Category: Civic Renewal

On Collaboration

On Collaboration is a new essay collection exploring various challenges, benefits, methodologies and approaches to collaborative practice. It brings together several general essays on collaboration—including a contribution of mine titled Building Collaborative Communities—as well as a half-dozen case studies of collaborative projects carried out in the U.K. under the auspices of Tate. As I note [...]

The Still and Secret Revolution

There’s been a lot of talk of revolution in 2011, especially in connection with the Arab Spring and the continuing Occupy Wall Street protests. The word revolution conjures up images of political violence and social turmoil, of insurgent militias and defiant chants, of street barricades made from overturned vehicles and ragged crowds armed with makeshift [...]

Educating For Democracy

Does it make sense for higher education to be talking about questions of citizenship and democracy at a time when many colleges and universities are grappling with more pressing issues, such as soaring tuition rates, underpaid faculty, and steep budget cuts? Some months ago, I put this question to a handful of academic leaders. In [...]

The Power of Informal Networks

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” These words by anthropologist Margaret Mead are famous for good reason. They capture an essential truth about social change: it begins in the most unassuming contexts — in small groups of people who [...]

Rethinking the Term “Nonprofit”

“Nonprofit.” It’s a curious word. It doesn’t tell us what it is, but it tells us what it’s not. Given that the term has come to define a vast sector of American society — one that encompasses more than 1.5 million organizations and accounts for some 10 percent of the nation’s GDP — it would [...]

Community: The Structure of Belonging

In his much-discussed new book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block makes a point of not trying to define a healthy and well-functioning community. The idea isn’t to create a visionary ideal for people to try to live up to, he says. Rather, it’s to encourage a shift in our way of thinking about community [...]

Public Innovators

  Over the past year, I led a fascinating research project for the Harwood Institute on a group of changemakers we call “public innovators.” We looked at who they are, how they do their work, and why they are one of the keys to bringing about the change we need in America’s communities. Public innovators [...]

Being the Change

Gandhi famously said that “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Few people embody that idea as well as Jerome Threlkeld, a young activist and community leader from Flint, Michigan. In a city reeling from the collapse of the American auto industry, Jerome is a champion of hope and possibility. [...]

Where To Look For New Ideas

Some 1,000 people came together in Canberra, Australia, over the weekend for a free-spirited “ideas summit” — a gathering of experts, activists, politicians, and celebrities aimed at soliciting innovative ideas to strengthen Australia’s future. Over the course of two days, some 8,000 ideas were submitted. By the end of the weekend, the number had been narrowed [...]

Community-Building is an Oxymoron

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 [...]