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Home > Uncategorized > Making “Community Building” Real
I wrote the below today after a meeting with Amanda, Aden, Stijn, and Shawn. I used the opportunity to change the tenet of the meeting specifically towards community building. Hearing the Hagie story in Iowa City yesterday and our learning around open questions fueled a different agenda than I’d tried in the past. The goal, of course, is to craft a clear vision and direction for community engagement in education in the Corridor but the goal of the meeting of the people was to build community and to get to know one another deeply. In short, I think it was a smashing success. It felt different: more genuine, more open, more value-adding, more empowering, and it truly made everyone feel valued and important. Most importantly, I talked the least (I think). Here is what I wrote in my reflection of the meeting for our group (minus the details at the end you won’t really care about.)
Today was an important meeting for me as it represented a sort of culmination and commencement all rolled into one. A culmination of months of work trying to get a handle on what it means to be a Community Builder, our role in the media company, and what we needed to do to advance a critical conversation in our community. A commencement because we’ve got a team that has an amazing amount of intellectual horsepower and passion.
Was I planning on getting farther along? Yes. Am I OK with how it unfolded? YES. It is still all a bit esoteric and general? YES. But this is more than OK. Too many times I have taken part in as well as led, groups who too quickly glossed over shared understanding to get to the “real work.” This glossing always comes back to bite you in the ass because I’ve learned that “shared understanding” and “shared purpose” is damn hard to achieve and often the reason things fail and relationships get damaged. I felt we are as close to a shared purpose than I’ve felt in a long time.
Why was it different this time? I think its because I’m different now. I’m beginning to take community building and the core tenets of the work seriously. Prior to the last month or so, I still clung to my old habits and tried to integrate community building around the periphery. In short, when its stuff I think I know a lot about I tend to not keep my damn mouth shut. More importantly, I don’t always keep my mind open. I think in part it is the teacher in me – I so much want to help people understand what I understand. Yes, that sounds bad – and it is. “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Easy to say, a wee-bit harder to do.
So, today was a purposeful exercise in truly building community – in giving people the space to lay their gifts on the table and to share openly how they see the world and what they know that I don’t but need to. It was refreshing, engaging, enlightening. I always knew Stijn had something important to say about all of this and something to teach me – setting the conditions to truly listen enabled me to hear it today when I hadn’t before. Remember the old adage, “I know what I said but I don’t know what you heard.”
So, what’s this all mean, Basile? It re-confirms what I’ve been taught about social systems – they function best when people are free to have a say in what the future looks like. The next steps, in my minds eye, is in driving for a simple but powerful shared purpose and set of values that guide us. Quickly after comes Design Specifications. For a treatment of this concept, see: http://iowatransformed.com/2012/05/distinguishing-between-design-requirements-and-design-features-a-guide-for-policymakers-bureaucrats/
Then, the fun begins. Taking the design specfications we arrive at some agreement as to the work to be done and the metrics we will use to measure our progress – then we innovate, create, test, and learn like crazy.
- Events are coming soon, stay tuned!