Be a nonviolence leader: Start a Hope Tank in your community.
Some 10 years ago Michael Nagler, our founder and president, proudly announced to a young adult friend that he was planning to inaugurate a new think tank on peace and nonviolence. “We don’t need another think tank,” she replied. “We need a hope tank.” And so Hope Tank came into being. After some experimentation, we currently work with a very simple format:
- On the first Saturday of the month we gather at 8:30 a.m. for a 30-minute silent meditation. (Many of us follow passage meditation, while others use other methods.)
- At 9 a.m., after introductions if new members have joined us, we enjoy a vegetarian potluck breakfast.
- As breakfast winds down we begin the conversation, going until we reach a natural stopping place, which is usually between 10:30 and 11:30.
Friends sometimes come with specific concerns to discuss. For example, some are very passionate about their involvement with immigration issues and they want the group’s wisdom on ideas to improve their work. Other topics come up spontaneously.
The guidelines for our discussion are, again, simple: we want to be open but focused. “Focused” means we are interested only in very real social or cultural problems; “open” means we take a brainstorming attitude in which nothing is ruled out a priori: we’re looking for anything that can work. Threads have ranged from the meaning of life to the new organizational formats to specifics of nonviolence (what about property damage, etc.). Occasionally, we’ve used talking sticks.
The benefits of the hope tank are many, including but not limited to: getting to practice listening in a small group; building nonviolence community; processing nonviolence principles more deeply (actually talking about how nonviolence works makes us more prepared to use it); finding general inspiration; and thinking strategically and realistically—without losing hope—about solutions to today’s toughest challenges.
One of our biggest projects, Roadmap, largely emerged from hope tank conversations with many participants over many months.
We offer the Hope Tank model freely, for your own experiments. We have found it a vibrant, community-building way to collect wisdom on important topics. We hope you will too.