You Are the Guest

Conversation with John and Peter ~ December 12, 2016

by John McKnight, Peter Block on December 14, 2016

Tagged as: Gifts / Hospitality / Association / Raising Children / Local Economy / Food / Safety / Health / Land/Environment / Care of People on the Margin

You Are the Guest

Conversation with John and Peter

December 12, 2016

 

About every six weeks, for the last five years, John and Peter have hosted online / dial-up conversations with community-building pioneers as their guests. For their December 2016 dialog they decided to share some of their latest thinking and invite listeners to share their experiences in building new connections and relationships to strengthen our neighborhoods and communities.

 

John and Peter's opening dialog was loosely organized araound four questions:

 

  • What’s shifted in our thinking

  • What’s been confirmed

  • What gives us hope for the future

  • What are we worried about

 

In addition to the transcribed discussion here, some of the issues raised by listeners, and their responses to John and Peter's dialog, were grabbed from the conversation's chat box and are posted here. Download or listen to the audio here.

 

Maggie Rogers:

Hello everyone and welcome to another conversation with John McKnight and Peter Block. I'm Maggie Rogers and I'd like to thank you for joining us. John and Peter are the authors of the Abundant Community. Their work joins the movements to support neighborhoods in discovering their capacity to create a strong local economy, raise their children, sustain their health and care for each other.

 

 

Each guest is a social pioneer who's inventing an alternative future based on the gifted capacity. As those of you who's been with us before know that we generally do have a guest. Today, though, we’re with John and Peter and we invite you to be our guest. This is a time to hear John and Peter's latest thinking on discovering people's gifts and building new connections and relationships that strengthen our neighborhoods and communities and to hear what they're thinking and doing right now.

 

 

After Peter and John have talked for a while, we'll open up the call for your questions, your thoughts, your reflections. There are a couple of ways that you can join. If you dialed in, press star eight on your phone to be put into a queue and if you're following along on the web, simply post your comments in the chat window. Leslie Stephen our website manager is supporting us in the chat room. Peter, I'll turn it over to you now.

 

Peter Block:

All right. Thank you. Thank you all for joining us. John, great to be in touch with you.

 

John McKnight:

Welcome everybody.

 

Peter Block:

John and I talked about how we might use this time. Most of the world is into doing and for us, and for me especially, I'm interested in what people are thinking because behind every plan, every program, every institution, every brick and mortar somebody had a thought about what would make a difference in the world. That's what we're going to do. We're going to chat a little bit about four questions. One question is what's shifting for us in our thinking. One question is over the years, what's been confirmed for us. The third question is what are we worried about, and then the fourth question at this point, what do we want to do?

 

 

We're going to start there. I would like you to join us at any point. You could either put it in the chat. You could dial in and we'll talk to you. Thank you very much for joining us. John, let me start by asking you, in terms of your thinking, what do you know is shifting in how you see the world and what's useful?

 

John McKnight:

Well, I'm 85 so I've seen a lot of shifts through time, but reflecting on that, I think that the biggest shift that I've seen certainly in the last generation is the growth of an environment composed of television and the internet. If I said to somebody "Do you live in a forest?" if they're living on an average street, they'd say "No, but I do have trees around." I'd say, "Well, what's the difference between a tree and a forest?" The difference is that in a forest, there are so many trees that instead of it being a people environment, it becomes a tree environment. The trees shape the world as they become dominant and they bring different animals or different plants and it's a completely different environment.

 

 

I think that what has for me shifted the most in my lifetime is that we tend to be living in a forest of screens, of counterfeit environments where what we are receiving is not the messages of our senses and our friends and the wonderful world of nature and our interactions, but we're receiving signals and messages from an inanimate world. To me, that's a huge change. I've never seen anything like it. I go to meetings and there are eight people there. Four of them will put their iPad on the table sort of announcing "I'm not really here." Right? "I'm half here."

 

 

In my own sense of things, I think that we've become more and more senseless, that our senses are on hold while we live in a forest of electronic symbols, and I think it radically changes how we understand what is a fact, what is truth, what is of value, what is a relationship ... It's so basic in the shift. It's creating a way from primary aspects of life that it is to me the wave of the future that's here, and the real question is: How do we begin to get back to a place where we have real trees and real people?

 

Peter Block:

It bothers you, dosn't it?

