-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Enacting the future we wish to create
In COMMUNITY - The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block provides an articulation of community feelings, wants and beliefs many of us have felt inside but haven’t always had words to express.
The book provides an antidote to the typical conversations about community that focus on fears, poor leadership, lack of funding, crime, safety, joblessness and other issues familiar to every city, village and neighborhood. It presents a methodology for convening powerful conversations about possibility, ownership and gifts, replacing the familiar conversations of problem solving, blame and deficiency that leave citizens feeling powerless, cynical and disengaged.
It may well be Peter’s best work, in that it provides not only an overview of the challenges to community, but also tells stories of many who are changing the world today, then offers concrete and practical ways to practice and engage the structure of belonging that he describes.
No matter what your place or role in a neighborhood or organization, regardless of your vocation, education or political positions, this book will have value to you. Even if you’ve never thought about being active in your community, this book has value for you. In its practical presentation of the power of questions over answers and depth over speed, it offers a practice that can transform every conversation we choose to have, whether at work, at a town meeting or at home — even in becoming more aware of the quiet conversations we have with ourselves.
Recognizing the difference between a powerless conversation and a powerful one is alone worth the price of this book and the time invested in reading it.
Learning how the spaces and context in which we gather and the importance of getting connected before expecting our agendas to produce anything is another worthwhile insight that can be gleaned from the book, regardless of occupation.
One more thing among many I love about this book: It includes a section called BOOK AT A GLANCE, which provides a quick summary and reference guide for the entire message. The Book at a Glance starts with context and main ideas, then offers a summary of the kinds of questions that matter — those that open the door to the future and are more powerful than answers in that they demand engagement. It ends with a quick look at designing the physical space for engagement.
Since 2003 I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of participating in A Small Group, the community of practice that has grown in Cincinnati, Ohio, largely based on the ideas and methodology now collected in this book. COMMUNITY is an essential presentation of the wisdom and intentional approach to conversation and engagement that has become the hallmark of Peter’s work. I highly recommend it.