The Abundant Community

Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods

by John McKnight, Peter Block

Publication date: 05/01/2010

The Abundant Community
Recommends how we can create richer, more fulfilling lives and break our dependency on the consumer economy.
  • Copublished with the American Planning Association
  • Reveals the invisible but immense impact that consumerism has had on the fabric of our families and communities
  • Recommends how we can create richer, more fulfilling lives and break our dependency on the consumer economy

This book is about a new possibility for us together to discover the real basis for a satisfying life. It is a life that becomes possible when we join our neighbors in creating a community that nurtures our family and makes us useful citizens.

We are besieged by messages from consumer society telling us that we are insufficient, that we must purchase what we need from specialists and systems outside the community. We outsource our health care, child care, relationships, recreation, our safety, and our satisfaction. We are trained to become consumers and clients, not citizens and neighbors. McKnight and Block take a thoughtful look at how this situation came about, what maintains it, and the crippling effect it has had on our families, our communities, and our environment.

Right in our neighborhood we have the capacity to address our human needs in ways that systems, which see us only as interchangeable units, as problems to be solved, never can. We all have gifts to offer, even the most seemingly marginal among us. It does not matter how rich or poor the neighborhood is. McKnight and Block suggest how to nurture voluntary, self-organizing structures that will reveal these gifts and allow them to be shared to the greatest mutual benefit. They recommend roles we can assume and actions we can take to reweave the social fabric that has been unraveled by consumerism and its belief that however much we have, it is not enough.

Each neighborhood has poeple with gifts and talents needed to provide for our prosperity and peace of mind -- this book offers practical ways to discover them. It gives voice to the ideas of an abundant community. It reminds us of our power to create a hope-filled life. It assures us that when we join together with our neighbors, we are the architects of the future where we want to live.

Block Mc Knight

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Overview

Recommends how we can create richer, more fulfilling lives and break our dependency on the consumer economy.

  • Copublished with the American Planning Association
  • Reveals the invisible but immense impact that consumerism has had on the fabric of our families and communities
  • Recommends how we can create richer, more fulfilling lives and break our dependency on the consumer economy

This book is about a new possibility for us together to discover the real basis for a satisfying life. It is a life that becomes possible when we join our neighbors in creating a community that nurtures our family and makes us useful citizens.

We are besieged by messages from consumer society telling us that we are insufficient, that we must purchase what we need from specialists and systems outside the community. We outsource our health care, child care, relationships, recreation, our safety, and our satisfaction. We are trained to become consumers and clients, not citizens and neighbors. McKnight and Block take a thoughtful look at how this situation came about, what maintains it, and the crippling effect it has had on our families, our communities, and our environment.

Right in our neighborhood we have the capacity to address our human needs in ways that systems, which see us only as interchangeable units, as problems to be solved, never can. We all have gifts to offer, even the most seemingly marginal among us. It does not matter how rich or poor the neighborhood is. McKnight and Block suggest how to nurture voluntary, self-organizing structures that will reveal these gifts and allow them to be shared to the greatest mutual benefit. They recommend roles we can assume and actions we can take to reweave the social fabric that has been unraveled by consumerism and its belief that however much we have, it is not enough.

Each neighborhood has poeple with gifts and talents needed to provide for our prosperity and peace of mind -- this book offers practical ways to discover them. It gives voice to the ideas of an abundant community. It reminds us of our power to create a hope-filled life. It assures us that when we join together with our neighbors, we are the architects of the future where we want to live.

Block Mc Knight

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - John McKnight



John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University and is cofounder and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute.



For nearly three decades, John McKnight has conducted research on social service delivery systems, health policy, community organizations, neighborhood policy, and institutional racism. He currently directs research projects focused on asset-based neighborhood development and methods of community building by incorporating marginalized people.



McKnight has been associated with many of the Institute's major research projects since he joined the organization in 1969. These have included research on the urban determinants of health, law enforcement, urban disinvestment and metropolitan government, deinstitutionalized child welfare services, police anticrime programs, and the effects of the perception of crime upon community responses. He also directed the Chicago Innovations Forum, an IPR-based dialogue among neighborhood leaders and innovators in economic, political and social development.



Much of his recent work on asset-based community development is captured in McKnight's co-authored book, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets

(1993), which has circulated through a broad range of community, government, business, nonprofit, and educational institutions in the United States and Canada. Articles McKnight has written over the past two decades were published in The Careless Society

(1995). McKnight serves on the Board of Directors of numerous community organizations including the Gamaliel Foundation and The National Training and Information Center. Before joining Northwestern, McKnight directed the Midwest office of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.



Visit Author Page - Peter Block

Peter Block is an author, consultant and citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. His work is about empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community. Peter is the author of several bestselling books, the most widely known of which are Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used (1st edition 1980, 2nd edition 1999); Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest (1993) and The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work (1987). Peter is the recipient of the Organization Development Network's 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004 he received their first place Members’ Choice Award, which recognized Flawless Consulting as the most influential book for OD practitioners over the past 40 years.

