Peter Block

    Peter Block

    April 18, 2017

    TITLECommunity: The Structure of Belonging

    when the focus is on leadership

    One core task of leadership is to build community. Our traditional strategies for dealing with problems of performance, quality, cost and employee satisfaction are strong on individualism and weak on community. Community, often confused with culture, is most often treated as an afterthought, left to specialists to worry about. The dominant belief is that laser-like goals, better controls, clearer consequences, more inspirational leadership, and better systems will make a difference. They won’t. They are the problem, not the solution. These strategies are incapable of transformation; they just make things a little better. 

    This presentation is about the nature of real transformation and what kind of leadership is required to achieve it. Transformation is a shift in the nature of things. It promises a culture of chosen accountability, authentic commitment, and stronger social fabric, all elements of a strong community. Peter will define how communal transformation is about leadership that is independent of style, role modeling and holding people accountable. 

    Leadership is about changing the conversation. Leadership requires sophistication in the methodology of convening, valuing listening over speaking, relationship over technology, gifts over deficiencies and possibility over problem solving. Leadership is about being host, not hero. Small groups are the unit of transformation, questions are the means, invitation is the strategy. This session will be an example of what Peter talks about, so that the tools of building community are demonstrated, not just discussed.     

    when focus is on change 

    We are in the business of learning, not teaching or training. All learning and change require a community to sustain it. Learning is a social phenomenon first and content/clarity second. Community, and a sense of belonging, is created by bringing a cross section of the community into a new conversation. If we maintain the old conversations about making the world predictable, measurable, individual focused and leader driven, nothing will change. 

    The work is to overcome the culture of isolation, fear and waiting for the leaders to get their act together. This occurs when we shift the conversation from problem solving to possibility, deficiencies and needs to gifts, and blame and barter to ownership and commitment. Peter’s session will be a demonstration of its theory, so the tools of communal transformation will be in the experience.

    Peter will define a form of leadership that depends on listening, convening, invitation, and the triumph of questions over answers. This session will minimize PowerPoint and maximize experience. No small task in a world of speed, efficiency, and fast food. This is a shift in the ecology of gathering as the way to sustain healthy culture, high performance, and a carbon free way of being together. All this requires a shift in thinking. He will explore a way of thinking about our places (workplaces, neighborhoods, towns) that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and will discuss what we can do to make that happen. Learn powerful conversations that will shift the focus to engagement and possibility, leading to the creation of a new future. The essence is to take a step forward in our thinking and design about the ways people in communities come together to produce something new for themselves. 

    Learning objectives

    • Understand the conditions under which transformation can occur.

    • Define leadership as listening, convening, invitation, and the triumph of questions over answers.

    • Understand the importance of community and how it is created.

    • Demonstrate in this session the principles of community being discussed.

    • Ways to design gatherings so that transformation can occur

    • Learn conversations that will lead toward a future different from the past 


    Peter Block is an author and citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed to build the skills outlined in his books. He is the author of Flawless Consulting, Stewardship, The Answer to How Is Yes, Community: The Structure of Belonging, The Abundant Community, with John McKnight and most recently co-author of An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture. Peter is part of the Economics of Compassion Initiative of Greater Cincinnati and is a member of his local neighborhood council. He serves on the boards of Elementz, an urban arts center, and LivePerson, a provider of online engagement solutions. His work is in the restoration of common good and creating a world that reclaims our humanity from the onslaught of modernism.

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