The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, imagination, and resources of its people. – Ernesto Sirolli
Over the next sixty to ninety days I will work on the draft of a book a blog post at a time, following a rough outline but also feeling free to follow trails wherever they may lead.
Before we begin
I want to make life a little easier for myself – the one thing I am not a fan of is hard work. Or, more precisely, unnecessary rework.
For example, I have written several blog posts in the way that I thought they ought to be written – a sentence at a time. I’m not sure where that rule came from or whether it actually makes it easier for you to read. It might make it easier to write in a conversational style but easy writing does not necessarily make for easy reading. Where it causes a problem for me is that these disconnected sentences eventually need to be pulled together into paragraphs – a repetitive and unpleasant task. Maybe a task that should have been done right the first time?
So, I’m going to try an experiment with this set of posts. Instead of standalone lines which I then need to sort into paragraphs, I’ll try writing in paragraphs from the start. I’ll also work on sectioning and structure as I go along. All of which means, hopefully, that editing will be easier and I won’t need to do major structural work and can focus on finish and snagging instead.
But I’ll save my one sentence bits for the inevitable angst and introspection that accompanies work like this – but using a method of literate writing I can comment them out later and you won’t see them in the final draft.
But enough of this, let’s introduce the project.
In my first project I explored the idea of getting started, which I think I will eventually title “Start”, and then, in the second project, the idea of listening in “Listen”. Both projects are loosely anchored in the practical world of business and personal development, aiming to help you work through making something of yourself and become a useful, productive force. The first book helps you work out who you are and what you have to offer. The second book helps you listen to the world around you and understand what they need.
My third book project is going to be called “Community” and, in these posts, I am going to explore the idea of what it means to engage with the world around you. Think of it as part marketing and part anthropology; I’m going to borrow models from management, social science and biology and take a critical look at some of the prevailing ideas, beliefs and fads around us today. In the same vein as my first two projects I’m not aiming to find “truth” in an objective, scientific way. Instead, I’m trying to develop conceptual models, making ways of thinking visible, so that you can see the argument for yourself and work out what you think, whether you like it or not and how you can try it out for yourself.
Why do we need a book like this?
We live in a world where we swim in information, with chattering voices chattering away telling us how they think we should think. In such a world you have structures, hierarchies, networks, communities – features of the landscape being created in our collective minds. If you look at this collective landscape you’ll see every shade of opinion, from people who differ on questions of politics, of social justice, on the environment. People are different and they believe in different things.
So what brings them together? Is it a shared belief in something, do they have a common passion, something at the centre that they all share? Do they coalesce around a charismatic leader, the “cult of personality”? Or is it about shared institutions, social spaces they once occupied and the virtual spaces now being created to house everyone in their own safe space?
I’d like to explore these ideas and see what kind of models explain the world out there and how we can fit into it. How do we create our own communities or join existing ones. Is the idea of community changing? How do our jobs and allegiances to employers work in this new world? Is there a difference if you own a business that does knowledge work and one that is in the traditional businesses that create wealth? I don’t know where this is going to go but I know I want to find out because I need to know if we live in a world that is going to be worth engaging and participating in, one where we can make a difference, or whether we should just find a quiet corner and get on with the knitting.
The structure of the book
I don’t quite have a structure yet but I suppose it will need to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
In the beginning I should look at what we think about when we look at the word “Community” and explore its origins and the forms in which we see it. We should also try and look at the underlying structures that support community and make each one viable or unstable.
Then I think we should look at how we engage with communities, what it means to participate and contribute and how we can do that in a way that is balanced, where we give and get. Or perhaps it needs to be unbalanced, perhaps you first need to give without any requirement to get, and eventually it will all work out. I don’t know, let’s see where that takes us.
Then we should close by looking at how to create a community, what we must do to build and secure a group of individuals who want to make a difference in whatever way they see best. We should probably look at what happens when groups go bad, and what you can do in that situation. Do you keep your head down and try to survive or do you speak up and risk everything? What does bad look like, what does good look like, and what does right look like, for you.
And we’re off
I should point out that I am not an expert writing from the point of view of an expert. These are subjects that I have thought about but I still have everything to learn and these writing projects are as much about teaching myself as presenting the ideas to you. As a result, if you take the trouble to read this and find there are ideas that are wrong or believe there are ideas that are better please let me know and I will consider them. I’m not writing to a market or for a publisher or for money. I’m writing because it’s what I want to do and I know that the only way to get better is to write. And read, and think, and revise, and all the other things that go into any project.
I hope you find some of these ideas interesting and perhaps even useful.