Alex Visconti, a second year student in the MiD program, reflects on her recent attendance at a community-building workshop led by Peter Block. This post was originally posted on Alex’s blog on February 11, 2013.
Last week my MiD classmates and I had the opportunity to experience a workshop led by Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting and Community: The Structure of Belonging. His workshop is focused around the aspects that make a successful community and the power it holds in creating conversations and fostering a new world based on communal values rather than business perspectives.
The structure of the workshop is aimed at gaining an optimal sense of community within it. The audience is often instructed to find the person or people in the room who he or she knows the least and form a small group of three, sitting with everyone’s knees only 9 inches apart.
The six types of conversations that he lists as most important for communities to ask and answer are as follows:
The most engaging part of the workshop for me was Block’s calling out the fact that we by default describe the world in which we live as a world of scarcity, consistently focusing on what we do not have, or what problems need fixing, rather than fostering what we do have and seeing opportunity. This consumer society attitude permeates our entire lives and we start to define ourselves by what we are not. Rather than saying what we are, we default to what we are not. Peter Block so eloquently says that we should be gift minded, not deficiency minded. By using questions rather than answers we can show we care for the other person, using curiosity in place of help. Helping someone can imply that you know whats best for them, causing a colonization of that person, rather than being curious and asking them questions to help the other person define what is best for themselves and trust his/her instinct. When people are treated as thought they can effect change in their own lives, they will. Treating people as choice-ful rather than deficient allows that person to fulfill their personal agency.
The last bit of information I will take from this workshop is asking the questions, “why is this important to you?” and “what’s at stake for you?” These seem especially useful in the context of an argument or disagreement because they do not ask the opposition to restate or make me convert to their point of view, but rather get at an understanding of why that person is acting the way they are, therefore creating empathy.
I’ll end with a Buddhist quote that one of the women in my small group said which stuck with me: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It reminds me that life goes on. Even with greater knowledge and sophistication, we are all subject to doing daily tasks and carrying out the parts of our lives that keep us human.
Editor’s note: Special thanks to the wonderful staff at the Cranaleith Spiritual Center who so warmly hosted the workshop!Building Community: a workshop with Peter Block
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 at 7:29 pm by azahn123.