 

John McKnight:

Yeah. What about you, Peter? What shifted for you?

 

Peter Block:

I answered that instead of what's shifting in the world, I was thinking, "So what's shifting in my own relationship to the world, my own thinking about how to be useful." I think the biggest thing for me is that I've gotten interested in measurement. The core of the work is to construct an alternative story. A lot of your work has been to de-label people. The revolution you started was to say that maybe people are defined by their gifts rather than by their deficiencies.

 

 

If I took that seriously, I begin to think that maybe that’s a way to shift the narrative, maybe the narrative is defined by the questions we ask when we say, "How are things going? What's worth paying attention to?" Most of the measures we have of the world are either of economic progress, financial progress, financial stories, gross national product, gross domestic product, and most of them are deficient. Unemployment is at high or low and so we have a bunch of measures that says all we are can be captured by our average annual income, or there are measures for our communities asking about crime, asking about disease, asking about the elderly.

 

 

So I've began to put my thoughts, energy, hopes into saying, "Well, let's ask different questions and let's do it on a systematic way that answers everybody's questions about how is it going. We might ask people, “What are you productive at? What are you producing that someone would buy? What can you make yourself? What can you fix yourself? What can you care for? What's the informal economy look like?” Edgar Cahn basically has created a structure in TimeBanking that says there are measures other than what can be captured by money transaction. That's what's working on me now, the idea that the measurement can create either a more autocratic centralized world against the world of consistency like high stakes testing in the schools or it can be something else.

 

 

The measurements can be ones that believe in consistency or the measures can be ones that are liberating. So I'm wondering, "Well, if we measure things, which I think we want to do, are they liberating and unlabeling ways of asking questions about how is the neighborhood doing, how is the community doing."

 

Then the other question is we should ask it. Right now, we think we want objective third parties to ask the question. The RAND Corporation makes a lot of money out of that concept, and so the alternative more intimate way of doing that is to say, "Well, suppose neighbors ask neighbors on a consistent basis, what's happening here? What are you making? What are you productive at? What's working for you?" Who asks the question and what is the question seemed to me to be interventions in and of themselves that might move towards the kind of world that we're all looking for.

 

 

That's what I'm doing. I'm trying to think that way and then work with people that can help me do that. One of the projects I'm on now is having an intern ask, "Well, for all the activities that I've been talking about all these years and you've been talking about all these years, John, what measures are they to show real population outcomes that something has shifted because people find each other and get connected around their gifts?" Anyway, that's what's on my mind these days. As usual, I don't know what I'm talking about but that never stopped me.

 

John McKnight:

That's a good place to start. Let me ask you a second question.

 

Peter Block:

Okay.

 

John McKnight:

What in this point of your life is being confirmed?

 

Peter Block:

Well, I get really simple in this question. One is when I started this work, I facilitated small groups and my daughter once called me from college and said, "This guy does what you do, Dad." I said, "What are you doing?" She said, Hhe broke us into small groups.”  So I always took it as a sideshow.  Now, I believe it has a political power, that somehow it's about the power people in a small group. Margaret Mead made this famous. She got us all on to this by saying all change started with a small group. That's one thing. Wherever I am, I know if we don't break into a small group, nothing really shifts really unless you're there for entertainment and it's fabulous.

 

 

The other thing is that there are certain questions that won't let me go. One I got from you, John, which is "What are the gifts? What are you good at?" I still think we're kind of blind to that and still waiting for a eulogy to legitimize that conversation. The other is the question of, for whatever it is you're complaining about, what's your contribution for having created the very thing that's in your way? That's a longing for a world of accountability and for me, it's the portal to freedom.

 

 

I’m thinking that there's no real freedom unless I imagine myself as a co-creator of the world almost in its entirety even though my part maybe infinitesimal. The conversation of what have I done to help create this situation, even the one I don't like, is a liberating question. That's about it. The rest is waiting to be confirmed.

 

John McKnight:

I remember from my college years studying what was then very popular, a field called group dynamics. One thing that's stuck with me was, at least at that point, the social psychologists were saying small groups are the most effective ways of changing two things in people's lives. The first is what they believe and the second is how they behave. That no education or propaganda or legislation has ever had the power the small groups have to influence beliefs and behavior. I think those are pretty important things and paying attention to small groups is absolutely central if those are things you're concerned about.

