Community: The Structure of Belonging

Views: 1624
Ratings: (0)

Most of our communities are fragmented and at odds within themselves. Businesses, social services, education, and health care each live within their own worlds. The same is true of individual citizens, who long for connection but end up marginalized, their gifts overlooked, their potential contributions lost. What keeps this from changing is that we are trapped in an old and tired conversation about who we are. If this narrative does not shift, we will never truly create a common future and work toward it together. What Peter Block provides in this inspiring new book is an exploration of the exact way community can emerge from fragmentation. How is community built? How does the transformation occur? What fundamental shifts are involved? What can individuals and formal leaders do to create a place they want to inhabit? We know what healthy communities look like-there are many success stories out there. The challenge is how to create one in our own place. Block helps us see how we can change the existing context of community from one of deficiencies, interests, and entitlement to one of possibility, generosity, and gifts. Questions are more important than answers in this effort, which means leadership is not a matter of style or vision but is about getting the right people together in the right way: convening is a more critical skill than commanding. As he explores the nature of community and the dynamics of transformation, Block outlines six kinds of conversation that will create communal accountability and commitment and describes how we can design physical spaces and structures that will themselves foster a sense of belonging. In Community, Peter Block explores a way of thinking about our places that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make that happen.

List price: $21.95

Your Price: $14.27

You Save: 35%

 

17 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Contents

ePub

 

CHAPTER 1 Insights into Transformation

ePub

Social fabric is created one room at a time. It is formed from small steps that ask “Who do we want in the room?” and “What is the new conversation that we want to occur?” In community building, we choose the people and the conversation that will produce the accountability to build relatedness, structure belonging, and move the action forward.

A series of core insights informs us how to answer these questions. These insights include ideas on focusing on gifts, on associational life, and on the way all transformation occurs through language. Also critical are insights about the context that governs the conversations and the willingness to speak into the future.

Two additional strands in the fabric of community explored here are the need for each small step to capture a quality of aliveness and the need for it to evolve in an organic way. There is an established method for accomplishing this aliveness that values all voices in the room, uses the small group even in large gatherings, and recognizes that accountability grows out of the act of cocreation. The essence of creating an alternative future comes from citizen-to-citizen engagement that focuses at each step on the well-being of the whole.

 

CHAPTER 2 Shifting the Context for Community

ePub

The context that restores community is one of possibility, generosity, and gifts, rather than one of problem solving, fear, and retribution. A new context acknowledges that we have all the capacity, expertise, and resources that an alternative future requires. Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness. The conversations that build relatedness most often occur through associational life, where citizens show up by choice, and rarely in the context of system life, where citizens show up out of obligation. The small group is the unit of transformation and the container for the experience of belonging. Conversations that focus on stories about the past become a limitation to community; ones that are teaching parables and focus on the future restore community.

• • •

Community occurs in part as a shift in context, the mental models we bring to our collective efforts. It is a new context that gives greater impact to the ways we work to make our communities better. Context is the set of beliefs, at times ones that we are unaware of, that dictate how we think, how we frame the world, what we pay attention to, and consequently how we behave. It is sometimes called a worldview.

 

CHAPTER 3 The Stuck Community

ePub

The existing community context is one that markets fear, assigns fault, and worships self-interest. This context supports the belief that the future will be improved with new laws, more oversight, and stronger leadership. Possibility thinking and associational life are marginalized, relegated to human interest and side stories in the media. The corporate model is the modern ideal, and the economy is the center story. The story in the stuck community defines the role of the media as framer of the debate. In community building, we need to realize that what the media reports is a reflection, not the cause of the conversation that citizens currently hold.

• • •

To create a new story, we first need to come to terms with the current one. This begins by naming it. The story of the stuck community can be heard both in the dominant public debate and also in what we talk to each other about each day. It is important to understand that there is a hidden agenda in every story. This agenda is a point to be made, a political belief about what is important, that stays constant regardless of the events of the day.

