In the Company of Others —Resources for Community Building

The title of this section comes from a collection of essays edited by Claude Whitmyer on the subject of building community in the modern world. I have had the privilege of being a part of and interacting with multiple micro-communities like family, science, dance, massage, music, running, and backpacking. Each has it's own language and own tempo and manner of coming together. One of the drawbacks of the modern world, however, is that often those who provide our sense of community are often scattered about like leaves in the wind and require conscious commitment and energy to maintain. Rarely, in this diverse and fast-paced society, can we come out of our doors and find our cultural village moving before our eyes with the rhythm of it's life. For these reasons, I offer this small collection of books and links.

 

  Articles

Process and Ceremony -- Musings on Culture and Community (HTML)

This material is compiled from several postings I made to the Body Work email list in 1997-1998. Partly, these postings were motivated by some periods of intense discussion and partly by my own ongoing ponderings on the creation and role of community. The writing is strongly influenced by other writings on the American Southwest.

   

A Parable on Flexibility & Dual Relationships (HTML)

Hearing a flat statement proscribing all dual relationships prompted me into pondering how far and inflexibly one could take this, irrespective of the situation or who the client was. Could there be situations in which the presumed imbalance of power in favor of the therapist did not exist? Could there also be situations in which blind adherence to well meant rules acted only to limit larger benefits to all involved? How far could I go in looking at this theme? My muse hassled me unrelentingly until I began to type out this parable.

 

  Books

Ellinor, Linda, and Glenna Gerard, 1998: Dialogue : Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation, John Wiley & Sons, hardcover, $35, ISBN 0-4711-7466-1.

The practice of Dialogue, though as old as mankind itself, is revolutionizing today's business world. Dialogue is a way of conversing and thinking together that dissolves barriers and creates organizational cultures energized by collaboration and partnership. In this book, readers learn how to use the full range of Dialogue methods, including its four fundamental techniques: suspension of judgment, listening, identification of assumptions, and inquiring/reflection.

   

Gozdz, Kazimierz, 1996: Community Building : Renewing Spirit & Learning in Business, New Leaders Pr, hardcover, $38, ISBN 0-9630-3905-9.

What does it take to develop a sense of community in today's productivity-driven workplace? What models do we have for re-creating an environment that we once took for granted? What processes and priorities can we establish so we can have work situations where we feel connected, supported, and safe with our co-workers?

This book promises the reader greater understanding of the need for community methodologies for renewing this spirit and our ability to learn together. It includes examples of organizations which are presently developing climates of community in the workplace.

   

Heckler, Richard Strozzi, 1997: Holding the Center: Sanctuary in a Time of Confusion -- Writings on Place, Community, and Body, Frog Ltd., Berkeley Calif., ISBN: 1-883319-54-4

Psychotherapist Heckler applies his ideas about mastery and skillful action to the natural world, the family and marriage, and community. Heckler draws from personal experience, training his horse, cultivating presence in Aikido dojos, consulting with business executive, and raising children.

   

Hesselbein, Frances, Marshall Goldsmith, Richard Beckhard, and Richard Schubert, Editors, 1998: The Community of the Future, The Drucker Foundation Future Series, Jossey-Bass Publishers. hardcover, $26, ISBN 0-7879-1006-6.

Hesselbeim is president of the Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, and she and her coeditors have gathered work that aims for a "greater understanding of community in [all] its many forms." Twenty-four original essays from a diverse and noteworthy collection of authors consider trends shaping the evolution of community, the values of community, the impact of communications technology, creating communities within organizations, strengthening the social fabric, and the global dimensions of community. Among them, Stephen Covey describes "The Ideal Community" and Howard Rheingold contemplates "Virtual Communities."

   

Peck, M. Scott, 1998: Different Drum -- Community Making & Peace, Touchstone Books, reprint ed., paperback, $14, ISBN 0-6848-4858-9

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck discusses that a true community can only grow out of a journey through chaos. You start with a pseudocommunity, where everyone is nice because they haven't yet engaged their underlying issues. Then you enter chaos and disruption. The paths out are either organization, meaning someone can externally, at least for a time, impose order, or other choice is community, Creating community involves giving up preconceptions and agendas and starting to share and open up as things are, not as you wish them to be. And yes, sometimes community slips back into chaos now and again. Community, whether personal or professional takes persistence, commitment, and a willingness to be vulnerable and having your toes squashed now and again -- but then life is a dance so what did you expect?

