Community Inquiries

From civicintelligence

I (Doug) am trying to come up with a Community Inquiry of my own. After reading the Bruce article (again) I think it would be along the lines of How can we build on Dewey's notion of social intelligence? Presumably there are examples that already exist?!

Devin's Community Inquiry: In the following submission I will use and cite two passages from Bertram C. Bruce's article: "From Hull House to Paseo Boricua: The Theory and Practice of Community Inquiry."

Letter to the Local Resource Center of Civic Intelligence: Department of Community Inquiries. To my representatives of the community of (enter community here), I am writing to express my concerns about the way things are going with our city’s public transportation system. Recently I have seen cutbacks in the bus routes (enter approximate bus routes) –during hours when I along with a few of my neighboring citizens depend on these transit vehicles to take us to our jobs so that we may arrive promptly to work and support our families, as well as to return us to our homes after work to attend to our families. I realize that times are hard around here but I just wish there was something we could do or some way that we could form a fund raiser to help gain local support to keep the bus routes active. Thank you for your time, -(enter name and contact info of concerned citizen)

Explanation: “Society exists through a process of transmission quite as much as biological life… Without [the] communication of ideals, hopes, expectations, standards, opinions from those members of society who are passing out of the group life to those who are coming into it, social life could not survive.” (-Bruce pg 7). After thinking about this passage, it seemed realistic to me that I present my community inquiry in the form of a potential community member's perspective on some concerns about local issues he or she has encountered. In this hypothetical scenario, there is a hypothetical resource center (both held online and at a public facility) –and this concerned citizen is sending in a request for advice on a issue and to alert other members who can help her and to speak for others who share this concern who wish to become involved in a discussion to search for a solution, hopefully resulting in some process of debate leading to an agreement. At this point the resource center would be hosting a shared experience of civil action, one that mirrors Dewey’s idea of a rewarding community experience (as Bruce points out on page 5 )- “For Dewey, it was exactly in the ordinary experiences of life that we find the core of our intellectual, moral, and social being… Making sense of experience is what prepares us for enlarged experiences in the future.” Note: If this isn't the correct space to post this or if I have taken up to much space, please let me know and I will revise this. -Devin Out

Question: Communications technology has advanced in a presumable and non-exhaustive order; language, writing, mail, phone, radio, tv, internet, email, social networking. It is also presumable that the rate of technological advancement increases in pair with the capabilities of the most modern communication technology. Yet, does social progress increase at this rate aswell?

Thought: Technology is something that relies on usability and arises from innovations upon it's predecessor. For the most part, the constraints of the human form limit and guide the direction technology takes. Furthermore, products emerging dominant through competition in the market become standardized and outdated products become replaceable. As the rate of technological innovation increases, it can be inferred that so does the rate of technological replacement.

Social progress is something that arises on what is practical for a society to function and much like technology is built from innovations upon it's predecessor. But, the medium of social progress is within the minds of diverse peoples and the aggregate of their multi layered relationships. Unlike technology, people are not replaceable, and over generations "social technology" becomes both non-standardized and "out of date." To me, this means that no market for social progress exists or in the root of the matter, a constant and practical motivation does not propel social progress towards unification and therefore will not match the speed of technological advancement.

Therefore, we must develop technologies that increase the rate of social innovation that will be capable of creating standardization across barriers while preserving cultural diversity. Community inquiry, represents this form of technology.


After reading these articles I occurred to me that we don’t really have much in the way of people getting together and as a community solving the issues at hand (or at least they aren’t as publicized as they should be). I’ll be honest in saying that these articles were bittersweet. Yes, they showed how coming together resulted in success, but it also made me realize that people have stopped working together for the better of their community and culture and have focused more on themselves. Maybe that’s just the pessimist in me coming to the surface but as Bishop and Bruce state

The problem goes beyond institutions, structures, and a procedure, requiring instead the means by which every member of the community comes into the process of authority. Community inquiry provides a theoretical and action framework for people to come together to develop shared capacity and work on common problems in an experimental and critical manner. The word community signals support for collaborative activity and for creating knowledge that is connected to people’s values, history and lived experiences.

We have numerous communities that stick together and try to solve the problems and issues unique to them, but it seems to me that people work for themselves, and there always tends to be a group opposing the success they seek. Right now it’s crucial that these groups work to preserve their heritage, culture and do what they can to survive in a positive way. Following the framework is mandatory and I hope groups can put as much energy and drive into success as Jane Addams and the Paseo Boricua, because in the end it is of, by, and for the community.


An issue I've been interested in for some time now is the lack of quality education in the United States. Many public middle and high schools, especially in poor areas, do very little to prepare students for higher learning and inspire a thirst for learning in their students. While there are some pretty obvious problems with public schools in our country (lack of funding, not enough teachers, etc.), these articles made me wonder if there's a way to incorporate Dewey's ideas of community inquiry to schools. I was inspired by the Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS) to try and think of a way of integrating some of these ideas into most or all American public schools. For instance, what if public high schools allowed their students to have more of a say in school policies, class offerings, etc.? I would hope it could have the dual effect of bringing fresh voices to the table as well as inspiring students to take control of their education. I'm not entirely sure how this program would manifest, but I guess that's where you guys come in! Basically, I just love the idea of community inquiry in schools as a way of letting students take charge of their education.

