One thing that I know for sure is the collective actions of us humans, mostly unknowingly, are destroying the living potential of this planet. I came to this conclusion 16 years ago, after I spent three years studying the state of the world’s ecosystems very intentionally in graduate school. What I learned scared the bejesus out of me and motivated significant changes in my personal behavior, my lifestyle and eventually led to a complete career change toward facilitating the growth of a community in Milwaukee we call the Urban Ecology Center.
Another thing I figured out is that I’m not “all that”. There is no way that I, alone, can do what needs to be done. The need is far too great! It took us all to get into this mess, and it’s going to take us all to get out of it. I need you and you need me. By definition then, getting through the planetary ecological transition I see looming on the horizon, will require the time and attention of many ... a whole lot of many.
To this end, it is imperative we figure out how to work together. And I mean WE with capital letters. WE need to work across political boundaries, across races and across economic and gender divides. In short ... WE need to build, using the words of author John McKnight, “a strong and healthy abundant global community.” Or as Paul Polman, CEO of the multinational food and detergent company Unilever recently said, “To get things done, we need to find new ways of cooperating, based on the greater use of partnerships and collaborative networks.” I think Mr. Polman is on to something. Perhaps the best way to grow an abundant global community is to find, link and catalyze existing and growing local communities of abundance.
Abundance per McKnight means having enough — where we value what we have and find it satisfying. We have enough personally and materially and spiritually. We have purpose. An abundant community includes the natural systems around our social construct. We have enough without taking too much. We have what we need wherever we are.
So how does one do this? How does one build community and open up to the inherent abundance within it? I’ve had the good fortune to have been at the nascent stage of a number of successful communities and had the privilege to watch them grow into something magical and I dare say abundant. As such, last year I was asked by a collaboration of Marquette and Cardinal Stritch Universities to be a panelist to follow up on a joint presentation put forward by thought leaders and authors Peter Block and John McKnight along with theologian Walter Brueggemann. I was charged with answering the question of “How does one create an abundant community?”.
Despite my involvement in doing exactly this, I’m embarrassed to admit I had never put critical thought to the process. After a period of reflection, a flow of ideas emerged. They are fresh and untried, but I presented them for the panel discussion to much affirmation and now will try it out on you (you can see the whole presentation at http://tinyurl.com/ken-on-abundance. Check it out, you might find it amusing!). I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Here then is my new four step method to lead to abundance.
Here goes ...
It starts with authentic leadership -- or a community catalyst with a vision. They begin with step one.
Step 1: “I need your help”
This simple statement has power. By asking for help one shows a certain vulnerability and humility. I can’t do this alone. I need you. At the same time, within these four words is a gift. The person being asked, if they accept the gift, is given a new sense of purpose. Having purpose is at the foundation of self worth and within a group provides the key to forming authentic community.
Step 2: “Time permitting, I know you can help me”
Here you are both showing respect, “I respect your time” -- and faith, “I believe in you”. This last one is huge. Having faith in someone is an affirmation of that person. Affirmation is a great step forward toward bridging the chasms presented by race, class, religion and economic differences as well as gender divides, differences of sexual orientation, etc. When someone believes in me their faith can have the power to bring out more than I knew I had. Or in reverse, my faith in you can bring out your best, too! It works!
Step 3: “In order for you to help me you need to believe that you can”
Step two often brings out step three in the helper, but still at its core, you can help only if you are willing to try. You may not think you have what it takes, but by saying “ok, I’ll help” you have crossed a threshold from complacency to action. This action has to come from within. A leader may inspire, but only you can act.
Step 4: “Now we need to communicate”
I need your help, I know you can help me, and you have accepted this new purpose. We can now sit together, communicate and figure out where your time, passion and gifts match my need and through this communication we grow community and find abundance. This is the fun part (well, it is all fun actually). The depth that results often has a multiplier effect. You end up helping me and I end up helping you and the world ends up a little better for the effort. See?...Fun!
If we have leaders who can be the catalyst for community on the local level, and then we can connect those localities together in networks of learning, the possibilities and the resulting abundance are exciting!
It takes authentic leadership, collaboration and long term thinking – this is at the core of a healthy, abundant community.
If your need is legitimate, your purpose is pure, and your vision is clear -- when you ask for help it is amazing how people (people from all walks of life -- a successful CEO, a new graduate, a retired teacher, a nice lady with Down syndrome who lives across the street, a working mom, a stay-at-home dad, you name it!) are willing to use their talents to assist.