Convener’s Blog

Sep 202013

The Four Conversations that Build Community

2011 – A Guest Post by – Jack Ricchiuto
Based on Instructions from the Cook (2008 DesigningLife Books)

Community is the quality of connections among people who share a common purpose, place, past, or perspective. Building community means building the quality of these connections.

When there are high quality connections in a community, people know each other, share with each other, and engage each other. People know each other’s stories and talents, They share their talents and time with each other. They engage each other in doing together what they cannot do alone.

When we build community, people and organizations move from isolation, fragmentation, and win-lose competition to greater degrees of hospitality, trust, and collaboration.

Not everything that happens in a community builds community. We can build all kinds of commercial and residential developments, education and social institutions in ways that leave people as isolated, fragmented, and competitive as ever.

Community building is not about empires built by people with authority, influence, or wealth. It’s what happens when we have the four conversations that have the power to create deeper and wider connections among people in the community.

Community is about the degree of connection not the scope of consumption. It happens when people move from self-interest to mutual-interest.

 In the Dream Space conversation, we talk about what we would love to be possible in our community 20 years from now. It is a description of what we want rather than speculation about what might be. We dream in order to see the present possibilities more clearly and to create a community of passion. The depth of our passion is always equal to the length of our vision.

In the Small Acts conversation, we talk about what small experiments can move us in the direction of our dreams. These are projects that are possible given the resources and opportunities we have. They are the small acts we can do without permission or validation by the majority in the community. They realize parts of our dreams that are possible in the present. Over time, thousands of small acts in a community make the impossible possible every time.

In the Gifts conversation, we talk about the talents and resources we have at the table. Our gifts are what we are willing to invest without necessarily having return for our investment. They are the gifts that can make our small acts possible. The more we engage our gifts together, the more we can do together what we cannot do alone. The origin of the word “community: is “gifts together.”

In the Invitation conversation, we talk about who else in the community we can invite to join us in our small acts. They are people who have gifts that can make our small acts possible. They are people we know well, people we know of, and people we can be introduced to. They complement our talents and resources in ways that make our weaknesses and deficiencies irrelevant.

There are also four conversations that keep communities stuck. We call these the “shadow” conversations.

In the Problem conversation, we talk about what we don’t like and don’t want. We talk about our complaints and grievances. The problem with problem conversations is that they have no power to help us create a future different from the past. They only have the power to maintain the status quo because they postpone our dreaming and engaging in the small acts to make our dreams more possible.

In the Permissions conversation, we talk about how we can’t take action until we win enough community affirmation and support for our dreams and small acts. The need to have consensus becomes a postponement of our small acts in the short term and dreams in the long term. Small acts by definition do not require the agreement of many, only the actions of a few. The majority may rule, but all great things have always come from the courage of small group.

In the Deficiency conversation, we talk about our weaknesses and constraints. We talk about what we lack instead of what we have to make small acts possible. When we focus on our weaknesses and constraints, we give ourselves excuses for postponing possible actions on our dreams. We make it less possible that we engage the time and talents we have to do what we can to create what we want.

In the Blame conversations, we talk about people whom we hold responsible for our problems, lack of support, weaknesses, and constraints. We blame others in order to maintain our innocence. Blaming, though relieving us of the guilt of responsibility, postpones our dreaming and engaging in making our dreams possible. It maintains our position as victims, denies our gifts, excludes the gifts of others, and effectively maintains the status quo that ultimately becomes the deterioration of the community.

The more we initiate and invite the four conversations that build community, we build connections among people in the community. The success stories we create and tell attract more gifts to the community because people seek communities where positive stories thrive. This is what sustains the renewal and growth of the community.

The conversations need to happen across backyard fences, in public spaces and public meetings. They need to happen in organizations and among leaders in the community. They need to happen wherever people are gathered by mandate, plan, or accident. They need to happen whenever we want to connect people in new ways.

The simple power of these conversations is that anyone can initiate them and invite people into them. It requires no power, position, or permission to invite people into conversations about dreams, small acts, gifts or invitations. Building community is everyone’s possibility the moment we embrace our freedom to do so.

If you want to discuss the above ideas, Contact Tony

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Network Weaving

 Posted by at 1:16 am
Sep 202013

Introduction to Network Weaving
2010 – A Guest Post by – Jack Ricchiuto

One of the ways networks grow is through the growth of network weavers. These are Biz-people-connecting6x4people who generously give time to connecting people in a network. Most networks already have network weavers, though they may not be obvious or named as such.

One of the ways we identify existing weavers is by asking the more engaged and connected people in the network who they go to for new ideas, resources, or support. The people most often mentioned are often the most active weavers in the network. They often do not have high visibility or positional prominence in the network. They may have no formal leadership roles or power over significant decisions that occur in the network.

