When I first heard that Cormac Russell and John McKnight were going to release a new book I placed a pre order with the Book Depository. I was that keen to receive a copy. I’d heard Cormac speak a few times and had facilitated a visit from him to my community. I had seen his Ted Talks, other presentations and read a number of his articles. Each time I walked away more inspired to continue working in Assets Based Community Development (ABCD).
What can you say about John McKnight? If it wasn’t for the research he did with Jody Kretzmann I doubt any of us would be working the way we do now with our local community. The value of their “Green Book” (Building Communities from the Inside Out) is undisputed. It has guided so many of us in the way we work and how we value communities.
With a book about connecting communities from these two leaders in community building in the works cam a high degree of excitement. And I have not been disappointed.
The Arrival of the Book
I received the book a few weeks ago. A small package on my front steps. I opened it quickly. Getting to a package before my 8 year old is always a challenge but I was successful…this time. As usual came the offer of a trial of Audible. This time I took up the option and discovered the world of audio books. I downloaded a copy of the book I had purchased and listened on my way to work and around town, rewinding the sections I needed to hear again when I wasn’t quite focussed. I would then go to the book to re-read the bits and pieces that particularly caught my attention. Not my usual way to read a book but this way I could guarantee getting through the book quickly and thoroughly.
The Book Itself
This is simply a fantastic read. From the dedication on it simply shines “This book is dedicated to regular folks who have committed themselves to enhancing the common good of their neighbourhoods. Thank you for all you do”. What a gracious way to start a book! As someone who has spent the best part of the last twenty years working to connect neighbours to one another and create strong community. The village, if you like, to raise the child this dedication spoke volumes and placed the book on a strong course.
The set out for the book is quite simple. Three distinct, but connected, sections: Discover, Connect , Mobilize. Simple.
In Discover we are guided through rediscovering the value of community, the importance of a focus on what is strong in our neighourhoods and finding the basic building blocks to lead to the next stage. In discovering the building blocks we are uncovering the assets of our communities. Those things that are there, often in plain sight, but often overlooked. The section closes with three simple and effective tools to help us in this process of discovery.
In Connect we are gently led to look for those in our communities who are already skilled and well placed to connect people. Not necessarily the leaders, those people who put their hand up to take charge but those people who are the “goto” people in our neighbourhood. The people who just seem to know someone who can help with a task. They are there to find. We just need to look.
I was heartened to find this section also outlined the seven functions of Connected Communities. I’d read an earlier article from Cormac and John on this very subject and was glad an expanded version had been included in the book. As with the Discovery section the section concludes with three tools for connection.
In Mobilize we are shown how assets and connections can be mobilised for positive change. This is told largely through story. And isn’t that how we always learn the most important lessons in life. Storytelling is a powerful tool when it is well used as it is here in this book. Again, we are given three tools to mobilize the community.
The book concludes on a high note. The Connected Community – Not So Wild a Dream.
The book comes with a discussion guide and resources guides.
One of the things I quite like is that each section commences with a brief table describing what the disconnected community looks like, what the connected community looks like and Keys to the Good Life. This serves as a fantastic summary to what lies ahead.
I really cannot praise this book enough. I trust it will serve as a guide to current and future communities who want things to change, who want to connect who want to find the Keys to the Good Life. I’m certainly recommending it to anyone I can.