how we got here: an evolving strategy
We started in 1995 out of Durham’s Community Youth Cooperative, a space for youth-led nonprofits that was getting off the ground. In the first few years, we learned a great deal about spiritual practice for activists through the First, Second and Third Circles – groups who participated in regular reflection. Early on, stone circles also convened numerous workshops and trainings across the country on the links between spirituality and social justice, usually as part of larger conferences based on activism or community service. By the late 90’s we were spending more time on the road, initiating dialogue, building skills and supporting leaders in their own transformation.
We recognized that working with individuals was not enough. In 2000 we shifted some of our attention towards training that could impact the broader culture of social change organizations. The organization piloted new forms like the Ripples Training (in partnership with Leigh Morgan and Cara Page) and worked with organizations like North Carolina Public Allies to shift practice over a period of time [case study coming soon].
The Spiritual Activist was published by PenguinCompass in 2002 and created new opportunities to expand the work through readings and daylong workshops with partner organizations. The range of the constituency broadens considerably, particularly apparent in one trip that includes a keynote at the Global Business Network annual forum immediately followed by a plenary session for 400 Native-American cancer survivors in New Mexico.
In 2003 stone circles convened its first national leadership gathering at the Rigmor House (just 5 miles away, it would turn out, from The Stone House); it was our first effort to organize and build the field and it brought together allies we continue to work with presently, including the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Center for Transformative Change, and Movement Strategy Center.
Shortly thereafter we created the stone circles Fellowship to support seven national leaders in spiritual activism and foster collaboration between them. These fellows – still some of our closest allies – represent diverse and vital institutions: Kenny Bailey, Design Studio for Social Innovation (Boston, MA), Arrington Chambliss, Episcopal Diocese (Boston, MA), Simon Greer, Jewish Funds for Justice (New York, NY), Albino Garcia, La Plazita Institute (Albuquerque, NM), Scott Pryor (Austin, TX), angel Kyodo williams, Center for Transformative Change (Oakland, CA), and shash yahzi, Spirit in Motion (Oakland, CA).
In 2005 we piloted retreat-based programming in a social justice context. Our first few “Being Change” retreats were held at the Vallecitos Mountain Refuge in New Mexico. Click here for a short video to learn more about our philosophy around retreats.
We also convened a second much larger field-building event at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY, “Spiritual Activism: Claiming the Poetry and Ideology of a Liberation Spirituality.” The full report on that gathering is here: Garrison Gathering Report-2005.
Among other outcomes, the event began to define a collective theory of change and planted the initial seeds of the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation.
Working in a coalition of practitioners from a range of spiritual and cultural traditions, we created a Healing and Spiritual Practice Space at the 2007 United States Social Forum in Atlanta, GA. Over 500 activists participated in workshops, for meditation, yoga, healing arts, and ceremony from many traditions. Here’s the report on that: USSF07 report
And that same year, we visited a little piece of land in Mebane that was then called “The Human Kindness Foundation”… Click here for a short video of our first visit!
We moved onto this land in September, 2007.