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Required reading for community transformation
on May 8, 2008
I believe this book is a must-read for those of us who work to transform community:
It gives us a common language for talking about what makes community transformation different from human service/government planning and programs.
It integrates many important strands of transformation thinking, making transformation feel more accessible.
It helps us see what transformation looks like and connects that vision to concrete practice.
Community: The Structure of Belonging is divided into two sections. The first is titled The Fabric of Community and is for me what makes this book so important. In this section Peter provides the "why" and the "what" of community transformation. (Those of us who normally skip straight to the "how" should read Peter's previous book, The Answer to How is Yes.) In this section, we learn to not continue repeating the program, system, service problem solving that keeps us from really restoring community. We learn what transformation is, what it means to be a citizen. If we really get the message of this section, we start to BE community transformer, not just DO community building.
The second section is The Alchemy of Belonging. This is the tool kit for doing community transformation. Convening, invitation, small groups, forming the questions, holding the conversations of possibility, ownership, dissent commitment and gifts are covered here. This section expands the information that has been available on Peter's website that was developed and used in Cincinnati by A Small Group (as in Margaret Mead's axiom, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has.")
In the back are two extra gifts: Book at a Glance, a 10-page sentence outline of the entire book, and Role Models and Resources, which expands the concept of an annotated bibliography and offers countless opportunities for further reading and learning.
The gift of this book is a strong set of principles and usable instructions for restoring community. The challenge is to our willingness to stop what we are doing and learn what will lead us to the communities we desire.