 

Peter Block:

How about you, John? What do you hold now to be true even more so than you used to?

 

John McKnight:

I was thinking about this. I just turned 85 and I was thinking about the life I've led and a lot of things have been confirmed, a lot of things have been disabused. When I was young, my father said to me, "Be careful who your friends are because they'll make you who you are." I thought that was sort of a curious idea: that I was probably going to be the product of the people around me rather than a person who, as an individual, made myself.

 

 

I think that idea has really been confirmed for me in my life. I think I've just been blessed by having a very adventurous and exciting kind of life mainly because of the people with whom I became friends. As I think about who I am, I go back and I think of the influence that the great neighborhood organizer, Saul Alinsky, had on me here in Chicago and then my friendship with Ivan Illich and his early institutional critiques, including schools, had a huge influence on me.

 

 

Another good friend is Robert Rodale who published a lot of magazines like Organic Gardening, Successful Farming, Bicycling. My relationship with him led me to understand how there is a design in the natural world and if you pull it apart, if you pull one thread, the whole thing will come apart. Another friend is Marian Tompson. In fact, lives a couple of blocks from me. The founder of the La Leche League. The wonderful example she gave me of how everyday citizens can come together in groups and overcome the power of professionals who say you shouldn't be breastfeeding.

 

 

Also Jerry Miller, who was a great reformer in Massachusetts who decided you can't reform reformatories. What you got to do is look for some other way of approaching young people who are thought to be deviant. So he emptied the reformatories. Then you, Peter, you came into my life and what a wonderful exciting new set of perceptions and understandings I've had about the nature of community and the fact that when you move outside the personal, you're losing everything of consequence that makes these kinds of relationships to work.

 

 

So I see myself as having confirmed what my father told me: that I would probably become whatever I would become in the sense of the people that surrounded me, and it's a great advice. I think when I look at them, they're all people who are marginal, who are deviant, who are questioning, who are adventurers, so I wish everybody could have that kind of a life. I think we make it if we want to.

 

Peter Block:

Right. That's great. Maggie, I would advise anybody who wants to join and maybe guide us a little bit at this point. John and I can always keep talking, but it would be interesting that people had questions or statements or things they would like to bring into the conversation.

 

Maggie Rogers:

Okay. Sure. Again, if you're calling, press star eight on your phone or just type something in the chat. Thanks, Peter.

 

 

[caller connection detals]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joanna Farmer:

Hi Maggie. My name is Joanna Farmer. First of all, I want to thank you both, all of you, for having this particular conversation right now because I knew John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann when I was working at the ShoreBank Corporation with the Neighborhood Institute to the Austin community on the west side of Chicago, and that work has shaped and guided my work. I was just in my mid-20s then. So just still these many years later working on asset-based community development is challenging because it requires a whole different mindset.

 

 

I was listening to what you said earlier, Dr. McKnight, about the screens and how we're separating ourselves, and I look at that as separating ourselves because of technology. So at the same time that technology is wonderful, and now we're in the fourth industrial revolution, it's also a way to divide and conquer because it produces inequality because not everyone has access to that technology. So the people who are making decisions are the ones who have those financial aspects or that financial capital.

 

 

One of the questions I wanted to ask you and all of you all is: How do we still successfully implement ABCD even though we’re in the 21st century where there are multiple challenges to get people's attention because of for example information overload?

 

John McKnight:

I think that's the work I had in my mind. The effort to initiate, to support, to legitimize the value of local people, local citizens. I don't mean that legally. I mean members of democracy coming together and having a vision where they're the principal producers is still the ultimate reform. The reform isn't finally “up there.” The reform is right here where we are. I suspect that we've become disconnected enough that a lot of hierarchy has much more influence on us than it once did because we once had human reference groups that allowed us to share and think together and bring in our personal lives into contact and learn. It's long work. It's good work. It's hard work, and it's always local work in my mind, and I think most … the rest of reform isn't going to have much consequence. Peter, you've just written something about this.

