Thursday, July 14, 2011


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead       

I enjoy small groups, both as a facilitator and a member - in the community, at church and in the field. When people get together in small groups, they talk, hear new ideas and get valuable feedback. In small groups people can test their opinions and their reasons for them within a moderated, supportive setting. Small groups allow us to use new language and feel comfortable with it. Words like "appropriations" "conferees" "evangelization" and "disciples" are put in context and move from mere jargon to real meaning in small group process. Small groups give people a place to grow, learn and change.

In the field I facilitate learning and try to accomplish it within a virtual small group setting.  I coach teams of health center advocates and League of Women Voters state and local leaders on scheduled conference calls each month. It is a challenging, yet still productive way to facilitate feedback and discussion though nothing can top meeting with people face-to-face. Yesterday I enjoyed being a part of A Small Group discussion using Maestro - a software that allows groups to gather, breakout and re-convene, share ideas, material and feedback. You can find a free trial offer on its website if you're interested.

A Small Group has its actual meetings in Cincinnati and I connected with it after reading Community: The Structure of Belonging by the group's founder, Peter Block. I made contact to learn more about its process for improving civic conversations to heal society and practice using it. I joined a phone-linked book discussion first, and then the larger group gathering yesterday. I am excited about joining its monthly small group discussion again. Why?

I want to improve my ability to understand people, why they resist ideas and adopt them. I want to hold "super-powerful conversations." I am inspired by being with others who are not shy to reflect deeply and offer insights that are personal, diverse or challenging. I want to become skilled at asking transformative questions, those that engage listeners & invite them into community or fellowship with me. To found my opinions on fact or first-hand knowledge instead of media reporting, I must know people who live beyond my boundaries. I want to offer help where I think I can and empower people to offer their gifts as well. I want to experience life's richness. I want to strengthen democracy.

The right question can open a super-powerful conversation ...

Video courtesy of A Small Group/Elaine Hanson

Do you believe in the transformative value of small group discussions? Are any small groups transforming you?


  1. Lynn - thanks for sharing your story of why small groups are important to you...and for posting my silly video.

    Being part of small group conversations that use powerful questions has been a transformative experience for me.

    It has improved my listening skills and my ability to sit with differences.

    It was great hearing your voice, again. Talk with you next month. thanks, Elaine

  2. I like your perspective on the transformative value of small groups! You’ve motivated me to think about why I am not engaging this more in my life right now.

    I am remembering that my most memorable educational experiences were the lively, challenging, and sometimes difficult and frustrating group discussions in graduate school. It was through those discussions more than anything else that I learned concrete lessons about human diversity and cultural standpoints - and developed a deeper understanding, empathy and compassion for different people and their politics. My active listening skills definitely got a real workout!

    Most (speech) communication studies programs require their majors to take a class on small group communication as part of the "core". I think the emphasis tends to be on skills and dynamics rather than the (inter)personal transformations that you highlight. I think there should be more emphasis on what you talk about here – an understanding of groups as building blocks for a more robust democracy.

    Great blog!