Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Community by Peter Block [Book Review]

Community by Peter Block lays out concepts associated with how to build community. It’s not a practical how-to approach but rather lays out some important distinctions:
  • Leadership is about convening, about inviting in, about framing a question that lets people take responsibility (or not).
  • Call a gathering, not a meeting.
  • It’s not about problem solving; it’s about uncovering possibilities.
  • The small group is the unit of transformation. This is especially powerful when part of a larger group process.
  • All transformation is linguistic; the power of language. Transformations are essentially linguistic and part of the task is to change our relationship (our story) of the past.
  • For transformation to happen, there are six separate conversations (that can occur in almost any order): Invitation, Possibility, Ownership, Dissent, Commitment and Gifts.
Having been the convener in my neighborhood, I really resonated with Block’s description of the psychological barriers to doing so:

“The anxiety of invitation is that if we give them a choice, they might not show up. I do not want to face the reality of their absence, caution, reservations, passivity, or indifference. I do not want to have to face the prospect that I or a few of us may be alone in the future we want to pursue.

“And I do not want to face the same truth about myself, for my fear that they will not come is the caution I feel myself about showing up, even for the possibility that I am committed to. My fear is that what I long for is not possible, that what I invite them to is not realistic, that the world I seek cannot exist. And so I imagine myself as a misplaced person, an exile. It is today’s version of an old story that I am wrong and I will soon be found out. The fear that no one will show up is a projection of my own doubt, my own loss of faith.”

But it was well worth the risk.

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