In 2008, Community: The Structure of Belonging was published, and his latest book, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbhoods, co-authored with John McKnight, was released in May 2010.

He has also authored Flawless Consulting Fieldbook & Companion: A Guide to Understanding Your Expertise (2000). The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters (2002) won that year's Independent Book Publisher Book Award for Business Breakthrough Book of the Year. Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophic Insight to the Real World was co-authored with consultant and philosopher Peter Koestenbaum (2001).

The books are about ways to create workplaces and communities that work for all. They offer an alternative to the patriarchal beliefs that dominate our culture. His work is to bring change into the world through consent and connectedness rather than through mandate and force.

He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Peter to build the skills outlined in his books. He received a Masters Degree in Industrial Administration from Yale University in 1963; he performed his undergraduate work at the University of Kansas.

Peter serves on the Board of Directors of Cincinnati Classical Public Radio and Elementz Hip Hop Center in Cincinnati. Peter is on the Advisory Board for the Festival in the Workplace Institute, Bahamas. With other volunteers, Peter began A Small Group, whose work is to create a new community narrative and to bring his work on civic engagement into being.

He has received national awards for outstanding contributions in the field of training and development, including the American Society for Training and Development Award for Distinguished Contributions; the Association for Quality and Participation President’s Award; and Training Magazine HRD Hall of Fame.

Peter welcomes being contacted at pbi@att.net.  Also visit Abundant Community website.

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Table of Contents

Welcome

Introduction

The Elements of Satisfaction

The Universal Properties

Part One: The Shift from Citizen to Consumer

Chapter 1: The Limits of Consumption

Chapter 2: What Did We Lose and Where Did It Go?

Chapter 3: The Effects of Living in a Consumer World

Part Two: Choosing a Satisfied Life

Chapter 4: The Abundant Community

Chapter 5: Community Abundance in Action

Part Three: Creating Abundance

Chapter 6: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods

Chapter 7: The Power of Connectors

Notes

Resources

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Authors

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Excerpt

The Abundant Community

Introduction

THERE IS A GROWING movement of people with a different vision for their local communities. They know that real satisfaction and the good life cannot be provided by corporations, institutions, or systems. No number of great executives, central offices, technical innovations, or long-range plans can produce what a community can produce. People are discovering that satisfying possibilities for their lives are in the neighborhood, not in the marketplace.

In many nations, local people have come together to pursue a common calling. They are groups of local people who have the courage to discover their own way—to create a culture made by their own vision. It is a handmade, homemade vision. And wherever we look, it is a culture that starts the same way, with an awakening:

First, we see the abundance that we have—individually, as neighbors, and in this place of ours.

Second, we know that the power of what we have grows from creating new connections and relationships among and between what we have.

Third, we know that these connections are no accident. They happen when we individually or collectively act to make the connections—they don’t just happen by themselves.

We also know that these three steps, which awaken us to our abundance, not our scarcities, can often be undermined by great corporate, governmental, professional, and academic institutions. By their nature as systems, they say to us, “You are inadequate, incompetent, problematic, or broken. We will fix you. Go back to sleep.”

It is our calling as citizens to ignore the voices that create dependency, for we are called to find our own way—not to follow their way.

Most all of us live in a democracy, a politics that gives us the freedom to create our vision and the power to make that vision come true. We strive to be citizens—people with the vision and the power to create our own way, a culture of community capacity, connection, and care.

Unfortunately, many leaders and even some neighbors think the idea of a strong local community is something that’s sort of “nice,” a luxury if you have the spare time, but not really important, vital, or necessary. However, we know from our work in communities around the globe that strong communities are vital, productive, and important. And above all, they are necessary because of the inherent limits of all institutions.

No matter how hard they try, our very best institutions cannot do many things that only we can do. And the things that only we can do as a family and a neighborhood are vital to a decent, good, satisfied life.

The Elements of Satisfaction

People in the movement know what only we have the power to do as local neighbors and citizens. All the elements of satisfaction grow out of an abundant community:

image Our neighborhoods are the primary source of our Health. How long we live and how often we are sick are determined by our personal behaviors, our social relationships, our physical environment, and our income. We are the people who can change these things, individually and with our neighbors. Medical systems and doctors cannot. This is why scientists agree that medical care accounts for a small proportion of what allows us to be healthy. Indeed, most informed medical leaders advocate for community health initiatives because they recognize that medical systems have reached the limits of their health-giving power.

image Whether we are Safe and Secure in our neighborhood is largely within our domain. Many studies show that there are two major determinants of our local safety.1 One is how many neighbors we know by name. The other is how often we are present and associated in public— outside our houses. Police activity is a minor protection compared with these two community actions. This is why most informed police leaders advocate for block watch and community policing. They know their limits and call on citizens to become connected.

image The future of our earth—the Environment—is a major local responsibility. The “energy problem” is our local domain because how we transport ourselves, how we heat and light our homes, and how much waste we create are major factors in saving our earth. That is why this movement is a major force in calling us and our neighbors to be citizens of the earth and not just consumers of the natural wealth.

image In our neighborhoods and villages, we have the power to build a resilient Economy one less dependent on the megasystems of finance and production that have proved to be so unreliable. Most enterprise begins locally, in garages, basements, and dining rooms. The first dollars in any new business come from family and friends, not banks or venture capitalists. As families and neighbors, we have the local power to nurture and support these businesses so that they have a viable market. And we have the local power to preserve our own savings so that we are not captives of financial institutions.

