Enough Structure for the Next Step by Peter Block & John McKnight

Our discussions on community point out how it is messy, chaotic, and frequently less structured than a system approach that determines roles and outcomes in advance.

This is not an argument against structure and order, just about how they are produced. What we are talking about, in taking the path to community competence, is changing our relationship to order. Community has a unique relationship to order. It creates the minimum that is needed. In systems, the first thing we do is create more order. What helps us to find common ground between system and community life is that we create order without predictability. This is what chaos theory and emergent design are about. You can always create the structure that takes you another step, and then you look around and see what you have. This is emergent order.

Often order helps protect us from feeling vulnerable with one another. If its a job and you don’t do it, we feel we have the right to blame or confront, but we rarely ask- how might we restructure this to fit your commitment, skills, and current reality?

Look around you. What order is working? Is there a gap between someone’s “place” in a system and what is needed? How might you have a conversation with someone about this, asking- what new order is emerging?



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 77). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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