This tool is a guide for those who want to design and host a book club or study group around Doughnut Economics. It has been co-created by members of the DEAL Community, and is based on the experience, ideas and insights shared at the co-creative event held in April 2021.
The tool contains some reasons for running a book club, things to consider with helpful advice, specific examples, other useful support information and book recommendations.
If you would like to add your own ideas to this or link to a book club you currently run, please leave a comment in the comments section below, and we’ll keep updating the tool to incorporate what is being shared.
But before getting into the guide, here's an introductory video from Kate, talking about the book - something you can play to all participants in your first meeting.
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When we discussed reasons why you would hold a book club around Doughnut Economics, here's what the DEAL Community came up with:
To democratise knowledge by inviting everyone to join the conversation, recognising we are all economists now
To hear different perspectives, look at things differently and recognise the many different ways we see and interpret things
To deepen our understanding of the concepts (beyond just the Doughnut) and create a collective foundation of knowledge as a community
To become motivated and inspired to action through a shared purpose, a hopeful vision and sense of possibility
To think about how the ideas apply to your place and identifying local projects, initiatives and activities that are worth pursuing
To establish or supplement professional knowledge and expertise, such as for those involved with crafting and implementing public policy
To create community and enjoying the connection with others
To learn from others’ experience and hear how the ideas of Doughnut Economics can be brought to life through practice
To have a reason to start reading the book and keeping the learning process going by progressing with others
To practice speaking, listening, exchanging ideas, and notice our biases and blindspots within a diverse group
What do I need to consider?
Here are the 9 things to consider when designing a book club around Doughnut Economics.
1. The group - who and how many
As with all of this guide, there’s no ‘one right answer’ for what’s the right group size. Smaller group sizes of around 5 to 7 people has worked for many groups. Breakout rooms in Zoom are important if the number goes above this, and some suggest the total group size should not go beyond 30.
One of the key benefits of a book club is around hearing different perspectives, looking at things differently and recognising the many different ways we see and interpret things. So when creating and sharing your book club invite, you might like to think about who normally wouldn’t consider joining a book club (especially one on economics!) or who might not usually see this type of invitation.
You might also want to consider what happens if someone wants to join part-way through. As the chapters are self contained, new joiners should be able to jump straight in, but they might want to read the chapters they’ve missed and watch any recordings of previous sessions.
2. Creating a shared purpose and group agreements
Before inviting people, we recommend you propose a provisional purpose of the book club, that you can then discuss, build upon and agree in the first session to create your shared purpose.
To create a provisional purpose, you may wish to draw on the ideas of ‘Why hold a book club?’. You may also wish to bring in more specific and tangible elements into the book club’s purpose if you have particular goals in mind that could relate to, for example, a specific project or initiative.
Having a shared purpose will help guide and influence group choices that may arise, including, for example, creating your group agreements.
Group agreements help people feel safe, welcome and ready to participate. They are best created by all in the opening session and revisited at the beginning of every session thereafter. Examples of group agreements include:
being aware of how much you are talking and making space for those who have spoken less
committing to the learning and participating as fully as possible
listening to and respecting the views of others
agreeing any behaviours that aren’t welcome
For more information on group agreements and example processes to create them, visit seeds for change.
3. Designing for all
There will likely be diversity across the group in many different ways. In order to design for all, some of the things you may want to consider are:
The language you choose to run the book club in
Different levels of confidence with technology (e.g. Zoom) and how to reduce any barriers for those who are less tech confident. (Note that this may also influence how you invite people to sign up).
Different levels of familiarity with the concepts of the book and other related concepts and their application. Some ideas for accounting for this include:
Inviting people to share how familiar they are with the concepts in the first session
Having checkpoints to make sure everyone is understanding the material
Asking people to explain general statements
Asking people to share how it is related to their daily experiences
Sharing resources to support ideas/concepts
Agreeing how to account for this in breakout room discussions (for example, you may wish to have groups according to level of knowledge or interest, or you may wish to have mixed groups so that everyone hears and learns from everyone else)
Being aware of and responsive to different cultural reference points that may arise
Being aware of and responsive to personal preferences, such as those who wish to go deep into the academic theory vs those who are more interested to talk about practical application
Inviting anyone to share anything else that would enable them to participate fully
Some of these may be part of your group agreements.
