Community-Building is an Oxymoron

by Scott London

Over the past six months, I’ve been talking with civic leaders from across the country about what it means to build community. The process has challenged some of my preconceptions. Community is not something you can build, they tell me. It’s a quality that has to be brought forward and actualized, in the same way a sculptor reveals a statue by chipping and hewing at the marble. Switching metaphors is important, they insist, because it’s only when we abandon the idea of “building” in favor of “sculpting” that we can see community where it already exists. You have to foster what’s already there, not attempt to create something from nothing. That’s the essential starting point for bringing about change and making a difference.