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A Pattern Language for Community Building

by eloepthien on July 24th, 2010



The age of the leader as a person of charisma and fatherliness is over.

The present asks for community conveners who are able to create structures that give all power to the people.

Our collective intelligence and wisdom are the main resources to heal our human state of being and our relationship with the earth. So how can we unfold them?

The author and consultant Peter Block works mainly in the field of citizen empowerment and the reconciliation of community. In his book “Community. The Structure of Belonging“, he melts a variety of sources into a pattern language for creating structures for community building.

John McKnight

  • Focus on people’s GIFTS instead of their deficiencies and problems
  • Realize the limitations of professional systems that are capable of service, but not able to care. Instead create space for ASSOCIATIONAL LIFE, where people get together voluntarily to do good.
  • Have faith in the ability of people to identify and solve problems for themselves and support them in discovering their own POWER to act.

Werner Erhard and Landmark Education

  • A shift in speaking and listening is the essence of transformation. If we want change, we need to CHANGE OUR CONVERSATIONS.
  • By changing our relationship with the past and accepting the fact that our stories are our limitations we can CHOOSE A CONTEXT that better suits who we want to be.
  • By making a declaration of what we create every time we show up in the world we bring a POSSIBILITY into being, something that occurs on a moment to moment base.

Robert Putnam

  • Foster SOCIAL CAPITAL, which refers to social networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance and trustworthiness.
  • Instead of solely relying on bonding social capital (networks that are generally more inward looking and composed of like minded people), it is important to focus on BRIDGING social capital that encompasses different types of people and tends to be more outward looking.

Christopher Alexander

  • Make sure that a quality of ALIVENESS is present in each step in the design and creation of the structure, for it to be present in the final product.
  • A sense of WHOLENESS grows out of a collection of seperate “centers”. Each center has a life or intensity which depends on the life or intensity of the others.
  • In architecture there are 15 patterns that create whole and alive centers, e.g. Deep Interlock, Ambiguity, Contrast, Roughness, Simplicity, Inner Calm, Non-Seperatedness and more
  • Transformation can only happen in an UNFOLDING way, wich means we need to give uncomfortable importance to every small step we take. Each DETAIL can become a center.

Peter Koestenbaum

  • Value ambiguity and anxiety as a natural condition of being human and APPRECIATE PARADOX.
  • Be willing to reframe, turn and even invert a QUESTION that creates depth and an opening for change to happen.
  • Acknowledge your FREEDOM to influence/create your own experience and accept the responsibility that goes with it.
  • Choose to BE ACCOUNTABLE and support others in accepting and acting on their freedom, too.

Large Group Methodology (e.g. The World Café)

  • People need to PARTICIPATE in deciding and creating something to become accountable and committed. And most people involved have access to the collective wisdom that can solve a problem.
  • Create any gathering or process always in such a way, that it is A LIVING EXAMPLE of what we want the future to be. This way the future already shows up as we are gathering.
  • All voices need to be heard but not necessarily all at the same time. Almost everything important happens in a SMALL GROUP first (six to twelve people).
  • Peer-to-peer interaction is where the most learning takes place.
  • Cultivate a BIAS TOWARDS THE FUTURE. Give little or no time to discussing the past or to areas where there will never be agreement anyway. One of the most powerful conversation starters to bring about self-organisation is “What do we want to create together?”
  • How we STRUCTURE THE GATHERING is as worthy of attention as the content or direct result of it.

David Bornstein

  • Sustainable changes in community occur locally, grassrooty and on a SMALL SCALE.
  • They happen SLOWLY.

Allan Cohen

  • EMERGENCE: Effective change strategies begin with a sense of purpose and the commitment to bring something into the world. Then you need to acknowledge that organizations are evolving by always learning and adapting. So as you are creating, watch what emerges, pause, reflect and correct the course.
  • Consider to CHANGE THE CONDITIONS that an intention is acted upon. An example would be to “herd” cats (which is considered impossible) by tilting the floor.

(PHOTOGRAPH: Community Conversation as taken by the author at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, CA.)

Block’s book is rich in more tipps, details and real life examples. You can find out more by clicking the link below.

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