 

Peter Block:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I would focus on being a little more [present] ... There's a lot of use to the technology. Mostly for my logistical life. Many of things I do I can do faster now and I can communicate "I'll be late. I'll be early. If you want to this or that." As far as information, our learning, our knowledge, I don't think much of it really comes through the screens. Also, I have a choice about what I watch. I can decide not to watch the first 15 minutes of the evening news. I can choose not to scroll through things where advertising outnumbers contact two to one. I think we have a choice. I think you're right that it is isolating, but I don't want to give it too much attention.

 

 

I really think like you said, John, what can we create locally? I wrote an article for Quartz which is online news agency. [A response] to the election is go deeper into what we can control, which is our local neighborhood, so I think the neighborhood is going to be central to our future, even our economic future. Thank you very much for the question. Any comments you'd like to make? Are you still online?

 

Joanna Farmer:

Yes. I'm still here and I was taking some notes. The main comment, the feedback that I have given everything that you both have said is I completely agree that we need to be careful where we place our attention. I've been having discussions with my family and friends and colleagues about this because sometimes just because of the way that we're bombarded ...

 

 

We have all of these different ways that it comes into our lives now. It penetrates barriers where before you had to actively go and buy a newspaper or look at something, but now it's in front of your face. I'm on my notebook, for example, and I have things coming up on the right-hand bottom of my screen that tell me what is going on in the world, and I really don't want to even be bothered with that right now because I'm working, but somehow or another these things are set up. What you just said about the hierarchies, there is something going on where it can penetrate your privacy, so to say, so even my private thinking, my ability to just be still and do work and read, this thing is popping up.

 

 

I'm working on because I work with children ... That's why I asked that question because we've got to figure out a way in asset-based community development to still get to children so that they understand that they can make choices as producers of their lives instead of being consumers of who has their time and attention. That's why I asked the question, too.

 

John McKnight:

You're the expert because I don't think either of us work much with children. So we're hoping you're shaping that path.

 

Peter Block:

Yes, you are just by asking the question here. Thank you very much.

 

Joanna Farmer:

Thank you.

 

 

 

Maggie Rogers:

No other callers, Peter, but we do have a couple of comments in the chat. We have an active chat going on this afternoon.

 

Maggie Rogers:

I'd like to relay Rich Jones’ question, not just because he loves us, but I like his question. He says, "Can you chat more on the invisible community that surrounds us?"

 

John McKnight:

I think that as our attention is drawn more and more to large institutions and the information that has constantly surrounded us as we just heard on the screens, that what is immediately there in our world of the senses becomes more and more invisible. We see nothing around us that looks powerful. Incidentally, I think that a lot of people who were pretty angry this time around and voted maybe for Bernie and voted for Trump are people who have a deep sense of powerlessness in the world that they can't make things happen. And to make things happen you have to influence everything above you, but if we reinstated our capacity to be producers locally of the world we're living in, I think that shifts the way we feel about ourselves.

 

 

It reduces our anger, increases our aspiration, increases our sense that we have capacities, we are not impotent, that we are not powerless. Internationalization I think is the way to make people feel completely powerless. But if we don't have any place where we're powerful, any place where we produce things that make a difference in our lives, then I think we became fearful; we become frightened. We become a sense of powerless and just say, "It's got to change," but any kind of change where we're looking for the change is going to change with us.

 

Peter Block:

I think it also gives rise to another level of activism. I also want to reflect on what you're saying about the world. I think about what's happening in England and in the United States. We made a promise to our identity and the American Dream's promise was that you're going to do better than your parents did, that you’re going to have your own home. It was a consumerist promise. A chicken in every pot, car in every garage, upward mobility. I think that promise has been betrayed and I think that, at some level, we have to renegotiate a different covenant with ourselves: what it means to live in this country or in this era is not based on the consumerist ambition.

 

 

That's why I think what you said is true. We are going to have to produce and make things and be less of a consumerist world and just by necessity because all the solutions of college, work hard, get a job are less available to us now. I think that the community movement, the cooperative movement, the local movement is going to get more and more powerful and our children will be better off than I am, it’s just that my grandchildren won't have the same kind of a path that I had. That's what we're trying to support with our work.

 

John McKnight:

Anything else, Maggie?

 

Maggie Rogers:

There is another request here on the chat. It says, "Ideas on how to keep the municipality from usurping grassroots growth."

 

John McKnight:

I see more and more local municipalities, city council people, as being realistic about what they are able to do. They can see their budgets aren't growing and they can see that there are all kinds of problems that people are bringing to them and it's my experience more and more that people in local government, from the city manager or mayors to the city council, are beginning to recognize the importance of local people having the power to create and solve problems.

