Building community requires that we consider our subject mindfully,
hold conversations driven by authentic questions,
and then engage in collaboration to do the needed work.
Over coffee last week, I participated in a conversation about community with a city leader and a neighbor. Later in the week, I facilitated a conversation with a group of about thirty neighbors. Again, the topic centered on the concept of community. The week before, I spoke to more than a hundred people in Nashville. There, we examined how to empower college and university students to develop and sustain a growth-oriented campus community.
While I have not found “THE” formula (if one exists) for community development, certain key components keep presenting themselves when the dialogue focuses on community building, growth, and resilience.
- Definition. Before we can build community, or even discuss the concept, we have to understand what the term means. Ask five people to define community, and you will hear varying descriptions. When I have worked with college faculty about student retention issues, the first thing we have to do is understand what the people around the table mean when they use the word “retention.” Sounds simplistic but often times when this important first step is missed, the other parts of the conversation begin to go off the rails.
- Core Values. Once you have a common understanding and agreement about what community is, you need to examine the foundational pillars of you community. What are the foundational values? My experiences and research have led me to identify and write about The 7 Rs. Your community might gravitate to others. Which of the identified values are strong and stable in your community—and which have become challenged and, in turn, have challenged the others?
- HTRB. How will your group remain vigilant about pausing, reflecting, breathing, and hitting the reset button as needed? When and how will you know it is time to take a timeout and regroup?
- Weak Signals. How will your group learn to pay attention to those signs that things are about to change, need to change, or have changed? How will you recognize when best practices have become crusty and historically mired in the catch phrase, “Well, that’s how we have always done things around here”? Community growth and resilience demands that look for signs and patterns that portend trends.
5. Noise. A lot of chatter, yelling, video, memes, trolls, and bots vie for our attention. How does a community and its members remain on task and not get distracted by unusable, untimely, hypothetical, and distracting feeds? How does the community go about separating the important signals from call-outs and redundant noise?
Building community requires that we consider our subject mindfully, hold conversations driven by authentic questions, and then engage in collaboration to do the work needed.
Where do you need to start or continue with your community work? What are the bright spots? What are the not-so-bright spots? What is your next step?
Video Recommendation for the Week:
This video comes from Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island. While it specifically speaks to connecting students with campus resources, it can be a starting point for a community conversation. How does your community connect its residents with needed resources like food, medical care, transportation, leisure activities, educational opportunities, spiritual discussions, or ways to combat isolation? As I state at the end of the video, “Are you building silos or are you creating bridges?”
My latest book,
Community as a Safe Place to Land,
has been released! You can purchase it (print or e-book) on Amazon.
More information (including seven free podcast episodes to highlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
Make it an inspiring and grateful week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
You can still order my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). Another university recently (May 2019) adopted it for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same.
Consider it for a faculty orientation or a mentoring program. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network® (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).
You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
©2019. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®
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