We also are the most reliable sources of jobs, for in many nations, word of mouth among friends and neighbors is still the most important access to employment. The future of our economic security is now clearly a responsibility and growing necessity for local people.

image We are coming to see that we have a profound local responsibility for the Food we eat. We are allied with the local food movement, supporting local producers and markets. In this way, we do our part to solve the energy problem caused by transportation of food from continents away. We do our part to solve our economic problems by circulating our dollars locally. And we improve our health by eating food free of poisons, petroleum, and processing. This means that real health care reform is in our hands, not just in the hands of legislators and industries.

image We are local people who must raise our Children. We all say that it takes a village to raise a child. And yet, in modernized societies, this is rarely true. Instead, we pay systems to raise our children— teachers, counselors, coaches, youth workers, nutritionists, doctors, and McDonald’s.

We are often reduced as families to being responsible for paying others to teach, watch, and know our children, and to transport them to their paid child raisers. Our villages have often become useless— our neighbors responsible for neither their children nor ours. As a result, everywhere we talk about the local “youth problem.” There is no “youth problem.” There is a neighborhood problem: adults who have forgone their responsibility and capacity to join their neighbors in sharing the wealth of children. It is our greatest challenge and our most hopeful possibility.

image Locally, we are the site of Care. Our institutions can offer only service—not care—for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another; it cannot be purchased. As neighbors, we care for each other. We care for our children. We care for our elders. We care for those most vulnerable among us. It is this care that is the basic power of a community of citizens. Care cannot be provided, managed, or purchased from systems.

Health, safety, environment, economy, food, children, and care are the seven responsibilities of an abundant community and its citizens. They are the necessities that only we can fulfill. And when we fail, no institution or government can succeed. Because we are the veritable foundation of the society.

The Universal Properties

At the heart of our movement are three universal properties. A community becomes powerful and competent when it awakens these properties. They become the source of power in families and neighborhoods. Here are the three basics of our calling:

The Giving of Gifts—The gifts of the people in our neighborhood are boundless. Our movement calls forth those gifts.

The Presence of Association—In association we join our gifts together, and they become amplified, magnified, productive, and celebrated.

The Compassion of Hospitality—We welcome strangers because we value their gifts and need to share our own. Our doors are open. There are no strangers here, just friends we haven’t met.

These are the properties of a community of abundance. There is no limit to our gifts, our associations, and our hospitality.

This can all be considered a calling. We are the people who know what we need. What we need surrounds us. What we need is each other. And when we act together, we will create competence in our community and satisfaction in our lives.

We are called to nothing less. And it is not so wild a dream. It requires only that we create with our hands and in our homes what we once thought we could purchase.


A NOTE TO THE READER (YOU)

We want to define three terms we use interchangeably, even though they have different specific meanings; these are the terms association, neighborhood, and community. Here is how we mean them:

Association is three or more people who come together by choice and mostly without pay because of a common interest. The common interest may be simply to be together, or it may be to change the world.

A neighborhood is the place where you live and sleep. It could be your block or the square mile surrounding where you live. It may or may not have a name.

The word community is more difficult, but we use it as a general term to describe what occurs outside systems and institutions. It also refers to an aggregation of people or neighborhoods that have something in common. It is both a place and an experience of connectedness. When we use the term community competence, we mean the capacity of the place where we live to be useful to us, to support us in creating those things that can only be produced in the surroundings of a connected community. When we talk of a community way, it is all of the above: people outside institutions, connected by choice and usually affection, who together decide what they want to participate in creating.


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Endorsements

"The Abundant Community is a book that reminds us that our greatest strength as a people comes from the gifts of caring, aware communities and neighborhoods."

-- Frances Strickland, educational psychologist and First Lady of Ohio


"In this slim volume there is theory and there is practice but above all, hope and a way out of the disconnectedness of our society. It reminds us that the success of the American democratic experiment lies in the hands of its citizens."

-- James Keene, City Manager, Palo Alto, California


"The Abudant Community presents an elegant and compelling argument...A powerful statement that can simultaneously enable our everyday politics and enrich our souls."

-- Carmen Sirianni, Morris Hillquit Professor of Labor and Social Thought, Brandeis University, and author of Investing in Democracy

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