There is a growing movement of people with a different vision for their local communities. They know that real satisfaction and the good life are not provided by organizations, institutions, or systems. No number of great CEO’s, central offices, or long range plans produce what a community can produce. People are discovering a new possibility for their lives. They have a calling. They are called. And together they call upon themselves.This possibility is idealistic, and yet it is an ideal within our grasp. It is a possibility that is both idealistic and realistic. Our culture leads us to believe that a satisfying life can be purchased. It tells us that in the place where we live, we don't have the resources to create a good life. This book reminds us that a neighborhood that can raise a child, provide security, sustain our health, secure our income, and care for our vulnerable people is within the power of our community. This book gives voice to our ideal of a beloved community. It reminds us of our power to create a hope-filled life. It assures us that when we join together with our neighbors we are the architects of the future where we want to live.
I had difficulty finishing this book, and stopped reading some time ago - so feel free to take this review with a grain of salt.
I should state by saying that I broadly agree with the thrust of the book: That there has been a breakdown of "community," in our culture and that we would be richer if we worked towards its repair.
Like many pop-sociology books, I felt it fell in to a few common traps:
Jargon. The book very quickly moves in to using it's own brand of rhetoric, familiar to community organisers, townsfolk, and local politicians. I didn't mind it too much, but as a persuasive text, it does more to affirm believers than to convert the disinterested.
Too long. The book, at it's core, is a moral assessment of our current state of affairs. While some argument needs to be made, it moves from persuasive to jargonistic jingoism very quickly.
Failure to consider major challenges / idealism. The author's utopia is virtually a luddite fantasy and gives only the most dismissive attention to the benefits of globalisation and capitalism. Communities are great for local permaculture, but what about our communities in arid regions? A community may be able to educate a child, but does it have the expertise to raise a child with Autism?
Wow! This book was amazing. I'll give it 4.5 stars. It dissects our American culture that makes sense and challenges our assumptions. If you've ever wondered just how profoundly this culture is impacting you and those around you then you should give this book a read. I deducted half a star because the writing style was a bit hard for me to read. It just never flowed super well, despite the fact that what I was reading was really interesting and important.
Like Peter Block's Community, this is an important book, and certainly charges out of the gate as an important book, but then relaxes into a carefully crafted, repetitive, humourless tedium. I still feel the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapters 6-7 at the end are essential reading. I wish the rest of the book could've effectively and engagingly built on this fundamental view expressed at the beginning and end, rather than merely acted as filler. I don't think it was structured well in that the meat of the book is the last 33 pages, the conclusion.
I should add that the mention of families in the subtitle is misleading. Unfortunately, there is very little in this book on the endeavour of working with families in community-building.
With no facts, research, or concrete data to rely upon, this is just some vague yearning for the black-and-white aw shucks era. Would we be better off if, instead of doctors, we got all our medical information from neighbors? Seems unlikely, but the book argues so. It is so in favor of homeschooling (fight Big Teacher) and home carpentry (fight Big Contractor?).
I really wanted to love this book. I wanted it to be inspiring and transformative because I so strongly agree with its main thrust and wish for an awakening of community. While it wasn't quite everything I hoped for, it definitely has some good things to offer. It has some good practical ideas for overcoming awkwardness and starting simple conversations that can start to knit your neighborhood together. I think it is also underpinned by some good principles regarding what is valuable in communities and how consumer culture often works against community.
The ideology is an interesting mix of liberal and conservative thought. It is "liberal" in how it sees the dark side of consumerism and large corporations. It is "conservative" in how it eschews government programs (or even systematized charitable programs) as a main means of solving problems or helping people. While I didn't agree with everything it had to say, I appreciated it as an interesting third way -- rare right now.
A couple things that really drove me bananas:
Sloppy language in a couple places such as, "Individual behavior--what we eat and whether we exercise--is determined locally by community custom..." No. I agree that community custom influences people's behavior, even strongly, but it doesn't determine it.
Also, there was an implied assumption that the neighborhood you live in is socioeconomically diverse, that rich and poor should connect and get to know one another and help one another right there in their own neighborhoods. I agree this is a beautiful idea, but many people live in economically homogeneous neighborhoods. If a person living in a neighborhood of half-million dollar and up homes focuses on the few blocks right around her where she can really get to know people, improve the local school, the local park, the local neighborhood association etc. that's going to further exacerbate inequality between her neighborhood and the one a few miles away where the schools and parks may be in even greater need and the residents have less money to give. Of course there's no easy answer to this problem because the farther away a community is the harder it is to be in real relationship with those people, and at some point, when considering communities all over the world, it becomes virtually impossible. That's why "Who is my neighbor?" is such an important, difficult, and timeless question.
