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‘Build a Great Community…Together’…But How?

It’s not enough to just survive! That’s why this simple mission statement for communities is so powerful…and why it can become a pervasive public engagement effort in many places across the country: ‘Build a great community…together’ (BAGCT). It’s a bold statement…open-ended enough to be meaningful in many unique settings, yet action-oriented and totally inclusive. BAGCT can be the focus of projects by city and county governments, non-profit coalitions, dialogue and deliberation practitioners, community organizers, religious organizations, foundations and ad hoc neighborhood organizations. Let’s decide first that we will actively shape our circumstances…rather than passively let our circumstances shape us.

Click on the “more” link to read this full post by new NCDD blogger Craig Paterson.

Every problem and every vision for building a great community has a context…an understood jurisdiction with clear boundaries. We can talk about a context being the world, the nation, a state, a county or city, a neighborhood, a professional community, any organized group, or even a family or relationship. The boundaries of a specific context can be geographical, political, membership, job-oriented, familial, personal, etc.

Every context has a population, and most have a specific space…a public and an environment. The public gives us an idea of who needs to be at the table ‘together’ to pursue a BAGCT project…they are the active stakeholders in any decisions that are made within and for the context. The environment, on the other hand, is the term we generally use for the passive stakeholders…the actual physical space and the non-human, biological inhabitants of that area.

Where there is a public, there is an opportunity for public engagement in problem-solving and in building a great community. Transparent and inclusive public engagement is essential because vitality and sustainability are determined by how we live…together. And…how we live includes all public decisions that are formal and informal…conscious and unconscious…short-term and long-term…strategic and situational. They are public decisions that contribute to either an upward or downward spiral of sustainability of everything in the specific context. Here is where the dialogue and deliberation community of practitioners can add huge value to BAGCT projects!

But wait…here’s the most important part…public engagement mobilizes the public in a specific context to engage in carefully-crafted and moderated conversations on how we live in order to maximize contentment and satisfaction, to minimize frustration and uncertainty, or both. Contentment is a unique condition…the emotional recognition that all needs are satisfied ‘enough’ to no longer cause concern. We’re not going to solve every problem…but we can get close enough to be content. That’s why the BAGCT mantra identifies our goal as a ‘great’ community…where all members of the public are at least content with their own quality of life, and are content with the prospects of a satisfying quality of life for subsequent generations.

Here’s my short list of six essential, inter-connected concepts to implement the ‘build a great community…together’ goal effectively in many communities: context, public, environment, public engagement, how we live, and contentment. If you check, these are the same concepts we’d be using to address a myriad of sustainability issues…land management, water priorities, air quality, climate change, etc…but also the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people globally, our continued dependence on consumer debt, the out-sourcing of food production, our dependence on fossil fuels for global trade transport, etc. In many of our neighborhoods and communities today, sustainability is a critical issue. If it’s not enough to just survive, we’d better get busy!

– Craig Paterson

I’m the primary researcher-writer-project manager for the California NIF Network, living and working in Fairfield, CA. I’ve worked in community deliberative efforts for over 30 years…and with National Issues Forums (NIF) deliberative projects for 12 years. Recently, I’ve been investigating and planning deliberative conversations in the virtual world of Second Life…with connections in real-life settings. You’ll find out much more as I share my work and reflections. For all of my ‘Deliberative IDEAS’ blog posts, you can follow this link: http://delibcaideas.org/

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Craig Paterson
I am the primary researcher/writer/project manager of the 'California NIF Network' for face-to-face deliberative work in communities, and the creator and coordinator of 'Deliberative IDEAS' for online deliberative work, particularly in the virtual world of Second Life. I've done extensive work in deliberative theory and practice, including many issue framing projects.

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  1. Cheryl Honey says:

    Community Weaving is a comprehensive approach to building and bridging social capital and tapping grassroots resources to create a more resilient, adaptive and responsive community to change. Our free web-based technology at http://www.goodneighbors.net is an administrative tool to pool resources, post activities, publish alphabetized resource directories, rosters and activity reports for individuals and groups. Trained Community Weavers serve as bridges to weave people to the resources they need and organizations to volunteers to enhance services to their clients. This interdependent functioning whole community system creates a village effect.

    Community Weaving is a community-wide initiative to mobilize neighbors to pool resources and engage with one another to create a more vibrant interactive community that cares.

    The approach has received recognition by the Northwest Area Foundation as an exemplary approach to poverty reduction and the Institute for Civil Society has deemed Community Weaving the pathway to creating a more civil society.

    The technology tracks engagement hours, types, levels and frequency between individuals and systems. This data collected is published and public officials utilize the information to make informed decisions on where to spend dollars to benefit the broader community.

    This networking system creates a more resilient community where neighbors can engage with each other to learn, serve and have fun.

    Community Weaving restores democracy when blended with other approaches such as http://www.communityforums.org. Community Weavers facilitate community gatherings utilizing techniques such as World Cafe, Open Space, Study Circles to engage citizens from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to be an active participant in creating a thrivable community.

    Good Neighbors commit 100 hours to volunteer in the community doing what they love. They participate in practices that reduce consumption and conserve on energy. They all commit to being an informed voter and responsible citizen that upholds the principles upon which this country was founded.

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