This week, Sarah Arthurs via NewScoop YYC, convened a ‘virtual meeting’ using Zoom video calling to: (1) bring the wisdom of the American writers Peter Block, John McKnight and Walter Brueggemann to an Alberta audience; and (2) discuss a couple of Alberta initiatives which relate well to the ideas of cooperation and community which the three writers espouse.
Below I offer a few glimpses into the conversation, and provide several links. Look for upcoming sessions on related topics as part of Conversations for the Common Good. I also encourage you to consider becoming members of NewScoop.
Although I was only able to attend the last half of the one hour video call, I found it very inspiring, with nuggets of insight into the present Western World world view premised on scarcity – a breeding ground for competition, greed, anxiety and fear – versus the preferable and more accurate premise of abundance, which can lead to compassion, community, etc.
McKnight and Block’s ideas are probably best laid out in The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods (2010). As a trio, the writers produced An Other Kingdon: Departing the Consumer Culture, which took some of the same ideas and added Brueggemann’s biblical insights.
As one of the writers said yesterday, when reminded of Alfie Kohn’s “No Contest” – the dominant culture conveys the implicit and explicit dual message that “You’re on your own.” and “There’s something wrong with you.” There’s a dire need to shift the dialogue to one of abundance, and to shift away from all-out competition.
The writers agreed that the U.S. is currently in very dire social situation, with a very polarized culture. Social media only exacerbates this, by reinforcing prejudices (through FB algorithms, etc.) and shutting down opportunities for social interaction.
There’s a corresponding need to increase the dynamism and resilience of our local communities. How community is construed is grounds for lots of debate. On the issue of appropriate scale, writers Kirkpatrick Sale (Human Scale, 1980) and Robin Dunbar offer cogent insights.
Howard Lawrence gave an overview of the Abundant Community Edmonton initiative. (They define community as a city block.) The initiative has been successful in mobilizing some Edmonton neighbourhoods. Their model looks for someone willing to be a local leader, entailing (1) acting as point person; (2) convening a neighbourhood party twice a year; and (3) initiating conversations – at the parties and during the year – probing: visions for the neighbourhood; hobby/part time interests; and skills that they may be willing to share/contribute. On the topic of the semi-annual parties, Howard emphasized the importance of community meals, and recommended a President’s Choice video.
I’m hoping that Sarah – or others – will be able to sponsor similar inspiring video calls in the future.