“Gather, don’t train” — notes from meeting Peter Block

Meeting Peter Block (second from left) together with Andy Stoll (second from right) and Mike Fleisch (on the right) — Cincinnati August 2018

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to meet one of my biggest community heroes: Peter Block, author of “ Community: The Structure of Belonging “ (just out in a second, revised edition). Peter’s work has shaped my thinking and overall approach to building communities in profound ways. So you can imagine how excited (and nervous :-)) I was about meeting him in person. I so enjoyed the conversation and our time together flew by, leaving me inspired and hoping to spend more time together in the months and years to come. I have copied my raw notes from the meeting below.

A bigger takeaway & homework

I had one major takeaway that I’m still chewing on. When I told Peter about my work, trying to help community builders across the globe to build more meaningful communities, his main feedback was: “ gather, don’t train “. The way I understood him was: the most important work we can do, is not to provide community builders with better tools or training, but rather to co-create a space of belonging, a space where they don’t have to fight the good community fight by themselves, where they are not doing the work in isolation, but in the company and with the mutual support of other people who believe in the power of community. A safe, caring space for community builders.

This really hit me. Because this is exactly the advice I give other people all the time. I see so many organizations and communities focus on problem solving, while under-appreciating and under-investing into their relationships. Relationships trump everything else. Yet whenever I tell people that, I sense strong hesitancy. People feel like simply focusing on relationships isn’t enough. Not enough to make a real impact. And funny enough, it turns out I might be doing the exact same thing myself. Damn.

I will need to reflect on this with more time and space, and figure out how it translates into our actual work. With our work at the Together Institute, the Community Canvas and our attempts documented here on this blog to “decode community”, we have started to gather community builders, but we have done it as a second priority. What if it were the other way around? I do believe that there is value and need to help community builders build more meaningful communities, and open-source tools and frameworks are an important part of that. But what if relationships and a sense of belonging truly trumped everything else? I’d be grateful to hear your all thoughts!

Thank you Mike Fleisch for making this meeting happen — very grateful!

Other, unedited notes from meeting with Peter

  • “The private sector can heal our disconnected society by caring for the common good”

Originally published at http://together.is on August 10, 2018.

Together Institute

Hi there, we are Together Institute, we exist to help people and organizations build more meaningful communities. Here is where we share what we learn and think about.

Fabian Pfortmüller

Written by

Grüezi, Swiss community builder in NYC, author of @CommunityCanvas, co-founder Together Institute, fabian@together.is www.together.is

Together Institute

Hi there, we are Together Institute, we exist to help people and organizations build more meaningful communities. Here is where we share what we learn and think about.

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