July 10, 2018 Common Good

Associations Form at the Margins

Community competence and abundance are most likely to prevail in places where the consumer society and its institutions have not taken over. The consumer economy has invaded or colonized most every corner of life but one: associations and associational life.

An association is fundamentally a group of people who have a shared affinity. Associational life begins with a group of people who are drawn together for some reason, and that reason is what makes it work. Say they all like dogs, so they have a dog club. Or they all like reading fiction, so they have a book club. An association is often a fulfillment of one’s individual likes and purposes. It is a place for having something in common, standing on common ground. But there is more to it than that…

Associations are a primary place in community where individual capacities get expressed. 

In a consumer society, we behave as if the “center” is where commerce, institutions and the rich-and-famous live. But you and I intersect places at the margins of such a society every day. Like the wilderness, these marginalized places or those who experience marginalization, are rich with abundance, and we just miss it.

What is one example of a margin that you intersect with or frequent? Is there a group you know who are not the typical center of attention? Is there a common cause or passion that is less than mainstream. Why not lean further into these relationships and begin committing to associate together more often. You don’t need to elect a organization president or a have shiny product to be an association. Consider simply sharing the possibility of committing to one another to meet regularly. Vulnerably listen to see if this is welcomed.

Moving from an unnamed possibility into a shared intention is a step toward building the social possibilities of a community.



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (pp. 71-72). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition

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