Although the design can be adjusted for specific populations and purposes, Community Building Workshops are typically conducted in a circle format and involve 30-40 participants with two facilitators for 20-24 hours over three consecutive days. Follow-up exercises and activities help participants to extend their experience of Community, improve their understanding of it, and transfer this new knowledge to their daily lives.
Workshops typically begin with a discussion about the background and theory of Community Building, 1-2 simple exercises to engage participants as a group, and an introduction to the primary tool for Community Building — i.e., the Guidelines.
Facilitators then read a short story — usually The Rabbi’s Gift — which provides a narrative illustration of Community Building and lead the group into a short period of silence. From this silence, participants are instructed to speak when moved to speak and to not speak when not moved to speak. Thus the Workshop begins.
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 is defined as a group of two or more people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences. They are able to communicate openly and effectively; and to work together toward common goals, while having a sense of unusual safety with one another.
- Speak when moved to speak; don’t speak when not moved to speak.
- Speak personally and specifically, using I-statements.
- Express likes and dislikes to the entire group.
- Be emotionally present.
- Include others and yourself.
- Participate verbally or non-verbally.
- Be responsible for the success of the group.
- Respect confidentiality.
- Commit to hang in there.
Guidelines 1-3 encourage participants to speak with authenticity. Guidelines 4-6 encourage them to listen with authenticity. And Guidelines 7-9 encourage them to treat the group itself with authenticity.
There are several other instructions that have been traditionally included in the list of Community Building Guidelines — which, if you are familiar with the model, you will notice are missing:
- Wear your name tag.
- Be on time for each session.
- Say your name before you speak.
We have not disregarded them — but treat them as ground rules in our Community Building Workshops.
You can learn a great deal about Community Building by reading what’s been written about the model. However, like other experiential models, the best way to understand it is to attend a Community Building Workshop.