   

Sandra, Jaida N'Ha, and the editors of Utne Reader, 1997: The Joy of Conversation -- The complete guide to salons, Utne Reader, paperback, ISBN 0-9653-8160-9

"Since our distant ancestors first gathered around the fire, most cultures have had some social form like the salon. It's just basic to being human -- people need to get together and talk over the things they care about and believe in. The current resurgence of salons may herald a turning point in American history. Indeed, salons could be the antidote for the alienation and malaise that currently infects much of America. They're fun. They're glamorous, and evocative of 17th Century Paris. And yet they're simple to produce. I believe they might even change the world. Are you up for a cultural revolution?" — Eric Utne, from his introduction to The Joy of Conversation

   

Shaffer, Carolyn R., and Kristin Anundsen, 1993: Creating community anywhere -- Finding support and connection in a fragmented world, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigree, paperback, $16, ISBN 0-8747-7746-1

The old neighborhoods or small towns in which generations shared lore, helping hands, and news, good and bad, have nearly disappeared; but there is an option for replacing the support and resources our ancestors took for granted. Shaffer and Anundsen define community as "groups of people who play, work, learn, and celebrate together." They set out specifics on how to organize, manage, and enjoy such groups across geographic, age, and other boundaries. Among the alternatives discussed in depth are cohousing arrangements, computer linkups, sports teams, and workplace communities. Leadership and participatory how-tos are spelled out, as are conflict resolution tips. Each chapter closes with recommended resources.

   

Whitmyer, Claude, ed., 1993: In the company of others -- Making community in the modern world, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigree, paperback, $19, ISBN 0-8747-7735-6

There is something about being human that makes us yearn for the company of others, to be members of a family of the spirit, a team, or a clan in which we are fully seen and understood. Stuck inside our own skins, we often feel alone and cut off; we want to be with others who share our problems, challenges, and hopes. Today people everywhere are finding ways of ending their sense of isolation by joining together in loosely and tightly structure communities of peers. In the Company of Others explores how people are solving the dilemma of separation and building deep community.

   
Also see the books that I have included in the McKinnon Institute annotated bibliography under the section on Metaphor & Story. In many cultures, there is a tradition of teaching stories. Such stories often speak directly to the heart and spirit, avoiding the resistance of the conscious mind.

 

  Links

  Resources on community building for those who desire to improve the larger contexts of culture and community
   
Civic Practices Network -- Health
Civic Practices Network
Co-Intelligence Institute
Community in the Workplace Website
Community Toolbox by the University of Kansas
Community Works Toolbox
Connect For Kids --Building Communities for Kids and Families
Context Institute's Sustainable Culture Information Service
Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA
FCE: The Foundation for Community Encouragement - community building worldwide
Butler, C.T., and Amy Rothstein, 1987: On Conflict and Consensus a handbook on Formal Consensus decision-making , (PDF, 274 KB). In a world in which decision-making is often viewed as securing a majority that enables one to ram one's view down the throats of your opponents, Butler and Rothstein offer an excellent outline of how to make decisions via the inclusive process of consensus without getting bogged down.
Intentional Communities
Network Home -- Interaction for Conflict Resolution
Pew Partnership for Civic Change
Resources for meeting and group process
Sustainable Communities Network (SCN)
Thinking & Communication Skills
Thinking Locally, Acting Locally: Community-Based Processes and Internet Communication

 

The background music for this page was obtained from Lesley Nelson's Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and America. The Scottish-American tune Mist Covered Mountains stems from the times of the highland clearances and the desire to once again be in the place, hear the tongue, and be surrounded by the community of one's home. Nelson's page gives more on the words and history of this tune.

 

Keith Eric Grant — The RamblemuseSM, 23 December 2002. All rights reserved.