After the invitation, there are five other conversations for structuring belonging: possibility, ownership, dissent, commitment, and gifts. Since all the conversations lead to each other, sequence is not that critical. The context of the gathering will often determine which questions to deal with and at what depth. It’s important to understand, though, that some are more difficult than others, especially in communities where citizens are just beginning to engage with one another.*
Physical space is more decisive in creating community than we realize. Most meeting spaces are designed for control, negotiation, and persuasion. While the room itself is not going to change, we always have a choice about how we rearrange and occupy whatever room we are handed. Community is built when we sit in circles, when there are windows and the walls have signs of life, when every voice can be equally heard and amplified, when we all are on one level—and the chairs have wheels and swivel. … The design process itself needs to be an example of the future we are intending to create. The material and built world is a reflection of the connectedness, openness, and curiosity of the group gathered to design the space. Authentic citizen engagement is as important as design expertise.
Too often we stop with the invitation, and then go back to the poles or controllingor carelessness: Either planning a meeting with a talking head and set agenda or hanging out without any intention and enacting the cost.
Next week in the reader we’ll discuss the types of conversations to have in a gathering. But to finalize the invite you’ll need to visualize the best space and time. Let that determine the “when and where” of your invite. As you invite folks consider how the space will be set up, what will best “enact the type of future you intend to create.” As people accept the invitations, invite them further into the co-creation process by inviting food or plants or music or what gifts you know they have. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.
Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging(p. 123, 151). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.