In this seminar, Paul Born speaks with Peter Block about the emerging narrative of community that results when we shift our thinking from reforming what is to focusing upon the alternative we want to create. This is done in small groups through conversations that emphasize one another's gifts.
To explore the power of community in these times
To highlight the distinction between reform and change
To consider elements of the new narrative for community
Paul Born - Paul Born is a master storyteller who infuses his work, relationships, community and life with the magic of conversation. He is the author of three books including the highly acclaimed Community Conversations and the newly released Creating Vibrant Communities which tells the story of a national collaborative that has to date helped over 147,000 people living in poverty. His Masters thesis entitled Leaderful Communities was recently published in Germany.
Paul is the President and co-founder of Tamarack - An Institute for Community Engagement, Canada's leading authority on community change and collaborative leadership. He has been internationally recognized, with awards from the United Nations, The Conference Board, Imagine, and the Governor General of Canada for his innovative approaches to community development. Paul holds a Masters in Leadership and lives in Waterloo Canada. He is a Mennonite inspired by Yoga and Buddhism, and a dad who loves to cook.
Peter opens by sharing his perspective of what's happening in the world. Acknowledging that opposites always co-exist, Peter describes the dominant view of the past thirty years being primarily one of centralization and fundamentalism...a world filled with certainty. However, at the same time, he is witnessing a newer alternative now beginning to emerge. In the following clip, Peter describes that there are countless "little things" that are part of a new pattern that signals this new alternative.
Before answering this question, Peter offers listeners a caution: "Don't avoid seeing what is." It is important that we see the reality of what's going on around us and acknowledge it but then avoid putting your energy into "reforming" it. In fact, Peter states clearly that he does not believe that "reform efforts" have any power. Listen in the clip below as Peter offers his thoughts about where our energy and emphasis should be focused.
The work of embracing the new reality that is emerging is a lot about shifting our own thinking rather than trying to reform what and how things currently are in small ways. At the core, this requires us to give voice to an alternative future, shifting our narrative towards one that is a communal narrative. This shift will also invite us to change our relationship to things and to each other. In the following clip, Peter describes this shift in narrative.
Peter understands that conversations are central to any effort to change the world's dominant narrative. This is done by asking questions in small groups, focusing on what's working and emphasizing "gift-mindedness". Peter also acknowledges that part of this work involves "making visible and central what was invisible and peripheral." Ultimately this is work that requires a focus on details and a willingness to go slow. Listen here as Peter describes these various elements and envisions them being put into action.
Peter is clear that individual change in isolation won't generate a change in the dominant narrative that we are seeking. A central element of this work is to help people overcome their feelings of isolation because when we feel alone we feel powerless. The essence of these ideas is outlined by Peter in the following clip:
Peter shares that his own thinking is expanded when he "goes into unfamiliar places" and reads the work of others whose world view and/or field of study is quite different from his own. Citing authors from the fields of religion, economics, new journalism, art, health care and education, he provides listeners with a diverse list of recommended readings to ground in as they unfold this work. Listen in the following clip as Peter outlines some of his favourite recommended readings.
Today's youth, with their ease and access to technology and social media, seem to view community globally rather than locally. In response to a question about how to engage youth in deep and rich conversations through social media, Peter shares his thoughts and ideas about engaging youth. Listen in the following clip as Peter describes what he believes youth are longing for and what he believes is the best question to ask them.
In response to a question about the work of revitalizing neighbourhoods, Peter makes a distinction between meeting your neighbours and getting to know them. Ultimately building strong neighbourhoods is about helping neighbours to understand how to share their gifts with one another and work together to care for the space where they live. In the following clip, Peter describes the essence of this work, which he describes as "connecting the social fabric of a physical space."
Abundant Community - This website profile's Peter's collaborative work with John McKnight on Abundant Communities. In addition to profiling the book itself, this site also features blogs, resources, tools and other links to further this work in community.
What in the Name of Reform - Peter's most recent article in Engage! articulates the short-comings he sees with the reform paradigm and outlines an alternative model for thinking about supporting meaningful change within communities.