Civic Intelligence and Community Building
We probably need to talk about the various relevant interpretations of community building. This should include traditional community development (and "development" generally). It should also include online communities, research & action networks, and new varieties of communities that we can conceptualize that are based to a large degree on civic intelligence.
This chapter presupposes that the notion of a community is important. However, Western culture favors those who are leaders, and those who are willing to do whatever it takes to better themselves, without concerning themselves with the people whom they trample on their way to the top. Before contemporary accessibility of resources people survived best with the help of their community. This logic is very primitive, and in a world where everything is instantly accessible and available at all times, it is difficult to remember that it is the people with which we are surrounded by that allow us to flourish and grow independently.
Civic intelligence promotes the understanding that each of us are responsible for how well the communities in which we live and interact lives up to its potential capacity. The traditional role of service organizations has been to identify deficiencies or problems within specific communities and dole out money and man hours to try and fix the problem. In many cases this has led to a passive populace reliant on charity to meet their needs.
The Asset-Based Community Development Institute is an example of an organization doing significant research and projects to counter this outdated paradigm. Their central focus is on highlighting the resources and skills within communities and leveraging those assets to build communities capable of meeting their own needs.
This chapter will show how strengthening and developing the capacity of communities in whatever shape they take is a foundational part of building a civically intelligent society.
The number and scale of projects within these federations grow as they learn from one another. First, one federation savings group develops a solution—such as a scheme to upgrade their homes or to develop new homes, a community-managed toilet, a partnership with the police for community policing, or a change in land use regulations that cuts the costs of land for housing. Then, other groups within the federation visit and discuss the innovation with those who implemented it. They consider how they might try a similar initiative, adapted to their needs and capacities, and the availability of land and other resources. Also, the different national and citywide federations directly support and learn from one another, as well as supporting the development of comparable federations in other nations. (Jones V.)
The example above illustrates starting from a seed and framework and growing civic intelligence.
Posted by House
Shack / Slum Dwellers International
From Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis.
The number and scale of projects within these federations grow as
they learn from one another. First, one federation savings group develops a solution—such as a scheme to upgrade their homes or to develop new homes, a community-managed toilet, a partnership with the police for community policing, or a change in land use regulations that cuts the costs of land for housing. Then, other groups within the federation visit and discuss the innovation with those who implemented it. They con- sider how they might try a similar initiative, adapted to their needs and capacities, and the availability of land and other resources. Also, the dif- ferent national and citywide federations directly support and learn from one another, as well as supporting the development of comparable feder-ations in other nations.
Forgiveness as a Bridge to Community BuildingThe act of civic intelligence is impossible without the ability to communicate effectively. Many of the issues we face, globally, today are ones of war, both the current act, or the repercussions of feuds that originate centuries ago. Sadly war does not end with the last shot fired but continues on in the hearts of those impacted by it for many generations, creating an endless cycle of hate, violence and intolerance. Post war actions are paramount to the healing of nations; it is critical that the path to the peace process include inquiry, truth, and justice, in order for healing to begin, and relationships between nation states repaired. Bringing everyone to the table to communicate can be virtually impossible and take many years, but it is vital to the civic health, not only of the anguished nations but globally. Ireland has suffered centuries of political strife and sectarian violence, over the years many peace talks have resulted in failure and increased violence. Although the IRA disbanded in 2008 there, is still self-imposed segregation of the Catholics and Protestants with the pain of violence etched in the streets and minds of those who witnessed brutality and lost loved ones. A positive reaction to this simmering anger sprang out of the Irish school system when they created a relationship with, The International Forgiveness Institute, creating a school program to help move the nations youngest from seeking ‘justice’ to mercy. The process is shown in the documentary, The Power of Forgiveness, where very young children are guided through the method by their teacher, although dealing with the smaller issues of childhood, such as a stolen toy or a mean look, the program instills tools for these children to guide themselves through anger to forgiveness. By practicing this regularly new neural pathways are formed creating a natural response to friction, that allows for anger and frustration, but leads to mercy and peace. The documentary also shows how other nations, communities and groups have journeyed through acts of tremendous violence to prepare themselves to forgive. The film discusses the essential nature of aknowledgement of crime, and the course of forgiveness, while facing the issues preventing it.Without the process of forgiveness, there can be no healing, and no further active communication between the parties impacted and civic intelligence hangs, waiting to enter.
‘Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future’ Paul BoeseHow can civic intelligence help to bring warring parties to the table? Coming to the table is not enough if the communication is un-productive and results in arguments, friction, and further fragmentation of a community. How can civic intelligence assist in the process of communication so that it is highly productive for all participants? One way is to use facilitators who are neutral to the issues at hand. In his book, “Non Violent Communication a Language of Life” Marshall Rosenberg outlines the process of non-violent communication (NVC) and how it can be applied to individual communication through to highly charged situations such as Israel. Rosenberg has recognized that the reason that most negotiations break down is because people are not feeling truly heard, recognized and empathized with, creating further resentment. The NVC program has four stages to establish a greater flow of communication in order for healing to begin. The ‘Center for Nonviolent Communication’ has taught NVC to many hundreds of people, sending facilitators to many war torn countries to mediate dialogue,
“Worldwide, NVC now serves as a valuable resource for communities facing violent conflicts and severe ethnic, religious, or political tensions.” (P.11)This method is useful not only for those struggling with extreme conflict but also for smaller communities simply trying to have a town meeting. The result of meetings where people feel truly heard and understood is a greater empowerment and commitment to relationship with community. The development of similar programs that allow communication to happen is essential to the building and retaining of community.