Interdependence Day celebrations and Declarations of Interdependence.

March 3, 2003:? Commentary by Sandy Heierbacher about her April 2003 trip to Seattle, during which she participated in Jim Rough's Dynamic Facilitation training and met with NCDD members Susan Partnow, John Spady and Vicki Robin.?


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Last Updated:? November 9, 2003.