 

 

It used to be that the legislator was somebody who brought home the bacon, but I think what's happening now is that more and more legislators and public officials see that they have made that claim too long, taken it too far, and where we are now is at the place where what they have to do is try to be a precipitator or a stimulator of people at the block and neighborhood level beginning to take more responsibility for things like health and the environment and education. So I'm very hopeful at the local municipal level about the signs I'm seeing.

 

Peter Block:

There's Adam Kahane. He's a friend of ours and he's writing a book called Collaborating with the Enemy; it's not out yet, but he said that the challenge is to figure out how to collaborate with people that you don't like, people you don't trust, and people you don't agree with. He also says that collaboration is always the last resort. Everybody's first choice is to get their way.

 

John McKnight:

Yes.

 

Peter Block:

Second is that they often say, "Well, I'll find my own little ways to this." I think that's even more urgent at the local community level because as we've talked before, John, there is a dark side to community. There is the inward side to community, a like-minded side to community. We see the world being nervous about strangers, immigrants, and so I think rejecting the idea of collaboration as a last resort with people you don't like, trust or agree with is the way of moving forward. It's very helpful for me to listen to Adam because I always thought a bunch of like-minded people getting together having a vision and making a plan was useful and what he's suggesting that the local level is not that useful, and I see that in Cincinnati. There's a real movement to do something about the wealth inequality here in Cincinnati.

 

 

My own notion is, why don't we just declare an end to poverty? Ending poverty is an idea whose time has come. I think locally we're going to do something about that and it's not just about the money. It's also about the welcoming people in from economic exile. If there's one renaming that I think is still killing us is to call somebody “poor.” That's not how you describe a human being. That's nothing to do with their average annual income and so that becomes part of the shift and conversation and language. Again, it's back to the gift mindedness and trying to create an alternative to this predatory economy.

 

 

When we asked what we're worried about, John, I wrote down economically produced violence, the idea that the economy we have which is so competitive and so inquisitive and so based on growth and progress inevitably leads to violence of some kind, and so I think that's part of our work: to create an alternative economy so that there will be less violence in the world, and that's a big issue.

 

John McKnight:

When I thought about the question you just raised––what are you worried about?––in Vancouver, about five years ago, the Vancouver Foundation commissioned a population study in which they took a sample of all the people in Vancouver and asked them what issues were the most important to them. Issues meaning problems, right? They had the usual list: Is it about health? Is it about your safety? Is it about school? Is it about snow removal? Whatever. Long list. Then for some reason, somebody put in “isolation.” The final results of that study showed that more people said the primary problem in Vancouver is isolation than any of the normal suspects.

 

 

I thought that that really should tell us something: here we are in cities where people are living on top of each other and their problem is isolation. But it seems to me over my lifetime particularly in the last 30, 40 years, isolation has grown and grown. Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone has documented how associational life has declined and people are more individualized and isolated. I can't help but feel that the sense of isolation plus the impotence of having no power locally to do anything is the dangerous combination––isolation and impotence––and that our work ahead needs, above all, to focus on transforming ourselves from being alone and becoming connected once again with the capacity to be productive. We can't have a good society of isolated, unproductive people. They will feel impotent and they will do things that aren't good. In that sense, community organizing is perhaps one of the most significant of all skills that we need to renew among us.

 

Peter Block:

I think the word “productive” is shifting its meaning also. I think productive used to mean getting a good job and doing well at it. I think productive for children became doing well at school. You and I have joked that the teenager is another label for a person who has no use. When you mentioned isolation, it made me think of my mother, who always slept with the television on. I think that was a way of comforting her in her loneliness, to have those voices even from a distance and anonymous. I imagine if she was still alive, she'd have flat screens everywhere. There's a comment somebody made [in the chat box] about hope, though. It's like, "Okay, Peter and John, what gives you hope?" I don't know if you want to comment on that, John. I can comment on it.

 

John McKnight:

You start.