 

CHAPTER 4 The Restorative Community

ePub

Restoration comes from the choice to value possibility and relatedness over problems, self-interest, and the rest of the stuck community’s agenda. It hinges on the accountability chosen by citizens and their willingness to connect with each other around promises they make to each other.
    Restoration is created by the kinds of conversations we initiate with each other. These conversations are the leverage point for an alternative future. The core question that underlies each conversation is “What can we create together?” Shifting the context from retribution to restoration will occur through language that moves in the following directions: from problems to possibility; from fear and fault to gifts, generosity, and abundance; from law and oversight to social fabric and chosen accountability; from corporation and systems to associational life; and from leaders to citizens.

• • •

In contrast to the isolating effects of retribution, a restorative experience, relationship, or community produces new energy rather than holding us in place. Restoration is associated with the quality of aliveness and wholeness that Christopher Alexander talks about. This quality is not only in the artifacts, buildings, and spaces that he refers to, but also in the gatherings and conversations we choose to create. The energy crisis we face is not so much about fossil fuels as it is about the calcified experience that is too often created by the way we hold conversations, both publicly and when we come together in more private settings.

 

CHAPTER 5 Taking Back Our Projections

ePub

Citizens become powerful when they choose to shift the context within which they act in the world. Using the language of context rather than culture puts the choice into our own hands. It acknowledges that our mindset, even our worldview, is subjective and therefore amenable to change.

To choose a context conducive to citizenship, we first need to understand the idea of communal projection. Projection is the act of attributing qualities to others that we deny within ourselves. It is expressed in the way we label others and then build diagnostic categories and whole professions around the labeling. The shift away from projection and labeling provides the basis for defining what we mean by authentic citizenship—which is to hold ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger community and to choose to own and exercise power rather than defer or delegate it to others.

• • •

Here is a way of thinking about the shift in context from retribution to restoration. We begin with going deeper into what it means to choose to be accountable, not just for ourselves but for the world. The reason the retributive context cannot improve the conditions it tries to heal is that it talks a lot about accountability but does not embody it. The context of retribution itself is actually an ongoing argument against accountability. The marketing of fear and fault and the love of leadership have in common the belief that something or someone else is the problem and that the someone else needs to do something different before anything can profoundly get better.

 

CHAPTER 6 What It Means to Be a Citizen

ePub

Choosing to be accountable for the whole, creating a context of hospitality and collective possibility, acting to bring the gifts of those on the margin into the center—these are some of the ways we begin to create a community of citizens. To reclaim our citizenship is to be accountable, and this comes from the inversion of what is cause and what is effect. When we are open to thinking along the lines that citizens create leaders, that children create parents, and that the audience creates the performance, we create the conditions for widespread accountability and the commitment that emerges from it. This inversion may not be the whole truth, but it is useful.

• • •

If what holds the possibility of an alternative future for our community is our capacity to fully come into being as a citizen, then we have to talk about this word citizen. Our definition here is that a citizen is one who is willing to be accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole. That whole can be a city block, a community, a nation, the earth. A citizen is one who produces the future, someone who does not wait, beg, or dream for the future.

 

CHAPTER 7 The Transforming Community

ePub

Conventional thinking about communal transformation believes that focusing on large systems, better leaders, clearer goals, and more controls is essential, and that emphasizing speed and scale is critical. The conventional belief is that individual transformation leads to communal transformation. Our explorations to this point lead instead to the understanding that transformation occurs when we focus on the structure of how we gather and the context in which the gatherings take place; when we work hard on getting the questions right; when we choose depth over speed and relatedness over scale. We also believe that problem solving can make things better but cannot change the nature of things.

Community transformation calls for citizenship that shifts the context from a place of fear and fault, law and oversight, corporation and “systems,” and preoccupation with leadership to one of gifts, generosity, and abundance; social fabric and chosen accountability; and associational life and the engagement of citizens. These shifts occur as citizens face each other in conversations of ownership and possibility. To be more specific, leaders are held to three tasks: to shift the context within which people gather, name the debate through powerful questions, and listen rather than advocate, defend, or provide answers.

