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Community: The Structure of Belonging Paperback – September 1, 2009
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Praise for Peter Block's
Community: The Structure of Belonging
"From the person who gave us the best book written on business stewardship comes the best book on how to transform the places where we live, work, and play into authentic, effective communities. Some of Peter Block's conclusions may surprise you, but this compelling book is a must for all who love the places we call home enough to rethink our approach to building and maintaining community."
--Dennis Bakke, CEO, Imagine Schools, Cofounder and CEO Emeritus, AES Corporation, and author of Joy at Work
"Every earnest public servant, every volunteer, every disillusioned citizen, every civic leader, and every community activist or businessperson who truly want to make their communities better should read this book. It can serve as a guide or manual, but Community at its heart is a book of questions, and Peter gently and persistently reminds us that we are the answers."
--James Keene, President, Alliance for Innovation and Western Director, International City/County Management Association
"In this wonderfully practical book, Peter Block defines the nature of a community with manageable dimensions, creative directions, and hopeful possibilities. His methods lead us to a restoration of the joy of a genuine common life."
--John McKnight, Professor of Education and Social Policy, and Codirector, Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Northwestern University
"Peter Block clearly identifies the essential ingredients, qualities, questions, atmosphere. and actions needed to create and build vital communities filled with possibility, generosity, accountability, and deep engagement. Outstanding in its relevance, practicality, and clarity."
--Angeles Arrien, PhD, cultural anthropologist and author of The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom
"This book is more than practical advice on execution of theory; it is a spiritual primer for the building up of community and transforming hope that we so desperately need in today's world. Peter has touched us once again in that place we call `soul'".
--Clint Kemp, Founding Pastor, New Providence Community Church
"Peter's work has become the cornerstone of how our police department has developed over the years. What we have pleasantly discovered is that the more our capacity grows to work in partnership with each other, the more our capacity to serve our community is enhanced."
--Michael Butler, Chief of Police, Longmont, Colorado
"After being engaged for many years with transformations in the U.S., Latin America, and Africa, it is exciting to find a practical and deep methodology that integrates great ideas and points at new applications. Peter's book is critical for anyone concerned about reenergizing the quality of life in our workplaces and in our communities."
--Steve Zaffron, CEO, the Vanto Group, a Landmark Education Company
From the Inside Flap
Most of our communities are fragmented and at odds within themselves. Businesses, social services, education, and health care each live within their own worlds. The same is true of individual citizens, who long for connection but end up marginalized, their gifts overlooked, their potential contributions lost. What keeps this from changing is that we are trapped in an old and tired conversation about who we are. If this narrative does not shift, we will never truly create a common future and work toward it together.
What Peter Block provides in this inspiring new book is an exploration of the exact way community can emerge from fragmentation. How is community built? How does the transformation occur? What fundamental shifts are involved? What can individuals and formal leaders do to create a place they want to inhabit? We know what healthy communities look like--there are many success stories out there. The challenge is how to create one in our own place.
Block helps us see how we can change the existing context of community from one of deficiencies, interests, and entitlement to one of possibility, generosity, and gifts. Questions are more important than answers in this effort, which means leadership is not a matter of style or vision but is about getting the right people together in the right way: convening is a more critical skill than commanding. As he explores the nature of community and the dynamics of transformation, Block outlines six kinds of conversation that will create communal accountability and commitment and describes how we can design physical spaces and structures that will themselves foster a sense of belonging.
In Community, Peter Block explores a way of thinking about our places that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make that happen.--This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
The role of the leader is to invite people, set up the meeting space, and encourage their participation. This is done basically by getting them to talk and bond with each other. Note that it the leader isn't supposed to establish an agenda, or force through an analytical problem solving process (which Block hates.) The leader simply convenes the group. When done properly, magic occurs.
The book is short on examples. This may be because Block thinks of community building as a journey and not necessarily the means to an end, and examples would detract from the journey and the point he's trying to make.
I found the book a bit of a slog. It is unnecessarily dense and repetitive. It is also abstract in places, but this may simply be due to the subject matter. Block had to define his own lingo for this book, and when sentences of that lingo are strung together the result is cumbersome. A member of my book club said he spent the first 40 pages wondering if he'd ever make it to the end. He did however, and found it rewarding.
This book is Peter's masterwork and a culmination of the important thinking he has so carefully articulated in his other classics The Empowered Manager, Stewardship and The Flawless Consultant. While others bemoan the state of our communities, the decline of our cities and the failure of institutions Peter has been thinking about "restoration" and "reweaving" of the social fabric and has defined a clear process for creating a future that we would all like to be part of.
This easy to read book has something for everyone. The theories and strategies underlying the thinking are compelling and comprehensive. The list of resources in the back of the book will lead you to people and organizations that are actively involved in building communities. The structure of the book provides easy access to the many layers of useful information including a full summary of the book added as an appendix.
What is most powerful about this book though are the clearly defined questions which result in conversations that are capable of transforming the nature of human systems. These conversations change our thinking about how we relate to each other, how we understand the notion of belonging and how we encourage the bringing of our collective gifts into our communities.
This book challenges us to become the citizens that we need to be to create the communities we want to live in. In this time in which we live it is hard for me to imagine something more important than that.