 

Peter Block:

I never am comfortable with the word “hope” because it means I'm waiting for something, and it's a longing for predictability. I always focus more on what's the source of our faith, where does our faith come from. Faith ultimately is the capacity to be with each other in a way that we want to be, and I think faith comes from, like you said, the people around you who determine who you are. If you pressure me, I would say I'm not hopeful. I look back over these years and most of the claims of progress have been in science, and it's granted I do live longer, but there's a progress in terms of people's way of being together in terms of their tolerance or their hospitality. I'm not sure so I don't want to bet my future on progress. I don't want to bet the future on hope. I want to bet it on faith and all those things that probably this group knows about which is trying to get people to get connected …

 

 

The other thought I had was that when you said isolation and being intimate, I think that this isolation and being consumers means we've come to depend so deeply on what I can purchase If I had hope it would be in our capacity to create very locally all that I need which should be much less than I have.

 

John McKnight:

Yes. That's true. That's true. I think I am hopeful and the reason is [a lot about] my age. I was born at the beginning of the Depression. That was pretty, pretty bad times. I can remember my father wasn't even paid even though he was a school teacher. They didn't have enough money to tax people to pay them. They gave them pieces of paper called scrip, but we went through that and just immediately, the Second World War came and that was terrible. The gold stars appeared on the streets and the homes of so many people where I lived. We lived through that. Then there was the Cold War with atomic bombs hanging over our heads….

 

 

I think as Americans we wended our way through an incredibly challenging century. The other thing that I've lived through is the great movement of people, the labor movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, the LGBT movement, all shifting the very base of the society in very positive ways during all of these difficult times. So I'm very hopeful. There's a movement all around us today. We just don't quite see it yet.

 

 

Somebody asked about what's invisible. I would say what's invisible is the next movement that moves us ahead in terms of freedom and responsibility and community. So each thing we do in that arena is the little piece is going to ignite and the next movement will come forward and that will be the way we’ll have real change, not the phony change that we're being offered now.

 

Peter Block:

That's great, John. Somebody wrote in the chat that Cornel West said, "Hope is not the same as optimism. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never to allow despair to have the last words." I think in lieu of my conversation about hope and faith and stuff, I should give you the last words so that Cornel West won't be upset.

 

John McKnight:

No. On the crest of my Scottish clan, the motto is "I hope in God." I've never been quite sure what they meant by that. We have it on our coins, our money: "I trust in God." But I come from a group who has hope not necessarily trust.

 

Peter Block:

I gotcha. Every time we part, John, as we've gotten older, we say "See you next time" and then you always say, "God willing" so I think you're closer to that crest than you admit.

 

John McKnight:

Yeah.

 

Maggie Rogers:

There was a question here that I know that you would want to respond to. It says, "My city focus is on the problem of crime and violence. Their answer is more police officers. What can I do to change the conversation?"

 

Peter Block:

I think that's a great question. The first thing you can do to change the conversation is not participate in it, not validate it, not think that it's true. It's hard to fight the patriarchal world. It's hard to fight the dominant paradigm by taking it on directly; what you do is create the alternative to it. You say, "Well, if the world thinks that police are going to make us safe, it's expensive and they're wrong, so what can I do to make the world that I have safer than it is now?" It's always in the direction of knowing people's names, knowing the children's names, increasing anything that gets people on the street.

 

 

Some of us are involved in a cooperative market in the neighborhood where we're in. The main reason I'm interested it's just puts people on the street and puts them in touch with each other. The world is going to keep believing in things even though they don't work. There's no relationship between police on the street and the amount of crime that there is. So it's a great question. We have to create an alternative narrative.  As John's says, it's happening. It's just we don't have anybody to tell the story.

 

 

Another thing that I want to do if we get to that, John, is I think we're going to have to get together and create an alternative journalism. Then we're going to have to join with people like Bill Moyers and Peter Pula in Toronto and say that we need a different storyteller because our current storytellers, the news, are not doing their job. They totally missed this election by fact checking…. I don't want to make my living as a fact checker anymore because it doesn't seem to matter.

 

 

I think that [a different way is] to create an alternative journalism and to give us the integrity that's the traditional. There was a time when we trusted our journalists. We trusted Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and people like that. So we've got to find voices that we can continue to trust, but we might have to do it ourselves unfortunately. Anything you want to add, John ?

