July 9, 2018 Common Good

Appreciating What Associations Uniquely Do (As Opposed to Systems)

… Associations are organized to express the properties and capacities of a competent community, [while] systems are organized to produce services and products. This distinction has particular meaning when it comes to relationships.

Systems use relationships to produce products and services. Associations create relationships for their own sake. This has the effect of bringing forth the properties of kindness, generosity, and the rest. Developing community properties and capacities is the secondary purpose of association. Associations exist to be a collecting place for them. They will allow these qualities to be brought into the collective. This is why we need associational life; otherwise, these capacities will remain hidden within ourselves, a gift ungiven.

Association is built on people who are manifesting generosity, cooperation, and forgiveness. It provides a vehicle for the manifestation of that which is hidden in systems.

Consider such qualities or values as kindness, generosity, or rest. Notice how you might practice these alone, or as an individual. Now consider how associations you belong to make it possible to practice these even more frequently and with greater impact.

Take time this holiday week to thank a couple people or associations for helping you with that. It’s amazing how a simple call or email to a group of friends, or a letter to colleagues in an association you belong to  can remind the association of their power and significance.




McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 81). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Share with a friend