How does one build community? This is the question of the week I think…and I will try to explore this theme, hopefully with some response from others of like-mind!
I once lived in a community that was impoverished, gang ridden, drug stricken…raising my baby alone within that community. Many others in various precarious situations had older children that strayed randomly from their homes to escape, to be children, to find alternatives from the destruction of their lives. I formed the basis of a group for these children (youth) and asked them what they wanted, needed; asked them about their dreams. They (the kids) ran their group, formed activities, and came to me for guidance when they perceived they needed it, but organized themselves and built something from nothing. They were unstoppable!
I had very little to do with the group in terms of directing; however, I coordinated, oversaw, and engaged in dialogue with the kids when they wanted (and they wanted dialogue frequently!)
The above is one example of community. So, I learned from that experience that, in the name of community building, the ‘actual’ building of community has to come from the community itself. In this case, the children I worked with were that community. I could not “tell” them what they needed, or wanted, and then provide them with what I thought was necessary. That would have been paternalistic, I think. I could only ask and have conversations with them that led to decision-making that was a process of consensus.
“In Pedagogy of the Oppressed” Paulo Freire said: ” Scientific revolutionary humanism cannot, in the name of revolution, treat the oppressed as objects to be analyzed and (based on that analysis) presented with prescriptions for behaviour” (Freire, 2005, p. 133).
In other words, in relation to my experience with these kids, I approached them as subjects with self-determination, ‘knowers’ of their own experience, hopes and dreams. I could not prescribe to them what ‘should be’ for then they would not have engaged in any processes with me.
Are there other ways of building community? Other examples encouraged!