 

CHAPTER 8 Leadership Is Convening

ePub

This is not an argument against leaders or leadership, only a desire to change the nature of our thinking. Communal transformation requires a certain kind of leadership, one that creates conditions where context shifts:

From a place of fear and fault to one of gifts, generosity, and abundance

From a belief in more laws and oversight to a belief in social fabric and chosen accountability

From the corporation and systems as central, to associational life as central

From a focus on leaders to a focus on citizens

From problems to possibility

For this shift in context to occur, we need leadership that supports a restorative path. Restoration calls for us to deglamorize leadership and consider it a quality that exists in all human beings. We need to simplify leadership and construct it so that it is infinitely and universally available.

• • •

In communal transformation, leadership is about intention, convening, valuing relatedness, and presenting choices. It is not a personality characteristic or a matter of style, and therefore it requires nothing more than what all of us already have.

 

CHAPTER 9 The Small Group Is the Unit of Transformation

ePub

The future is created one room at a time, one gathering at a time. Each gathering needs to become an example of the future we want to create. This means the small group is where transformation takes place. Large-scale transformation occurs when enough small group shifts lead to the larger change. Small groups have the most leverage when they meet as part of a larger gathering. At these moments, citizens experience the intimacy of the small circle and are simultaneously aware that they are part of a larger whole that shares their concerns.

The small group gains power with certain kinds of conversations. To build community, we seek conversations where people show up by invitation rather than mandate, and experience an intimate and authentic relatedness. We have conversations where the focus is on the communal possibility and there is a shift in ownership of this place, even though others are in charge. We structure these conversations so that diversity of thinking and dissent are given space, commitments are made without barter, and the gifts of each person and our community are acknowledged and valued.

 

CHAPTER 10 Questions Are More Transforming Than Answers

ePub

We can now be specific about defining the conversations that open community to an alternative future. We seek conversations that create accountability and commitment. The traditional conversations that seek to explain, study, analyze, define tools, and express the desire to change others are interesting but not powerful. They actually are forms of wanting to maintain control. If we adhere to them, they become a limitation to the future, not a pathway.
    The future is brought into the present when citizens engage each other through questions of possibility, commitment, dissent, and gifts. Questions open the door to the future and are more powerful than answers in that they demand engagement. Engagement is what creates accountability. How we frame the questions is decisive. They need to be ambiguous, personal, and stressful. The way we introduce the questions also matters. We name the distinction the question addresses by stating what is different and unique about this conversation. We give permission for unpopular answers, and inoculate people against advice and help. Advice is replaced by curiosity.

 

Midterm Review

ePub

Before I make these ideas more concrete, here is a quick overview of the larger story we are creating:

Powerful questions give us the means to initiate a community where accountability and commitment are ingrained. They are a key to understanding the means and architecture for gathering people in a way that will build relatedness, which in turn creates communities in which citizens will choose accountability and commitment. This is what overcomes our fragmentation and reduces our tendency to demand change from people who are essentially strangers to us.

The thinking follows this logic: The strategy for an alternative future is to focus on ways to shift context, build relatedness, and create space for a more intentional possibility.

This strategy gives form to the idea that if you can change context and relatedness in this room, you have changed the context and relatedness in the world, at least for this moment.

The way we change the room is by changing the conversation. Not to just any new conversation, but to one that creates a communal accountability and commitment. And this new conversation is almost always initiated in the form of a question.

 

CHAPTER 11 Invitation

ePub

The first of the six conversations that create an accountable and hospitable community is invitation. Once the invitation conversation takes place, we follow with the conversations of possibility, ownership, dissent, commitment, and gifts.

Invitation is the means through which hospitality is created. Invitation counters the conventional belief that change requires mandate or persuasion. Invitation honors the importance of choice, the necessary condition for accountability. We begin with the question of whom do we want in the room. For starters, we want people who are not used to being together. Then we include the six elements of a powerful invitation: naming the possibility about which we are convening, being clear about whom we invite, emphasizing freedom of choice in showing up, specifying what is required of each should they choose to attend, making a clear request, and making the invitation as personal as possible.

• • •

As we enter the conversations for structuring belonging, a caveat: Real life is circuitous; it does not develop the way the conversations appear on a page. Except for the invitation, deciding which conversations to have, in which order, will vary with the context of a gathering. Since all the conversations lead to each other, sequence is not critical. The conversations described here and in the next chapter, though, appear in the rough order that usually aligns with the logic of people’s experience.