I think this book successfully grapples with the question: How can I improve my cooperation and connectedness with my neighbors? But, in my opinion, it does too little to address how you decide who counts as a neighbor when your neighborhood is not the ideal picture of diversity.
I appreciated the perspective and the idealism. It reminded me of moments when I was in abundant communities and gave me thoughts on how to return to them. As someone who studies communes, I saw a lot of the 1960s communal ambitions within these pages. That said, living in a conflict-riddled landscape of 2020, I wondered how much it mattered if I'd read this book if my neighbors and friends haven't. Glad I read it, and maybe need to keep referencing aspects of this to give a bit of hope that we can construct something different for our future.
3.5 ⭐️ Read this book for a class I’m taking on ABCD. While I absolutely love the framework of gifts/assets, associations and hospitality - there were some assumptions the authors made that didn’t seem helpful. By the end of the book, it felt like some content was repetitive. Overall, however, it presents an approach to community-building that is absolutely the way forward.
In this weak economy where budgets of local governments and non-profit budgets will continue to get slashed, it is especially heartening to read the mutual-reliance message inherent in this book. Rather than rely solely on outsiders and related funding and services, the authors suggest we band together with locals to come up with our own solutions to problems – and ways to leverage the resources we each have in support of “our” community.
While the authors advocate “no more relying on institutions or systems to provide us with the good life” the ideas that are good enough to be adopted do tend to get honed into systems and sometimes even institutions. That’s part of the ebb and flow of community design.
I see variations on this message from sites like shareable and the creative people cited in Richard Florida’s books.
Another reviewer notes that the authors advocate our striving toward greater compassion for each other rather than greater systems of efficiency yet I believe that, like natural systems and user-friendly design, finding ways to be more efficient can be a reflection of caring about one’s community.
Not only do I feel compassion but genuine liking for those in my community who invent or suggest a way to make our community better run and/or close-knit. That’s compassion in action.
As a long admirer of Block’s ideas who believes that the economy will be bumpy at best for the next five or so years I am heartened by the several specific ways that bottom-up community-building is happening - and that the models for such local efforts spreading so leaders in different communities can learn from each other’s local experience.
The more specific they are the more “spreadable” they become – and often they reflect more efficient ways to be mutually supportive.
Some examples are as seemingly mundane as Freecycle – which is elegantly moderated in my Marin County by “Nicole,” co-work space and the Village movement started in Beacon Hill.
When people discover concrete ways they can be mutually-supportive they tend to adopt and modify them and to tell others. to spread.
From my work in forging partnerships to generate more value and visibility I’ve found that identifying the sweet spot of mutual interest between individuals and/or organizations is a crucial first step to exploring how to accomplish greater things together than one can alone. When people collaborate around an explicit shared purpose they tend to bring out the better sides in each other so they inevitably get closer.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the co-authors use their influence to advocate the creation of an online community where we could exchange ideas about what’s working to create “abundant communities?”
To propose the existence of abundance at a time when so many people are discouraged and overwhelmed might appear to be a hard sell. But that's exactly what John McKnight and Peter Block effectively do and nurture through their wonderful book "The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods" and the Abundant Community website (http://www.abundantcommunity.com) they maintain to support and spread their work--and ours. A heartfelt and encouraging paean to the power of collaboration, the book serves as a positive source of inspiration for rethinking many of our unquestioned assumptions; it also consistently serves as a useful handbook for those of us interested in and committed to building the sort of collaborative coalitions that make a difference locally, regionally, nationally, and globally with surprisingly little effort. McKnight and Block begin the rethinking process by drawing a distinction between what they call "citizen" and "consumer" societies--maintaining that until we reverse the trend away from the citizen to the consumer model, we're going to miss the obvious abundance of resources around us and the opportunities to overcome the challenges that leave so many people feeling incapable of effecting change. The writers are explicit about the problems we create when we fail to acknowledge and build upon the abundance that remains untapped within communities; they are equally explicit about the numerous, simple achievable changes we can make to address these challenges. The abundant community that McKnight and Block want to help us strengthen is built upon several core beliefs that too few of us recognize; drawing upon their lucid and inspiring work takes us one big step on a path to finding solutions to the challenges that we face.
I read and loved this book, then interviewed the authors together, on my radio show. Here's what I said, introducing the book. I got a look at this book, and the subtitle is Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. And, it sat on my desk a little bit, and I just looked at it, and I wasn't real excited about it right away, but then I opened it up and I started looking at it, and all of a sudden I got really excited, and I have to tell you, this is a book I'm telling people about. So, I am saying, "You have to read this book," because I think it's an important book that really looks at where we're going, where our culture is, in a very different light that reminds us of who we are, where we've been, and where we're going
This book laments the decline of community, particularly locational community. The authors define what, exactly, has been lost, and give suggestions for recreating community. They seemed almost too optimistic about neighbors' willingness to be involved in others' lives, but perhaps I am too pessimistic.
