Peter Block about community

From my growing interest in community, conversation and how we can harness what we’re learning about online community behaviours in the real world came a renewed pointer to Peter Block (thanks to a post by Mark Kuznicki). I remembered that I’d read The Answer to How is Yes in the past and been impressed by its message of giving up control and command in the workplace, and promoting purpose, connection and idealism instead.

I’ve now started reading Community: The Structure of Belonging, in which Block discusses a model for rebuilding social capital, to change isolation into community. Block has created a community to support communities in Cincinnati, where he lives. It’s called A Small Group. This video discusses what it is and how it has been successful:

I was also pleased to find a series of three Youtube clips which together constitute an interview with Block about the Community book and its key ideas:

Community: The Structure of Belonging, Part 1
Community: The Structure of Belonging, Part 2
Community: The Structure of Belonging, Part 3

The videos are a little dry because they were made by and for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) (the interviewer is its executive director, Bob O’Neill).

It was interesting to hear Block speak about online communities and social networking tools without much enthusiasm. He sees them as complimentary to real-world community work at best. He thinks of social networking “like a telephone,” a tool for keeping in touch, but not a platform to create or sustain meaningful conversations. Maybe that wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it’s certainly something I’ve caught myself wondering about before.

I am, though, very interested in the various open space influenced camps that have sprung up from the tech community, and that have branched out quite successfully to other areas. In particular, I’m sad I missed ChangeCamp in Toronto earlier this year. I’m hoping another one will roll around soon. (I did attend HealthCamp, which was interesting and valuable.)

I think that we’ll see more and more camps that won’t be so tech-influenced in future – or that’ll strike more of a balance between non-tech and tech people. While I love the easy and immediate ways that wikis and Twitter offer for capturing and aggregating the conversations, I think that many non-tech participants may be wondering why there are so many software developers at these events…

In the meantime, it’s back to the Community book, which is delightfully concise and well written.

Leave a comment