4. Useful roles
The most obvious role is that of host, someone to commit to showing up each session to welcome everyone, introduce and close each session. The host (as well as other group members) can act as the external ambassador of the book club. Some book clubs have chosen to rotate the host role amongst the group.
The host can also play the role of facilitator, by steering the group through the agreed structure of the session and being attentive to the group’s needs. The role of facilitator could equally be played by another member of the group. The key qualities of the facilitator is to be someone who is aware of the group dynamic and making sure everyone feels welcome and supported to contribute.
Another role you might choose to include is someone to help manage technology and monitor the chat (in the online setting).
In between meetings there might also be tasks that have been identified, so others, without roles, may wish to do those in order to share / distribute the work across the group.
5. Timings and scheduling
The most common approach to scheduling is to have one session a week, taking one chapter at a time, but some have successfully run book clubs that meet every two weeks. One to two weeks allows enough time to read each chapter between sessions and keeps the momentum of learning going. Timings vary - some have chosen 60 minutes, others have chosen 90 minutes.
If you choose to do one chapter per week, there are 9 chapters in the book, so 9 weeks is a good starting point. However you may wish to shorten or extend this according to your group’s preference.
The time you choose to hold your meeting will influence who can attend, so think about who is likely to be available / unavailable at certain times. The time may also influence how long the session can be. Several groups have chosen to hold their meetings at lunchtime and invite people to bring their own food. Other groups have chosen the evening, and some suggest holding the meeting at the beginning of the day in order to carry the positive changes into the day.
One hour sessions are a common approach. Others have chosen longer, enabling meetings to have both a structured section and a more free-form, open section for those who wish to stay on (see the section below on session structure).
If you choose to hold the book club in person, then you will need to account for accessibility to the location and travel time.
Some groups have held post-book club follow-ups meetings to check in with the group. This could be after one or more months.
6. Session structure
How you choose to structure each session is a balancing act between a number of factors, such as the balance between presenting and discussing and the balance between structured and open discussion. The general structure of sessions is something you can discuss and agree on in the first session and continue to monitor and reflect on as you go through the weeks to find the right balance for the group.
Almost all book clubs so far have started each session with a presentation or briefing, summarising the chapter in question. In some cases this has been created and delivered by the host, in others it’s been on rotation around the group with two or three people presenting each week.
One tension here is the degree to which what is being presented is more of an ‘expert’ view or the views of those that are very much in the learning process. The benefit of learners presenting is that the process of preparing and presenting is one of the most powerful methods of learning. One of the drawbacks is that the summary presentations are likely to be less coherent than a summary presentation from someone with more experience.
All book clubs so far also have a period of open discussion that follows the presentation or briefing. This can be done in small groups (in breakout rooms) so everyone has a good amount of time to share their thoughts and perspectives on the topics raised in the chapter. For these discussions, you may wish to create a discussion theme, topic or question to focus the discussion.
Another tension is then finding the balance of staying on topic vs allowing the conversation to take its natural course. Staying too tightly to the scope of the chapter may lead to discussions that are too rigid, and letting the conversation flow in a direction far beyond the scope of the chapter might lead to some key concepts being overlooked.
One way some groups have managed this tension is to start with a more focused discussion, then for there to be a space after the main book club session for more open, self-facilitated, discussion. You may also wish to gather the key topics for discussion from the group before opening the discussion to enable you to acknowledge what has and hasn’t been covered by the end of the session.
There is a tension, also, in making sure all voices are heard and that the voices of one or two don’t dominate or steer the conversation away from where the majority would rather it be. This is where group agreements very much come into play, and it’s the role of the host or facilitator to keep the group accountable to what has been collectively agreed.