Network weavers have three common characteristics.

1. They keep up to date with what’s happening in the network. They stay curious about who’s new, who’s doing something new, and who could help others in the network.

2. They are credible in the network. People like them and believe what they say. What gives then credibility is that they are good storytellers and storylisteners, which makes others feel a positive connection with them.

3. They actively introduce people for the purpose of creating new connections of generosity, exchange, or collaboration. They help people get to expand their awareness and reach into the network for idea, resources, and support.

iStock_000001037910SmallThere are no generational or gender restrictions to anyone being a network weaver in a network. Network weavers can either have long tenure in a network or be relatively new to a network.

The number and quality of network weavers can grow in three ways.

1. People spontaneously see what other network weavers are doing, and get inspired to start or develop their own willingness and skill in network weaving.

2. Existing network weavers intentionally encourage and invite others to do the same.

3. Leaders in the network intentionally encourage, invite and support others to start doing more or better network weaving.

Network weaving is a generous commitment of time and energy to connecting people in the network. It is also a very specific craft that can be explicitly learned, taught, practiced, and developed. Learning happens through observation, instruction, mentoring and practice.

Some of the skills involved in network weaving include: engaging people in accidental conversations, asset mapping in networks, making inspiring introductions, storytelling, story listening, and the art of small talk.

The more network weavers grow, the more networks grow, and the more the quality of everyone’s life in a network grows.

If you want to discuss the above ideas, Contact Tony Budak

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Aug 222013

Strengthening Communities
The Integrative Potential of Time Banking   ver8.18.13
A Guest Post by Marie Wilson Nelson

Time Bank Mahoning Watershed ( is a community service exchange or “Time Bank,” a collection of people and organizations who connect unused resources with unmet needs. Time Bank Mahoning Watershed is part of an international social change movement grounded in five core values articulated by founder Edgar S. Cahn in No More Throwaway People: The Co-Production Imperative:

  • Assets: We are all assets. Every person has something of value to offer.
  • Redefining Work: Some work is beyond price.
  • Reciprocity: Helping works better as a two-way street.
  • Social Networks: We need each other. People helping each other reweave communities of support, strength and trust.
  • Respect: Every human matters.  When respect is denied to any, all are injured.

Acting on these values our Time Bank fulfills its mission–promoting equality and building a caring, just and sustainable community economy through inclusive exchange of time and talent. The concept is simple. Members help someone for an hour, earn an hour of credit, and spend the credit on services offered by any other member. Reweaving community one exchange at a time, they document exchanges in an online database ( and revitalize what Cahn calls “the core economy” on which the Market depends. The core economy includes:

  • Raising healthy children
  • Revitalizing neighborhoods
  • Making democracy work
  • Nurturing the spirit
  • Building strong families
  • Strengthening local economies
  • Advancing social justice
  • Making the planet sustainable

In the PBS documentary Fixing the Future, time bankers help each other weatherize homes, access medical care, eat healthier food and take sailing lessons (8-minute clip: They contribute to low-carbon lifestyles, reduce transportation costs and provide services within neighborhoods. They grow capacity for community groups, non-profits, small businesses, and government groups, serving schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, and court systems. They do so by

  • Offering groups an expanded pool of volunteers.
  • Providing something valuable groups can give back to volunteers.
  • Identifying and connecting unused community resources with unmet needs.
  • Incubating new businesses.
  • Facilitating restorative justice.
  • Lowering operational costs.
  • Keeping prices low for businesses, clients and customers.
  • Reducing medical expenses.
  • Helping elders age in place.
  • Mentoring & tutoring.
  • Offering internships and on-the-job training.
  • Reducing tax burdens.
  • Containing administrative costs.
  • Tracking volunteer hours for reporting in funding proposals.

Each of these benefits reverses the opportunity costs of not banking time.   In addition, paying volunteers in Time Bank Hours could support start-ups in underserved communities. A few potential examples come to mind:

  • Weatherization projects                        Solar installations
  • Urban farms                                            Plant nurseries
  • Food preparation and distribution    Canning and preserving
  • Water catchment                                   Backyard garden installation
  • Home building                                       Home repair

Any group aligned with the five core values may partner with a time bank:

In the spirit of reciprocity, Time Banking offers community partners:

  • A complementary currency, the Time Bank Hour, created by doing some work.
  • A means of rewarding unpaid work by converting it to goods and services.
  • A way to reactivate social capital that lies untapped within neighborhoods.
  • Proven models for co-producing each other’s operations.
  • A way to restore community values ignored by the market economy.

If you want to discuss the above ideas, Contact Tony Budak

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