 

CHAPTER 12 The Possibility, Ownership, Dissent, Commitment, and Gifts Conversations

ePub

After the invitation, there are five other conversations for structuring belonging: possibility, ownership, dissent, commitment, and gifts. Since all the conversations lead to each other, sequence is not that critical. The context of the gathering will often determine which questions to deal with and at what depth. It’s important to understand, though, that some are more difficult than others, especially in communities where citizens are just beginning to engage with one another. I present them in ascending order of difficulty, with possibility generally an early conversation to have and gifts typically one of the more difficult.

We are using possibility here in a unique way. Possibility is not a goal or prediction, it is the statement of a future condition that is beyond reach. It works on us and evolves from a discussion of personal crossroads. It is an act of imagination of what we can create together, and it takes the form of a declaration, best made publicly.

The ownership conversation asks citizens to act as if they were creating what exists in the world. Confession is the religious and judicial version of ownership. The distinction is between ownership and blame. The questions for ownership are: “How valuable do you plan for this gathering to be, how have we each contributed to the current situation, and what is the story you hold about this community and your place in it?” It is important for people to see the limitation of their story, for each story has a payoff and a cost. Naming these is a precondition to creating an alternative future.

 

CHAPTER 13 Bringing Hospitality into the World

ePub

We usually associate hospitality with a culture, a social practice, a more personal quality to be admired. In western culture, where individualism and security seem to be priorities, we need to be more thoughtful about how to bring the welcoming of strangers into our daily way of being together.

• • •

The six conversations have power when they occur in a context of hospitality. Here are the design elements for structuring hospitality into our gatherings.

Greet people at the door; welcome them personally and help them get seated. People enter in isolation. Reduce the isolation they came with; let them know they came to the right place and are not alone.

Example: Carlsbad, California

When Ray Patchett, city manager of Carlsbad, California, decided to involve the community in determining its future, he and his staff placed a red carpet from the street to the front door of the meeting place. They had people at the door to welcome people and escort them to the meeting room. At the meeting room, each citizen was personally introduced to other citizens. A local group was playing music, light food was offered. Photos taken by children were on the wall. Get the picture? When you came to this meeting, you knew you had come to the right place. Of course this took some time and effort on the part of the city manager team, but what a message of care and inclusion for the citizens of Carlsbad.

 

CHAPTER 14 Designing Physical Space That Supports Community

ePub

Physical space is more decisive in creating community than we realize. Most meeting spaces are designed for control, negotiation, and persuasion. While the room itself is not going to change, we always have a choice about how we rearrange and occupy whatever room we are handed. Community is built when we sit in circles, when there are windows and the walls have signs of life, when every voice can be equally heard and amplified, when we all are on one level—and the chairs have wheels and swivel.

When we have an opportunity to design new space, the same communal consciousness applies. We need reception areas that tell us we are in the right place and are welcome, hallways wide enough for intimate seating and casual contact, eating spaces that refresh us and encourage relatedness, meeting rooms designed with nature, art, conviviality, and citizen-to-citizen interaction in mind. And we need large community spaces that have those qualities of great communal intimacy.

Finally, the design process itself needs to be an example of the future we are intending to create. The material and built world is a reflection of the connectedness, openness, and curiosity of the group gathered to design the space. Authentic citizen engagement is as important as design expertise.

 

CHAPTER 15 The End of Unnecessary Suffering

ePub

I would like to conclude with a discussion about a future that I know to be possible.

As is often said, you only teach what you need to learn, and so it is my own desire for community, my own sense of isolation and unbelonging, that have driven me into the work that has led to this book. Much of my life has been lived on the margin, outside of community, and so I am first-hand familiar with the toll it takes on a human being. This began so long ago that I have only a dim memory of its ever being any other way. Besides, any explanation I come up with would only be story. In the last ten years I have tiptoed cautiously, even reluctantly, toward fuller membership and belonging to the place where I reside, Cincinnati.

The possibility that is working on me is the reconciliation of community. Reconciliation is for me the possibility of the end of unnecessary suffering. This is the context within which I show up, even though, as with us all, I sometimes don’t know whether I am working for God or the devil.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781605095363
Isbn
9781605095363
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata