Worldwide Conversation on Community

Last Friday I joined about 180 souls from around the world on a conference call in the Conversations for the 21st Century series. The topic for this call was Community and we began by hearing from three conversation starters (Maria Scordialos and Sarah Whiteley, Peter Block and Nancy White) who were asked to speak to three questions:

  1. How do you use and understand community in your work?
  2. How or what are you personally inspired by community?
  3. How do you see the concept of community evolving in future?

The gifts I took from their springboard were how we must also remember “place” and the non-material beings when we invite others into conversation (e.g. invite in the city by hosting in the city); one dimension of community is neighbourhood and what we can do within walking distance, how all transformation is linguistic; and defining community as a group of people who care about something over a period of time.

We then moved into World Café and I appreciated the extra guidance on how to meet well in Café over the phone (resist the urge to multi-task by turning off all your unnecessary screens; first identify yourself with a short round of introductions and say your name when you begin speaking and indicate when you are done) as well as some well-being info on pressing 5 for assistance and what would happen if we inadvertently got disconnected and found ourselves in the entryway. I loved how one of our groups used the talking stick language of “picking up the piece; laying it down again” and how we had the familiar bells to begin and close the rounds.

A few nuggets to share with you from the conversation: from Steve Harrington who shared the Costa Rican saying of pura vida, from Craig Neal of Heartland who encouraged us to give the little tickle to release the yearning inside organizations, from David Sibbet who suggested that we are needing new metaphors and mental models for this new way of meeting, and from Charles Holmes who reiterated the possibility in neighbourhoods convening and how people are changing the narrative. And the shared resource gem of the Six Conversation Booklet.

For my harvest, there was one main seedling that sprouted up for me. It was during the second round of Café and sparked by a lovely gal who shared that her neighbourhood, her walking distance, was the place she least practiced community. We reflected on how we know that this works but we don’t bring it to our community; we bring it to other places and inside organizations but we don’t walk down the street. We aren’t bringing what we know to our neighbourhood. And with this a sadness fell on me, looking out the window at my neighbourhood, knowing that a cousin to this seedling had emerged after my Bowen Island retreat but I hadn’t yet watered it or given it light. Then the power of conversation – the shared possibility and encouragement that we can find the place to do it and that every place is right!

What has challenged or expanded your ideas about community? How can you practice community within your neighbourhood?