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Community: The Structure of Belonging [Paperback]

Peter Block
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 15 2009
Modern society is plagued by fragmentation. The various sectors of our communities -- businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, government -- do not work together. They exist in their own worlds, as do so many individual citizens, who long for connection but end up marginalized, their gifts overlooked, their potential contributions lost. This disconnection and detachment makes it hard -- if not impossible -- to envision a common future and work towards it together. We know what healthy communities look like -- there are many success stories out there, and they've been described in detail. What Block provides in this inspiring new book is an exploration of the exact way community can emerge from fragmentation: How is community built? How does the transformation occur? What fundamental shifts are involved? He explores a way of thinking about our places that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make that happen.

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About the Author

Peter Block is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Block to build the skills outlined in his books. He is the author of several best-selling books, including Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Exp

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
"Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed." -- Psalm 85:10

One of my favorite sayings is that "the best help is self-help." That's one of the major themes of this book.

I came to the book as someone who favors finding solutions that delight all those affected and as a fan of Peter Block's classic book, Flawless Consulting. I wasn't prepared for what I found in the first few chapters of Community: A dense summary of the views of other authors that feature their jargon and concepts. It was heavy going. I almost gave up before the book's message began to yield to Peter Block's views as exemplified by some examples from the Cincinnati area.

This book could have been told in a much more direct, simple, and easier-to-understand way. I found myself mentally translating the concepts back into ordinary English to grasp the major points.

As a result, the book comes across as almost like a simplified dissertation, not the kind of work that you may be expecting. One of the limits of tipping one's cap as an author to so many other writers is that you are limited in how much you can advance the argument into new territory without doing some new homework.

There's lots of good advice in the book so I do hope you will persevere. If our communities are to become stronger and more nurturing for all, we need to get past arguing about philosophies while nothing gets done. This book can be a helpful contribution to such progress if people read and apply its vision and structural recommendations.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Chanta
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Haven't read it yet. Will have to come back and leave a proper review. At glance though - I am happiest reading Foucault or Slavoj Zizek. Stay tuned for a review... I am just writing because this requires 20 words...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  69 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for community transformation May 8 2008
By H. Mason - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I believe this book is a must-read for those of us who work to transform community:

It gives us a common language for talking about what makes community transformation different from human service/government planning and programs.

It integrates many important strands of transformation thinking, making transformation feel more accessible.

It helps us see what transformation looks like and connects that vision to concrete practice.

Community: The Structure of Belonging is divided into two sections. The first is titled The Fabric of Community and is for me what makes this book so important. In this section Peter provides the "why" and the "what" of community transformation. (Those of us who normally skip straight to the "how" should read Peter's previous book, The Answer to How is Yes.) In this section, we learn to not continue repeating the program, system, service problem solving that keeps us from really restoring community. We learn what transformation is, what it means to be a citizen. If we really get the message of this section, we start to BE community transformer, not just DO community building.

The second section is The Alchemy of Belonging. This is the tool kit for doing community transformation. Convening, invitation, small groups, forming the questions, holding the conversations of possibility, ownership, dissent commitment and gifts are covered here. This section expands the information that has been available on Peter's website that was developed and used in Cincinnati by A Small Group (as in Margaret Mead's axiom, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has.")

In the back are two extra gifts: Book at a Glance, a 10-page sentence outline of the entire book, and Role Models and Resources, which expands the concept of an annotated bibliography and offers countless opportunities for further reading and learning.

The gift of this book is a strong set of principles and usable instructions for restoring community. The challenge is to our willingness to stop what we are doing and learn what will lead us to the communities we desire.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book matters May 6 2008
By Gary E. Petersen - Published on
Community: the Structure of Belonging is the most important book Peter Block has written and the most important book you are likely to read this year. The book is incredibly clear, profoundly important and perfectly timed.

This book is Peter's masterwork and a culmination of the important thinking he has so carefully articulated in his other classics The Empowered Manager, Stewardship and The Flawless Consultant. While others bemoan the state of our communities, the decline of our cities and the failure of institutions Peter has been thinking about "restoration" and "reweaving" of the social fabric and has defined a clear process for creating a future that we would all like to be part of.

This easy to read book has something for everyone. The theories and strategies underlying the thinking are compelling and comprehensive. The list of resources in the back of the book will lead you to people and organizations that are actively involved in building communities. The structure of the book provides easy access to the many layers of useful information including a full summary of the book added as an appendix.

What is most powerful about this book though are the clearly defined questions which result in conversations that are capable of transforming the nature of human systems. These conversations change our thinking about how we relate to each other, how we understand the notion of belonging and how we encourage the bringing of our collective gifts into our communities.

This book challenges us to become the citizens that we need to be to create the communities we want to live in. In this time in which we live it is hard for me to imagine something more important than that.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A handbook of anti-leadership Feb. 13 2009
By Starved Koala - Published on
I think of this book as a handbook for anti-leadership. Part of Block's thesis is that top down leadership and massive, structural programs are not effective. Instead, true change bubbles up, and starts with communities--here, loosely defined as a group of interested people getting together and coming up with something new.

The role of the leader is to invite people, set up the meeting space, and encourage their participation. This is done basically by getting them to talk and bond with each other. Note that it the leader isn't supposed to establish an agenda, or force through an analytical problem solving process (which Block hates.) The leader simply convenes the group. When done properly, magic occurs.

The book is short on examples. This may be because Block thinks of community building as a journey and not necessarily the means to an end, and examples would detract from the journey and the point he's trying to make.

I found the book a bit of a slog. It is unnecessarily dense and repetitive. It is also abstract in places, but this may simply be due to the subject matter. Block had to define his own lingo for this book, and when sentences of that lingo are strung together the result is cumbersome. A member of my book club said he spent the first 40 pages wondering if he'd ever make it to the end. He did however, and found it rewarding.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Community: The Structure of Belonging May 13 2008
By Edward Everett - Published on
Peter newest book "Community" will become a classic on how to "Build Community". It has a conceptual model of community building for those who like or need a model. It has practical ideas and a "how to" section for those who just want to get started and improve their community. The book has a wonderful list of resources and practitioners who have done this sort of work for those who want or need that. Society has lost its community building skills and this book is a clear guide on how to retrieve those skills. I wish this book existed 6 years ago when I started a community building effort in Redwood City, Ca.

This book is a precious gift to our often unrecognized and/or neglected personal need for community.

If this book was read by most council members, mayors, city managers, county managers, county board of supervisors, non-profit executive directors, school superintendents and citizen leaders and if they implimented only some of the ideas in this book our society would be profoundly changed from the bottom up which is the only way society ever changes.

Ed Everett (Retired City Manager/Consultant)
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing! July 22 2010
By Rachel A. Buddeberg - Published on
The book started out promising - after all Block cites Robert Putnam's work on the decline of social capital. I thought he clearly knows the problem. For me, the first red flag went up when Block also talked about Werner Erhard, whose educational approach is now part of Landmark Education, considered somewhat cult-like by some...

Block's argument is that we have to shift context, move from retributive community to restorative community. He talks about this over and over and over but we already know this from Putnam's work: Communities are falling apart. We obviously need to change the way we think about our lives in this world - whether you call this context, culture, frames or whatever - our underlying thought-patterns are to blame. The question that I expected Block to address is: How. He doesn't even though he seems to be promising this. The first 60 pages basically keep repeating the same information in slightly different packaging. Reading got so boring that I wasn't able to finish the book. I am sure this will be attributed to my being in the wrong context or some such thing... But, I am sorry, if an author cannot move beyond the basic point in the first 60 pages, I don't find reading valuable. I'd rather go talk to my neighbors...
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