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Community: The Structure of Belonging Paperback – September 1, 2009
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“This book challenges the conventional wisdom about what you and I can do as citizens to shape our future. It offers concrete examples of what citizens can do and have done by drawing on resources in their families and communities.”
—David Mathews, President, Kettering Foundation
“This book is the basis for health and happiness in any society. A must-read.”
—Quentin Young, Chairman, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, and former President, American Public Health Association
“‘What we need is here.’ That line from a Wendell Berry poem sums up the theme that runs through this vital and timely book. This book is a treasure. And it can help us recover the treasures hidden in plain sight within and among us, renewing ourselves and our democracy as we go.”
—Parker J. Palmer, founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal and author of A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach
“Don’t wait for a politician, scientist, infomercial, or lottery ticket to come to the rescue. Read this powerful book and help yourself, your neighbors, and your planet to satisfying and sustainable solutions found only in community.”
—Jim Diers, former Director, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, and author of Neighbor Power
About the Author
Peter Block is a citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Block to build the skills outlined in his books. He is the author of Flawless Consulting, Stewardship, The Empowered Manager, and The Answer to How Is Yes. He is the recipient of the American Society for Training and Development Award for Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance and the Association for Quality and Participation President’s Award. He is also a member of Training magazine’s HRD Hall of Fame.
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After reading the book, I am more focused on the process with which we will do all this. Focusing more on the act of gathering people together either online or in-person, we can determine the best ways for our community of far-flung employees to start working together to improve everyone's success in what we will all accomplish. To risk the use of an old cliche, Block's suggestion is that it is the journey by which we do this more so than any final best practices that we may reach at the destination. So for the original goal that I set out to accomplish in buying this book, such a focus on the ongoing conversation and the ways we are interacting with each other may prove most effective as we establish such a community within our organization.
What was unexpected and a huge plus were the comments Block makes about the way our American systems (i.e., economic, political, educational, social services, media) have become and made all of us so fragmented. I've read many books over the past year that lament how our government is hopelessly partisan, our classes are hopelessly unequal, our values are maker vs. taker, etc. All of those books explain the issues but few have good solutions. Block explains the problem much more elegantly -- that our individualistic narrative; the inward attention of our institutions, corporations and our professions; and the messages from our media all work to make us feel isolated and fragmented from everyone else. He suggests that building greater community among us and reversing the path we are on now is not through government, corporations or large institutions with mandates, budgets and power to make things better. Nor will some super leaders come in with the magical strategies to finally make things better. Rather, Block is saying that we can only do that for ourselves by deciding to work with others in our communities to make things better for everyone.
So, this book is more than just an academic focus on what communities can do to change things for the better. It is the opposite of what Charles Murray set out to suggest in his inflammatory book "Coming Apart." But as some critics of Block suggest, his prescription to work together is not the answer in and of itself. It is the hard work cities, organizations, school systems, social service organizations, and citizens committees all must do to change the context of what they want to accomplish, create the gatherings and structure to start accomplishing the ends that we have so long been trying to reach.