There is a yearning in the heart for peace. Because of the wounds and rejections we have received in past relationships, we are frightened by the risks. In our fear, we discount the dream of authentic Community as merely visionary. But there are rules by which people can come back together, by which the old wounds can be healed. The purpose of Community Building is to teach these rules — to make hope real again — and to make the vision actually manifest in a world which has almost forgotten the glory of what it means to be human.—M. Scott Peck, MD
Community Building Workshops are the most concentrated applications of Scott Peck’s rules of Community Building. They expose participants to naturally emerging group dynamics. And create the space for them to learn these rules by practicing them in a highly personal and progressively challenging context.
Although your Community Building Workshop may have unique characteristics, most are conducted in a circle format with 30-40 participants and two facilitators over three consecutive days. The method is almost entirely experiential. However, to put it in context and help participants understand their experience, they typically include an overview of the group development theory and method of Community Building — as well as a discussion about these concepts in light of what actually happened during their Workshop. This along with follow-up exercises and activities helps participants to understand the significance of their Community Building experience and to transfer this experience to the complex and highly variable realities of their everyday lives.
Community Building Workshops improve interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in groups. In the right context, they can help to create active and engaging learning environments, build productive collaborations, and cultivate healthy workplace cultures — ones that are, side by side, both effective and affective. However, even with a circle of strangers who do not intend to continue as a group beyond the Workshop, Community Building can be wholesome and personally enriching. This is because the experience of building Community redefines what is possible when people come together with presence and equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to share this with others by creating more attentive, courageous, and uniquely human relationships in their daily lives.
Don’t get misled by our use of the term “Community Building.” When we say “Community,” in this context, we’re referring to an experience that people can have — but hardly ever do — together. It is a sort of reified authenticity that surfaces in groups when their members “remove the walls and barriers of misunderstanding that unduly separate [them] one from another.” (M. Scott Peck, MD, The Different Drum.) By following a set of communication guidelines (the “rules” referred to above), Community Building creates an atmosphere of unusual trust and safety which leads to deeper, more authentic relationships.
Also, don’t get misled by the term “Workshop.” We don’t teach about Community in the sort of workshop style you might be familiar with. There will be no PowerPoint lectures, keynote addresses, breakout sessions or networking opportunities. Instead, people learn about Community Building by building Community — experientially. In Community Building Workshops, members discover how to move beyond what separates them in order to communicate more authentically with one another.
Some Principles of Community
A group of people does not become a true Community by accident or without effort. There is a structure to Community Building and a set of specific principles that must be learned and put into action. These principles include:
A true Community is always inclusive. The greatest enemy to Community, in fact, is exclusivity. Exclusivity typically takes two forms. The first is when others are excluded because of how they are different. What remains is not a community but a a clique. The second form is when individuals exclude themselves because of preconceptions about the group or because the experience feels too demanding. Getting beyond what separates us in order to experience true Community requires us to let go of these barriers as they surface.
Participation takes many forms. Speaking is not required. Non-verbal participation can be as powerful as other forms. However, it is important to be attentive and involved. Please also be on time for each session and come to your seat with an open mind for the journey you have begun. Like many things, we get out of Community in proportion to what we put into it. The greater our participation the greater our gain.
Community Building requires group members to make a commitment to each other and to the group as a whole. If you cannot finish the Workshop, please do not start it. When individuals leave or withdraw, they disrupt the group and can make it more difficult for those left behind to continue the journey. If things are not going to your liking — if you’re experiencing confusion, frustration, anxiety, and even despair — rather than leaving or withdrawing from the group, consider expressing your dissatisfaction. Although it may not feel like your complaining, this is very often a great gift to the Community.
Confidentiality is an essential measure of respect for yourself and other members of the group. There will be no videos, photographs or other recordings of the group. If you keep a journal, you’re only to write about your personal experience and not about anyone in the group or anything they said. When discussing your experience with others, keep your comments to your experience and leave out the other members of your group. As we like to say, you have the right to tell your story but not the right to tell someone else’s story.
Preparing for the Workshop
Because Community Building is a highly experiential process, please plan to leave all your work — and your assistive technology — at home. You will be learning about building Community by building Community. There’s no need to switch on, sign in, or chat up. In fact these and other outside distractions can create barriers that hinder the group process. Inasmuch as possible, therefore, please do your best to free yourself from any unnecessary outside responsibilities during the Workshop — and come prepared to be fully present and fully involved.
For most of the Workshop, you’ll be sitting in a circle. This alone is a challenging physical event. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be well rested and to take extra care of your body during the three days. Under sleeping, over eating, extra caffeinating, barely moving or the like can sap you of energy.
Keep in mind:
- Reading about Community Building will not help you prepare for the Workshop.
- Dress comfortably but respectfully.
- Bring cushions, supports, blankets or other sitting aids if you like.
- Plan to arrive on the first day at least 30 minutes early for registration.
- Leave your phone, tablet and other assistive technologies outside the Workshop.
- Allow time for rest, reflection, and integration of the experience during breaks.
- Lunch will be provided all three days. Plan to share all meals with your group.
- Journaling during breaks and in the evenings is helpful.
- Personal issues may come up, but the Workshop is not a substitute for therapy.
- Feel free to bring your own snacks; however, there is no eating during sessions.
- Let us know if you have any dietary or health needs.
Journaling is one of the oldest methods of self-exploration. Many people find it a useful process for clarifying relationships, negotiating new situations, overcoming obstacles, resolving past hurts, gaining insights. It can also be a powerful tool for processing and understanding the Community Building experience as it unfolds. Therefore, we encourage you to consider keeping a journal at breaks and in the evenings during the Workshop. If you plan to continue journaling during the Workshop and you’ve never kept a journal before (or it’s been a long time) here are a few things to keep in mind:
- There is no writing while the Workshop is in session.
- Keep it simple!
- It’s about you — your ideas, emotions, wants, etc.
- Don’t get caught up in whether or not you’re doing it right.
- Keep it private and write accordingly.
- Write from the first person perspective.
- Stick to the present tense.
- Don’t try to impress yourself.
- Forget about grammar and spelling.
- Write for quantity, not quality.
Whether or not you intend to journal, we recommend that you spend 20-30 minutes before the Workshop preparing yourself by completing the following exercise on paper:
Please reflect for a moment on some experiences and events in your life that continue to stir up strong emotions for you. They could be recent or long ago. Consider in particular experiences that left you feeling especially connected or supported and others that left you feeling isolated or abandoned. Examples include the beginning or breakdown of an important relationship, acquisition or loss of a job or responsibility, birth or death of a loved one, falling in or out of love, backing or betrayal of a friend.
Spend about 5-10 minutes just listing life events. Then take as much time as you like reflecting on a few that seem to stir up the strongest emotions for you, jotting down whatever thoughts come to your mind.
These reflections are personal. They will not be collected at the Workshop.
If You’ve Attended a Workshop Before
Many people say that their second Workshop is their most difficult one. But it can also be one of the most productive. If you have attended a Community Building Workshop in the past, it’s important to set aside this experience and enter the circle with a beginner’s mind, open to a fresh experience with new things to learn. For more information about your second Workshop, click here.