-Nichole (Nichs)

Brian's Community Inquiry

Perhaps the ease of modern transportation has led to more and more people abandoning societies they do not enjoy and instead moving to areas that have more intelligent and successful societies. While inner city travel still is shortcoming for many people, there exist numerous ways to leave a town, a couple dollars on the bus, most families have access to a car, and better off people can fly to anywhere in the world in less than two days. Often rural towns lose members to larger, wealthier (at least in social resources) cities. A lot of cities have had residents flee parts of the towns where there is little or no social bonding or services, and on a grander scale some cities have lost significant portions of their population; Detroit and St. Louis for crime, New Orleans for lack of social services provided after The Katrina Disaster, and frequently in third world countries as well.a local example is South Americans fleeing to The United States of America for basic services and jobs. Because it is considered easier to go somewhere "nice," that "works," people are focusing less on improving the society around them, and more on relocating to inhabit an already successful society that would require a smaller personal input.

---Begin Brandon--- Problem: Public education is not doing enough to nurture the interests of students, and is not teaching them how to live sustainably. Additionally through the de-skilling of workers and the loss of the means of production, adults are also lacking the skills to produce infrastructure to support our own livelihood. Corporations are holding onto closed sources of information which prevents us from taking control of our electronic devices – devices that invade privacy and prevent sharing. The increasing prevalence of hackerspaces, makerspaces and coworking spaces can help us take control of our education, critical infrastructure, and security of communication. However, these spaces need to be open to all people, and make it so that everyone is included and belong. Allyship is a critical need to our ability to collaborate and produce a sustainable community of learning, building and breaking.

---End Brandon---

In Olympia there seems to be a strong movement toward strengthening the local economy. This is spoken of in terms of wealth being retained and recirculated. I suggest a community inquiry into the details of the economy of Olympia and the methods the community is currently using to improve it.

There are two questions that I think would be beneficial to ask. One is 'What are the main drains on the local economy?'.That is, at times when a member of the community uses currency in a way that removes it from the area, in what way precisely is that currency being used? What products or services are involved? Another is 'What potential sources of wealth are latent in the community?'. 'Potential sources of wealth' are anything thing from which the community could derive something people want (e.g. natural resources, persons with skills or knowledge, underutilized land or buildings). Asking these questions, I believe, would bring to light many problems but also solutions, and, because “you are what you buy”, a way for the community to understand itself.

This seems important because if you want to strengthen the local economy you should come to some understanding of it by assessing it as it is. In Olympia there is recognition that the state of the local economy is a community problem that needs to be addressed as a community. But, an understanding of how to actually work toward a solution seems to be missing.


What happens when community members are not merely recipients of services, but as Dewey argues, become part of the process of authority? (from Bertram C. Bruce's article: "From Hull House to Paseo Boricua: The Theory and Practice of Community Inquiry.")

How can we create a space for those who are in need of assistance to feel comfortable enough to begin helping themselves? How can we teach skills to those who are homeless or hungry, or struggling, so that they can solve their own problems, without resistance from their surrounding community, in a way that they can become respected participants? People are not completely blind to their own needs, need freedom to explore their own paths towards self-care, and need support so that they can explore in a loving and self-sustaining environment. Maybe we can take authority away from the concept of the 'care-givers', the teachers, the owners of land, and instead they will be shepherds, guides, those who can point others in a beneficial direction. We can collectively develop skills of a healer, described as, one who awakens the ability to self-heal. No more owners, only door-openers. I observe a body of people (community), with varied needs yet unmet, minds wishing to become un-chained, bodies wishing to be well fed and housed, warm, understood, allowed to belong as they are, and believe it or not, searching for ways to create self-discipline. People are intelligent. They need an equally intelligent space. How can community members obtain a space for the community that addresses the big issues, from homelessness to the cultivation of self-awareness? How can we as a community encourage those who do not yet know how to find a place to exchange their hard work and talents for basic needs? Perhaps even, to build a space like this for themselves? We cannot give it to those in need, but we can maybe become a part of them.

I propose a mixture of the privileged and the elite, working with their community, from middle class families, to homeless youth, under the same goal of looking to the Earth for their basic needs, following patterns from the principles of Perma-culture.

It would be possible to unify people with 'simple living', good food, housing, and a self-sustainable system, one that rewards its own caretakers with its resources. I am inspired by the idea of the Kibbutz in Israel. Here, we would call it a commune or Intentional Living Community, or perhaps a commons. It would have space for anyone to join and live in exchange for both labor and creativity. Maybe we cannot build this, then fill it with people. It might be sustainable to provide a catalyst for those who do indeed have similar goals to a build an intentional community together, one that our current government system can recognize as legitimate whilst within the commune it can create its own societal systems.

- Nur

Michael's Contribution How can the Liberating Voices pattern language work across a broad spectrum of civic community to build networks more capable of making needed change?