Thursday, March 23, 2006

An Appreciative Approach to Community

Well, you all know how i (and many of you) dream about intentional community. Well, i've been having these amazing conversations lately that have spawned some questions around a different approach.

Talking with seasoned vets of communes and other intentional communities has highlighted just how difficult it is to artificially construct a viable community. How leadership is usually a thorny issue--a bit of a catch-22 really--you need a strong and visionary leader to actually make one of these things happen, and then after a few years, everybody is sick of the "controlling, overbearing, sob"... And then there's money...some have it, some don't; some earn it, some don't. How do you make it all equitable and what kind of internal economy will help the community flourish? And what about the interface with the external economy? Then there's the question of numbers--how many folks do you need to make a vibrant and viable community? And what about the mix of skills and professions (to say nothing of personalities or ages)? And this is just scratching the surface.

So, i have started wondering, what might emerge if i began to apply an appreciative approach to the issue of intentional community? What if i looked at the community i already live in as one which is largely functional, viable, and sustainable? What would change if i tried believing that the distance between what we have and what we need to create is very small? What would be different if i began to ask, "What is working well here and how can we grow more of it?" instead of, "What is wrong here and how can we escape it?" I am really interested to see what small steps and actions suggest themselves to me as i sit with this new set of wonderings.
It is absolutely entrancing to my writer's mind to look at my community through this new lens. What if i imagine that my community is an intentional community that has been thriving for 100 years? How would i approach my neighbours differently? What would i think was possible? How would my assumptions about how change happens be different? What if i began acting as if Gabriola is an intentional community of 5,000 souls that is threatened by external and internal changes and pressures? What invitations could i issue from this new perspective?

It is just flipping the paradigm around. I would be bringing intention to my community rather than attempting to attract a community to my intention.

PS: Further to my post of March 02, here is a link to a letter from Starhawk reflecting on her work of the past three years and in remembrance of Rachel Corrie, the peace activist who was crushed to death by a bulldozer in Gaza. You can access her other writings about her work in New Orleans and at the G8 summit via this site also.

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