 

John McKnight:

Maybe the question of violence and especially youth and violence gives me the opportunity to mention what I am most interested in doing now. It strikes me that in general, we have figured out how to raise children by never ever having them have any responsible activity that would allow them to grow up to be citizens, that we age segregate them until they're at least 18 when we send them away. I think that all of this focus on news and violence is a misleading way of thinking about what's happening.

 

 

I think what's happening is that young people and adults are disconnected. The young people live in school and in a youth culture, and the learning between young people and adults is lost in most communities. The connection isn't there. There aren't villages where the people are raising their children, no neighborhoods where they are taking any collective approach to young people.

 

 

So for everybody who's listening and anybody who's interested, we, meaning the ABCD Institute, are beginning to identify neighborhoods or local civic organizations that are interested in discovering what all of the adults and young people in local neighborhood know that they could teach each other and creating a connection process that results in especially young people being connected with adults in productive roles. I think there's just such a great opportunity to reconstitute those relationships that overcome adults' fear of young people, overcome young people's sense of uselessness. The school can't do that. Communities have to do it.

 

 

We're identifying local places that want to uncover the knowledge that local people have, that they're willing to share with each other so that the knowledge locally that isn't taught in school is now made available especially to young people, but young people also make their knowledge available to adults. We need a civic-based neighborhood organization––maybe a YMCA, maybe a church–– where that's the focus of what they're doing.

 

 

If you look at our website, abcdinstitute.org, and look under downloadable publications, you'll see an article called the Educating Neighborhood which outlines how much information and knowledge and wisdom there is in the local communities specifically that can be connected to young people especially. If you're at all interested in your neighborhood or some organization you're associated with becoming involved in this new initiative, let me know. My email is jlmabcd@aol.com. This is an absolute solicitation, an open door. I think it's the way for the future reestablishing relationships between productive adults and young people seeking to be somebody who's not useless.

 

Peter Block:

It's the first time I heard AOL.com in a long time, John.

 

John McKnight:

You have to be 85 to have AOL.

 

Peter Block:

I want to add two more ideas into this conversation. One the restorative movement, the restorative justice idea, restorative practices, is powerful. It's totally aligned with all the things we're talking about, and so learning about that, Lee Rush and Thom Allena and other people are very out in the world, and so I think the notion of restorative community is a very powerful idea.

 

 

Also, when you mentioned the linking, there is a cohousing movement. I think it has in it the possibility that young people and elderly people can be useful to each other just in the being together. There's even a school in Massachusetts that has one half of the building that is for senior living and the other half is a school, and there's doors in those walls so those people can move back and forth and be close to each other. That kind of a structural design to me is just good.

 

I think we're probably near the end, John. Any final things you'd like to say? This has really been fun and it's a nice kind of indulgence, but it's enjoyable. What would you like to close with, John?

 

John McKnight:

I’d really like to thank you. You've been such a wonderful source of wisdom and experience and friendship that it's hard to imagine the last decade of my life without you. So thanks for being a friend.

 

Peter Block:

I guess I'll close by saying you're welcome. I feel certainly there are certain ideas that you wait for and the idea of gift mindedness, as soon I read my first article, before you even wrote a book, I just kind of got it and we're still trying to live into that. I would like to thank you all for coming to this. Stay in touch. Let us know any thoughts you have. Maggie, why don't you close it out unless there's something on chat that I want to mention?

 

Maggie Rogers:

We will have this conversation transcribed and I believe we will post it on to the website and we'll include some of these chat comments along with it so you get to see the whole conversation. This has been fabulous. I love listening to you, guys. I'd also like to just put a plug in for a website that Peter is working on. It's called restore-commons.com.

 

Peter Block:

I'm glad you mentioned that. It's kind of a warehouse of ideas with John and Walter and people that are along this path. John, you called for people to contact you about teachable community. If people know where real measurement is being done of community building, of social capital and its effects on practical things like safety and raising children, I would just love to hear from you.

 

Maggie Rogers:

To write to Peter, that would be to pbi@att.net. This has been delightful. Thank you so much and thank you to everybody who participated. It's been quite lively.

 

I'd also like to invite you to join us the next time which is going to be on Tuesday, February 21 and we'll be joined by Mike Basher from Fare & Square, which is the first non-profit grocery store of its kind in the nation. That will be an interesting conversation. Until then, please visit our website at www.abundantcommunity.com and stay in touch with us. Thanks again for joining us and we'll close for today. Bye everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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