Community is a way of being, says Peter Block


Renowned author and thought leader presents Oct. 6 Vancouver workshop
Wednesday October 12, 2011 — Camille Jensen

VANCOUVER – We all have the capacity to create community through our actions every day, participants of an Oct. 6 workshop recently learned.

Hosted by the British Columbia Association for Community Living (BCACL), Everyone Belongs: Learning to Lead Authentic Conversations that Transform Communities, brought together more than 200 people to hear prominent author and thought leader Peter Block present.

Block, whose most recent book is The Abundant Community co-authored by John McKnight, welcomed participants, outlining how the day must be an example of its desire to build community.

Peter Block

“It’s not just where (we) live, it’s a way of being,” explained Peter.

A way of being that starts with welcoming strangers. According to Peter, we live in a culture that encourages like-mindedness, isolating us from the strange and decreasing our ability to grow and learn from others with different perspectives.

“We just can’t be among ourselves any longer,” says Peter, adding technology is amplifying like mindedness by grouping people with others who like what they like or buy what they buy.

“Without you as a stranger, I will never be surprised.”

As part of welcoming strangers, Squamish and Coast Salish First Nations and the Universal Gospel choir were invited to share their gifts of song and dance throughout the day.

Discovering your own gifts — what you are good at and what you enjoy doing — and asking the same of others is another attribute to building community, according to Peter.

“If you want to change the world, walk your block, knock on doors and ask ‘Is there anything you know how to do that you’d be willing to share with other people in this neighbourhood?’”

When coming together as a community, the conversations also count. Peter had participants organize in small groups, three to four people is the unit of transformation, to answer a series of questions sets. Designed by Peter, the questions get to issues of responsibility, doubt, gifts and possibility, and have the potential to be transformative.

“All transformation is linguistic,” Peter said. “What’s the means by which to create a future that is distinct from the past? The means is to engage people in conversations they haven’t had before. Old, predictable conversations are a defence against reform.”

When listening to other people share their answers, Peter asked participants to abstain from offering advice or help, which contributes to a patriarchal culture, replacing this desire with a curiosity that asks “Why is this meaningful to you?

Karen De Long, BCACL’s director of community development and event organizer, says there was a buzz in the room from Peter’s presentation.

“I think Peter really pushed people to think about different questions that maybe they hadn’t thought about before,” she says, adding seeing participants sharing in small groups was energizing.

“I know people left inspired and (excited) about implementing some of his ideas around how to get people together.”

Peter’s workshop is based on ideas presented in The Abundant Community and Community: The Structure of Belonging. To learn more about Peter’s work on building community, click here.

If you have feedback on this article please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051 or e-mail camille(at)


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