Study Circles as Antidote to Y2K Family and Community Rifts

A young Florida mother who was stockpiling supplies in anticipation
of possible Y2K problems found herself facing a more daunting
challenge: her own skeptical mother who threatened to take the
grandchildren away.
<p>Sharon Joy Kleitsch, a community organizer in St. Petersburg,
Fla., said: ‘This woman called and her mother was trying to keep
her children away from her because she thinks her daughter is
flipping out because she’s needing to get supplies and preparing
for Y2K.'</p>
<p>Such discord among families, though usually not this drastic, is
not uncommon as the Y2K uncertainty looms, local leaders say.</p>
<p>’The Y2K question can create rifts within communities, often
between people who are pushing for immediate action and those who
believe nothing will happen, don’t want to look the issue in the
face or are afraid of causing panic,’ said Michele Archie,
co-director of the Harbinger Institute, a consulting, training and
research organization based in Bridger, Mont., that provides
services supporting community, organizational and personal
<p>’That’s a common theme being replayed in lots of places, true
believers versus disbelievers,’ said Howard Terry, Archie’s
co-director at Harbinger. ‘Communities are wrestling with how to
bring the two extremes, and everyone in between, closer to work
<p>’We think that study circles can help create spaces for people
with different points of view to come together to create stronger
understanding and action over the long term,’ Archie said.</p>
<p>Study circles, in which neighbors, co-workers or anyone
interested in the subject, get together to discuss Y2K, are helping
to bring differing views in line, organizers said.</p>
<p>Many of these study groups sit in a circle, and for good reason,
Kleitsch said: ‘You break the model of there being some expert on
stage. It immediately puts everyone in the same place, literally,
all in a small circle.'</p>
<p>It was in one of these study circles that the frantic Florida
grandmother finally began to understand why her daughter was
preparing for Y2K, Kleitsch said. ‘It just calms the fears, calms
the disbelief. It’s hard not to believe when you’re hearing this
information,’ she said.</p>
<p>Study circles don’t solve the problem for everyone, however. ‘We
had one guy come who was into guns and got kind of outraged,’ said
Nell Levin, who leads community groups through the Nashville,
Tenn., group PREP 2000, which stands for Promoting Responsible
Emergency Preparedness. ‘I said something about how we were not
into guns and he got huffy about that,’ she said, adding that the
man hasn’t returned to subsequent meetings.</p>
<p>Levin’s group participants present a wide spectrum of views,
including those who are a little ‘paranoid,’ and view Y2K as a
government conspiracy, she said. ‘We have some pretty free-wheeling
<p>But Levin, a trained community organizer, keeps the meeting on
track by encouraging participants to create action plans. ‘We just
try to run the organization as democratically as we can. We toss
out ideas and either they grab on or they don’t,’ she said.
‘Sometimes we’ve emerged with a different idea than what we came in
there with.'</p>
<hr width=”40%”>
<br />
Michele Archie, co-director, Harbinger Institute, Bridger, Mont.,
406-662-3244; e-mail:
<a href=””></a>; web site:
<a href=”” target=”new”></a>. Howard Terry,
co-director, Harbinger Institute, Bridger, Mont., 406-662-3244;
e-mail: <a href=””></a>;
web site: <a href=”” target=”new”></a>. Sharon Joy Kleitsch,
community organizer, St. Petersburg, Fla., 727-550-9660. Nell
Levin, organizer, PREP 2000 (Promoting Responsible Emergency
Preparedness), Nashville, Tenn., 615-329-9331.</p>
<br />
Study Circles Resource Center, Pomfret, Conn., 860-928-2616,
e-mail: <a href=””></a>. Offers
free technical assistance and information on community-wide Y2K
discussion and planning circles. Y2K Citizens Action Guide, Utne
Reader; web site: <a href=”” target=”new”></a>.</p>
289 Fox Farm Road, Brattleboro, VT 05301. For further information,
please call 1-800-654-NEWS or e-mail
<a href=””></a>

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