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CHAPTER 14 Designing Physical Space That Supports Community

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers 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.

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CHAPTER 10 Questions Are More Transforming Than Answers

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers 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.

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CHAPTER 7 The Transforming Community

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers 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.

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

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers 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.

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Twelve: Cosmetic Reform When the Disease Becomes the Cure

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When the Disease Becomes the Cure

THE TASK FOR each of us is to define a future we choose to create, using the workplace as the medium. As we turn our attention to finding the process through which to live out our intentions, we are faced with a paradox: how does patriarchy go about the task of changing or healing itself? This chapter shows how the means chosen often interfere with our intentions.

 

EVEN WITH THE consciousness that top-down, parenting management strategies will not win, many efforts to change will inevitably reenact the very same set of beliefs that created the need for change in the first place. Patriarchy will use a mixture of leadership, consistency, control, and predictability to try to implement the ideas of empowerment, partnership, and self-management. Patriarchy will reinvent itself in living out the promise of its own demise. This reality is a major source of the cynicism about whether cultural change is at all possible or lasting. If the experience of moving from leadership to stewardship does not in itself incorporate choice and local autonomy, then it has no credibility and will forever remain a program requiring constant infusions.

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