Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Community: The Structure of Belonging

Sai's Comments:

I have reproduced below excerpts from material I recently came across which I thought speaks to the heart of what Fiji is struggling through at this time - how to reignite a sense of community to a people who have been brutalised and shattered due to the despotic policies of an illegal regime that is backed by guns.

The commentary and narrative, I believe, hold some useful insights on how Fiji could again restore its lost sense of belonging as a community and a nation. The current regime in Fiji would do well to enlighten their thinking with it. For this to happen, they must stop "commanding" and instead begin "convening or facilitating" opportunities where citizens speak openly of the future they see for themselves in Fiji.

Then and only then, will people be able to play a full part in Fiji's resurrection. Otherwise, it is a future determined for them by others.


"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."

In his book, Community - The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block explores how community can emerge from fragmentation, how community is built, how transformation occurs, and what individuals and formal leaders can do to create a place they want to inhabit. The kind of transformation that can occur in community starting from powerful questions, other than just talk, include:

-Invitation replaces mandate, policy and alignment
-Possibility replaces problem solving
-Ownership and Cause replace explanation and denial
-Dissent and Refusal replace resignation and lip service
-Commitment replaces hedge and barter
-Gifts replace deficiencies


"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. Peter 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, Peter 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:
  1. Conversations for Inviting
  2. Conversations for Possibility
  3. Conversations for Ownership
  4. Conversations for Dissent
  5. Conversations for Commitment
  6. Conversations of Gifts.

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