Common Good


This Reader is an expression of Common Good, a vision for an alternative way, rooted in the act of remembering anew, the significance of place, and the structure of belonging. Whether you come at this from a place of economics, social good, or faith, we hope these reflections help orient your day in fresh, provocative, courageous ways. And most importantly, we hope these lead you into the sharing of gifts in particular communities—into co-creating a common good.
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Conspire Gathering

People daring to reimagine what is possible in our neighborhoods and faith communities will converge on October 12 & 13 in Cincinnati. If you’re in or near Cincinnati, or merely needing an excuse to visit, check out

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Make the Gifts Visible

When we and the other neighbors know of each other’s gifts, new community possibilities emerge. For example, the community can play an important role in rearing children and helping them to learn about their own abilities and what it means to be a contributing member of society. We can do the following:  Have young people teach the Internet to seniors and adults.  Hold gatherings where youth learn about music, painting, poetry, storytelling, and dance from artistic neighbors.  Create a tutor list so that young people can learn what the neighbors know. Make an inventory of each neighbor’s job, and then connect our teens to people with interesting jobs so that they can learn what the neighbors do and how to prepare for a vocation.  Have a children’s clothes exchange.  Have rewards for older children tutoring younger children.  Have monthly potluck dinners where we sing together and urge our children.

As we read earlier this week, “The culture of community is initiated by people who value each other’s gifts and are seriously related to each other.”  Take a look at the gifts in your community. How do they connect? Can you see the link between what a young person wants and has to offer, and what an elder has to offer and wants? Could you be a matchmaker, connecting relationships at the place of gifts, and offering to help the match to be shared with the wider group, be it your block, or your office floor, or school group. You can make gifts visible through storytelling, reporting, even through social media posts and photos. But you can also make them visible in a one-on-one personal introduction.

Is there one person you could ask this week, “knowing what I know about your gifts, could I introduce you to so-and-so? I’d love to see what you two have to learn from one another!”



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (pp. 120-121). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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This is Home Made

Every community creates its own culture—the way the community members learn, through time, how to survive and prosper in a particular place. Displaced people lose their culture. But it is also possible to lose a community culture even though you stay in a place. Many of us have lost our culture, even though we live in a neighborhood, occupy an apartment, see others from a distance.  

The question is how to create another way of life, so that we could say, “In this place, we have a strong culture where kin, friends, and neighbors surround us. We are a group of families who have a special kind of relationship. Together we raise our children, manage health, feel productive, and care for those on the margin.”

The culture of community is initiated by people who value each other’s gifts and are seriously related to each other. It takes time, because serious relationships are based upon trust, and trust grows from the experience of being together in ways that make a difference in our lives.

As you read the above quote, is there an example that comes to mind of where you or your community has lost culture? What is the special kind of relationship that you and your neighbors and friends share? How are you building a culture together?

In these summer months, consider how you might invite a few colleagues or neighbors into a shared evening experience. Maybe it’s a game night, a cocktail night, a pie eating party, a music jam, a potluck, or kickball game. Avoid the temptation to make it one more activity in a busy week—instead leave space so that it is more “home spun” made by those who share it.



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 117). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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What We Seeks Exists Around Us

To some extent, each of us already participates in the neighborhood and community world. We belong to some organizations and know that more associations exist around us. We have our network of friends and neighbors. Each of us has a set of gifts that when named, collected, and offered can provide great satisfaction. We are already on the path to becoming more powerful citizens and avoiding many of the costs associated with being consumers.

What is needed is for us to more fully engage as citizens and to shift our attention, our narrative, toward the community way that we can reclaim. Community properties and family capacities can become the centerpiece for fulfilling our desire for a satisfied life.

All too often we start into meaningful work feeling a day behind and a dollar short. Se opt for shame or blame to protect us from a deeper sense of scarcity. But belonging to community is already happening- it’s a matter of howyou choose to belong.

List a few associations you belong to already: perhaps a rotary club, a cycling group, a congregation or a guild. Consider how these are already sources for creating abundance and strengthening social fabric. Is there a challenge or possibility you could speak into that association that moves the group from a consumer posture to a creative producer posture when it comes to the community and world we live in?



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 116). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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We are Enough

Making the shift requires only that we act as if each of us and all of us have all that is needed to break our habits of consumption and its limits to satisfaction. We have the gifts, the structures, and the capacities needed right now. We have the capacities in our families and in our communities. All we need to do is shift our thinking first and then act on that shift. This is true, independent of the culture we live in, east or west, urban or rural, rich or poor.

When we stop looking to the marketplace for what matters to us, we find ways that neighborhood and community can provide much of what we require. This is the place to begin the discussion about what we all can do.

In the realm of doing, there is a community world around us that is now doing much of what is needed; it is simply invisible. Our modern media is just not that interested. The overpowering spotlight of the consumer world and the system world shines so brightly that the community world lives in its shadow. We want to magnify that neighborhood and community world to make its blessings more accessible and usable. We want to magnify the power of connectedness as the antidote to the symptoms and dis-ease of consumerism.

Today, rather than looking at your own practice, look for a way to celebrate the practice and courage of a neighbor. Is there someone you know that you can shed “the spotlight” on? If no one comes to mind, ask an immediate neighbor, “is there someone you know who cares about this community whose story we could tell?”

How might you get the word out: facebook, instagram, a flier, a local paper, an intentional introduction?



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (pp. 115-116). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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