I only made it 42% of the way through this book and couldn't continue. The first third of the book is more about what's wrong with consumerism than what's right with community. Grand claims are made about how community will provide individuals with ultimate satisfaction and meaning without any objective data provided. The author often admitted that he was giving "extreme" examples against consumerism with few and relatively weak examples to support his postmodern tribalism (and yes, he does quite Nietzsche). The most frustrating argument of his was against hospice care. The author feels the community can provide better end of life care than professionals can. He doesn't bother to consider where the community would get the pain medicine (like IT morphine) to provide comfort to the dying. Seems like he prefers the person writhe in pain than have a hospice nurse.
Obsessed with the concepts in this book. My criticisms include the need for continued deconstruction of systemic white supremacy in ABCD circles, the apparent academic focus of the org compared to practice, need for further development of connections to/overlap with indigenous practices of community. My praise is for the vision of strengths based community development, place based thinking, and activating integration of systems, institutions, individuals in a shared place for common goals.
Solid read. If you want to build up your community, your neighborhood, or just want to know what's wrong with the world today, this might be a good place to start. Both investigate the origins of issues in our world (boiled down to no longer living well in small communities) and offering advice and practical solutions.
This book outlines a new way of thinking about our communities based on the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) model. Instead of asking, “What do we need?” we can ask, “What do we already have?” Rather than operating out a scarcity mentality that drives consumerism, we can see with new eyes when we take an abundance mentality that realizes we are surrounded with countless gifts among us.
Powerful message -- great book with great information on how to create abundant communities. I see a lot of this going on already, here and there, but McKnight and Block lay out a wonderful roadmap for communities who desire change beyond their current state.
This is required reading for people hoping to find their way back to communities that are sustainable and resilient! Especially those change-maker types who all too often just need a place of stability and connection to ground them and help them focus their God-given capacities optimally.
Stopped reading it. This book is good, well researched but I am not the correct audience for it. I have been married for less than two years, have no kids and live a simple life in a second country. I am still figuring out things and I am not running to finish errands nor chasing time to fix in some more work. I believe in the power of people and like to know about all the happenings around me. Though it's difficult to find interactive and social neighbors, I am trying to follow my neighborhood on the app called NextDoor or through closed groups on Facebook. Though it has not brought people closer in a community and as I agree from the book, everything here seems transactional. In order to make people come today and build a community, I think of open creative spaces big as community hall, where people come at their suitable hour and do things they want to do. Kids befriending other kids while parents enjoy their adult time with other parents. They can create events, products and do everything social.
This is a very practical book that looks at how to build community in families, neighborhoods and other groups. They set up a contrast between a society of consumers vs. a society of citizens. The greatest threat to community is the consumer mindset that is built on a system designed to create dissatisfaction so one will look to things to bring joy, happiness, belonging and meaning. By contrast citizens are people who are actively engaged in creating the kinds of comm unites that honor people's gifts, and build associations while accepting people in their humanness and imperfection. The second half of the book deals with the practical ways people have created community. This book inspired me to see community more intentionally but also highlighted the ways that our tech and media saturated culture is not built for helping connect; therein lies the great challenge.
This book was a little idyllic for my taste, but I still got a lot out of it. Mainly, it did a good job of cementing what an assets-based perspective could look like. The positivity and admonishment of a deficit model was worthwhile. Some of what was communicated in the book made me a bit uncomfortable. Depending on how broad the view of "community" is, the book seemed to allow for structural injustices to be ignored in favour of a localised approach that would somehow be to pure for such injustices to be sustained. Still, a good book to situate alongside other community development literature.
(Writing this review months later): I remember feeling condescended to and guilty for not doing more or being different. Yes, neighborhoods can hold more of our lives, community is better than isolation -- but how does one shift a community towards wanting to be connected, when everyone on my block comes home from their low-level tech jobs and crashes in their house until they go back to work the next morning? It's not as easy as "get involved! talk to people!" Definitely a book that "gives voice to ideals" (as the cover states), but not one for any practical application. Soerens, Friesen, and others do a much better job with that.
This was an excellent study on communities. It gave an in-depth look at the issues affecting communities - some of which I would never have guessed - but as I started reading about them, I realized that yes, of course they would negatively impact our communities and neighborhoods. Loved this book. I think I may need to purchase it and add it to my 2015 Booklist...
A how-to book on making our community lives healthier, safer, and happier. It shows us how to build more self-reliant communities and communities less reliant on big government and big corporation to solve our problems. First, it talks about the wrong in relying on big government and big corporation. Then it shows us how to build strong communities, giving us examples and resource links.