Together Institute
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Together Institute

Community building is as old as humanity — let’s remember, not invent

Photo by Puk Patrick on Unsplash

A few weeks back I saw Ants Cabraal from Enspiral present at AIME 2019 in Melbourne. He gave a fabulous talk about how community can transform the ways we work together. One of his opening slides showed a big bonfire with people sitting around it and he reminded us that community and community building is as old as humanity. Ever since we learned about the power of the fire, we have been sitting around it, telling stories, building relationships, making sense of the world around us. And that while we will continue to go through deep technological transformations in the coming decades, community will always continue to be part of the human experience.

This perspective really struck me. Over the past few months I have come to fully appreciate a truth that must seem obvious to many of you: that community building is nothing new at all. We are not inventing anything. Both the human need to connect deeply and the practices around it are ancient and have been developed over millennia. We just happen to have buried it under layers of capitalism, productivity and individualism for the past few centuries.

So as community weavers, our work is not to invent, but to remember. And it’s about honoring the work of the Elders and Ancestors, the people on whose shoulders we stand. This is informing our perspective with the Community Canvas. We’re not doing anything new, but we’re hopefully helping resurface old practices and translating them into the language and needs of the 21st century. As part of that effort, we want to put together a council of Elders, to honor their work, to uplift their experiences and to be guided by their wisdom.

But that sense of community isn’t just found in the heads and hearts of experienced Elders, but in all of us. I was reminded of the power of remembering community in Casper ter Kuile’s wonderful weekly newsletter, where he recounted a twenty-year old conversation between the late Irish poet John O’Donohue and meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg. O’Donohue said: “I can’t believe in any of this stuff about creating community. I think the whole project of trying to build community is misplaced. I think community is. It is ontologically there. So the project is more about awakening.”

This resonates deeply with me. Community doesn’t have to be “built”. It is already there in all of us. All we have to do is to awaken our shared sense of belonging and build on the practices that our Ancestors have refined for millennia. I can’t tell you how excited I get by this.

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Thank you

Thank you Ants and Casper for your inspiration and your continuous gifts to community awakening in this world!

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Fabian Pfortmüller

Fabian Pfortmüller

Grüezi, Swiss community builder in Amsterdam, author of @CommunityCanvas, co-founder Together Institute, |

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