Speaker advises: build community by telling positive stories

In order to build community, we need to shift from “a mindset of deficiency to a gifts mindset,” Peter Block told the MidAmerican Regional Council audience Friday at a luncheon.

The way to build community is to “create an alternative to negative messages” we are constantly hearing, according to author Peter Block.

Block was the keynote speaker Friday at the MidAmerica Regional Council Regional Assembly. He’s a native on the Kansas City area and a KU graduate who now writes and works on stewardship, empowerment, leadership and community.

“We’ve bought into the idea that its all about self interest,” Block said. “The dominant storyline in our culture is that there’s something wrong with us.”

The way to change that, Block said, is to create an alternative to those negative messages.

For example, elected officials can shift from a mindset that they are meant to solve problems for citizens/consumers, and instead recognize that citizens are capable of solving problems in their neighborhoods.

Block encouraged the audience to shift from “a mindset of deficiency to a gifts mindset.” He was referring to a concept advanced by John McKnight, a Northwestern University professor and  cofounder and co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Block and McKnight have just published a new book on community building called The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods.

The news media have contributed to our view of communities as places where problems occur rather than places where people come together to make changes, according to Block.

However, Block told the Kansas City audience the community here is doing a lot right in changing the conversation.

He said many local individuals and groups have realized that cooperation is important, that there is a value in caring for the civic sector, and that it is important to care about the well-being of the next generation.

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