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Community: The Structure of Belonging by…

Community: The Structure of Belonging

by Peter Block

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How can a community promote a sense of belonging in its citizens? Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block lays out an ideology for transforming communities and engaging citizens through conversation. The book is challenging to read and is more focused on philosophy than implementation. However, the ideas are worth reading and worth considering as communities continue to struggle with promoting a sense of belonging in all their citizens.

Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2015/12/community-structure-of-belonging.html ( )
  njmom3 | Dec 14, 2015 |
In-speaking gobbledygook written in breathy prose, reimpregnating normally comprehensible words with new meaning, this tome comes dangerously close to proving George Orwell right. I should have taken the author's advice on page 32, and read no further. ( )
  zappa | Nov 5, 2013 |
Peter Block shows, in his work and his presentations, that it doesn’t take much effort to initiate the process of building and strengthening communities—just a few people willing to gather and cross barriers they don’t normally cross so that ideas flow freely and exchanges strengthen relationships. It's all about engagement—that moment when people are drawn together by a common interest or goal and, in the process, begin to build the sort of communities which result in long-lasting and productive collaborations. "Community" is a concise, well organized, and compelling primer for anyone interested in exploring and understanding how to create, nurture, and facilitate productive communities. ( )
  paulsignorelli | Nov 25, 2010 |
"The future is created one room at a time, one gathering at a time."

In an effort to expand my own knowledge and to become better connected to the concepts that power the field of planning, I read a respectable amount of planning related literature. Most of the literature takes a concept, explains it, provides some examples of how that concept is being used in other places, and then provides a stepping off point for others interested in integrating that concept into the planning efforts within their own jurisdiction. Community is not that book.

The author, Peter Block, attempts to create a more transformative dialog related to the concept of community engagement. Rather than tossing out some tried and true ideas that the reader might be looking for more information on, Block presents a more revolutionary narrative. With an extremely calm, collected demeanor Block explains the current situation as it relates to community and then shows how community can become more open, more engaging, and more inclusive. Block's model moves away from the more standard approaches that inevitably fuel the dichotomies often present in our communities today toward a model structured around understanding and belonging. Block also moves away from illustrating a cookie-cutter technique and instead illustrates the broad concepts that we can employee to create this dialog. The reader is granted an opportunity to fill in the appropriate gaps in order to make Block's ideas fit their needs.

Block's ideas of communities lend power to the individuals that occupy them. Citizens have control of their own future and aren't represented by "leaders" in a traditional sense. "In communal transformation, leadership is about intention, convening, valuing relatedness, and presenting choices." Block advocates for leaders that create opportunities to bring people together. Those individuals are "conveners" of meetings and aren't there to direct the conversations taking place, but instead they are there to ensure that the conditions are optimized for the conversations that need to take place.

I was intrigued by the concepts of questions and answers that Block presents. Instead of centering meetings around providing answers to questions, meetings can focus on presenting the right questions. Block theorizes that questions provide more openness and potential than answers which often doom us to repeat the past. Block also examines advice under a similar light pointing out that advice only limits our potential to the techniques that have been explored by those giving the advice.

I believe that the inclusive model that Block presents in Community: the Structure of Belonging is one that should be examined by community leaders and local government officials. Inclusion is often conspicuously absent in the meetings that shape our community. By bringing everyone to the table and creating an environment that allows everyone equal standing, we can create communities that perpetuate a feeling of belonging. This level of inclusion is a moral imperative in building community and it prevents efforts that perpetuate the isolation and marginalization. In reality inclusion is the only path to building true community.

Block presents his case in a format that allows the reader to incorporate his model into their community meetings. He gives vivid examples of areas where similar ideas have been employed and he shows how his ideas can be merged into our system of community engagement. Community: the Structure of Belonging is a great companion to the Organizer's Handbook. Block reaches a much greater level of detail and provides a graphic explanation as to why each concept is important (down to seemingly minute details such as room arrangement). Block's writing style is approachable, interesting, and extremely motivational. Block provides the information possible to enable us to "shift our conversations from the problems of community to the possibility of community". ( )
  josh.oconner | Jun 6, 2010 |
I read this nonfiction book as part of Pikes Peak Library District's All Pikes Peak Reads program, and thought it would be interesting to me as a former leader of a small nonprofit community organization.

The book did have some good ideas about a different approach to creating better communities. Leaders need to change their roles, we need to stop looking at our communities as just problems to be solved, responsibility, accountability, and commitment have new nuances, and this book proposes a generally different way of approaching community than has been the norm.

Unfortunately, I found the book to be fairly dry. I put it down for several weeks, and then picked it up again, but found myself skimming through parts of it quickly. Most interesting were some real-life examples of how people and organizations have put theory into practice. There is an entire section of specific role models and resources, and for those who don't want to read the whole book, a “book at a glance” section. I think this is a good book for organizations that need some new life, communities that need a new approach, but I believe it could have been better written. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Dec 20, 2009 |
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Modern society is plagued by fragmentation. The various sectors of our communities - businesses, schools, social services, churches, government - do not work together. This book explores a way of thinking about that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make that happen.… (more)

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