As part of the discussion, you may wish to invite examples that people might have of the key ideas in practice - whether their own personal experience, or examples they’ve seen. Such examples can be noted for further reading if needed, so as to keep the conversation flowing.
Some book clubs have chosen to have a section in each session on practical application of the ideas to their local place. This may not be relevant for all groups, but for those groups that largely identify with a shared local place, this can be a very powerful way of bringing the ideas to life. If you chose to include this as a section in your book club, you may wish to agree what scale you’re looking at - whether local, regional, national or other.
Another idea that has been introduced to some book clubs is for everyone to share their favourite quote from the chapter and why it speaks to them. This is a great way of bringing the tone of the book into the session and also giving everyone a chance to speak before the discussion gets going.
And as per the section above ‘Designing for all’, it’s important to consider how you will design for these factors as well.
Here are two example structures that can act as a starting point for your session design. If you have a specific session structure that works well for your group, feel free to share that in the comments section below.
Example 60 minute structure
0’ to 3’ - Welcome - Arriving, setting the context, reminder of group agreements
3’ to 9’ - Socialising - Connecting with others in small groups of around 3
9’ to 20’ - Chapter summary - A briefing or presentation on the key points in the chapter
20’ to 40’ - Discussion - Breakout rooms around topics of interest
40’ to 50’ - Sharing back - Sharing highlights and learnings from breakout room discussions
50’ to 60’ - Recap and close - Reminder of the main themes and space for final comments or reflections
Example 90 minute structure
0’ to 5’ - Welcome - Arriving, setting the context, reminder of group agreements
5’ to 12’ - Socialising - Connecting with others in small groups of around 3
12’ to 25’ - Chapter summary - A briefing or presentation on the key points in the chapter
25’ to 50’ - Plenary - Whole group discussion inviting different perspectives
50’ to 65’ - Application - Breakout rooms to discuss how to apply the ideas locally
65’ to 75’ - Sharing back - Sharing highlights and learnings from breakout room discussions
75’ - 85’ - Round the room - Inviting a top learning from everyone
85’ to 90’ - Close - Space for any final comments or reflections
7. What to prepare in advance
It's important to let people know if there will be an expectation to prepare anything for a session, for example a favourite quote or a few questions from the chapter. The most likely preparation will be to agree upon which chapter needs to be read.
It may well be the case that some people haven’t been able to read what has been agreed. In which case the opening presentation or briefing of the session should enable them to get up to speed and contribute to the session.
If you are choosing to take the option of learners presenting chapter summaries to the rest of the group, then you will need to agree this in advance. And if you are inviting people to share their favourite quote from the chapter, they will need to know this in advance as well.
Other examples of things you can do between sessions include writing a poem, creating a learning journal for reflection, and connecting the reading to your experience by recording how you see the ideas play out in your life. The host may also like to create a ‘treasure hunt’ of ideas and questions that will come up in the next chapter for people to find and answer.
It’s important, however, that any tasks between sessions are an invitation and are not an obligation.
8. Technical considerations
Most book clubs are currently happening via Zoom (as of May 2021). This enables many people to be able to join across a wide area - even globally. And some have chosen to video record the sessions to allow group members to watch back at a later date, or catch up if they have missed sessions. Watching back also helps you see how much you’ve learned as a group from start to finish.
Other software used by groups include:
A Slack workspace to keep the conversation going.
A Miro board or a similar collaborative whiteboard application to summarise chapters, share ideas and frame topics for discussion and exploration
A Google Drive folder to store and share related documents
It’s also good to send a calendar invitation via email to make sure everyone knows the right time of the session.
And as per the section above ‘Designing for all’, it’s important to consider how you will design for those who are less tech confident.
9. Planning the first and last sessions
Looking at the specifics of session design, here are some of the things you might want to plan for your opening session:
A welcome and introduction / setting the scene by the host
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