Creating Abundant Communities

Resource Type: Audio Seminar || Speakers: John McKnight & Peter Block

In this podcast, two compelling thinkers – John McKnight and Peter Block – share some of their ideas for awakening the power of neighbourhoods and families, and illustrate the value of an abundant community

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Abundant CommunityIn this podcast, two compelling thinkers – John McKnight and Peter Block – share some of their ideas for awakening the power of neighbourhoods and families, and introduce their unique paradigm which is the foundation for creating abundant communities.
The marketplace depends on scarce resources. As such, our market-centric culture teaches us that available goods are limited and must be purchased. By contrast, communities depend on resources that can’t be purchased and that exist in abundance – skills, knowledge, ability, compassion – yet we don’t know how to value such things. In this seminar, two compelling thinkers – John McKnight and Peter Block – share some of their ideas for awakening the power of neighbourhoods and families, and illustrate the value of an abundant community.
Learning Objectives
  • To explore the meaning of an Abundant Community
  • To understand how the elements of a satisfied life grow out of abundant communities 
  • To appreciate the three universal properties that create abundance in communities 
  • To examine the role of place in the creation of abundant communities 
  • To distinguish between leadership and connectorship 
Access Podcast Highlights...
The Abundant Community
The culture of community depends on resources that are in abundance. This challenges many of the assumptions of a market-oriented society, which teaches that scarcity abounds. In this first audio clip, John McKnight explores this idea as he speaks about his view of an abundant community.
Expanding on this thread, Peter Block’s definition of an abundant community is a place where gifts are recognized and shared with one another and families have reclaimed their function. Listen to Peter further illuminate this idea.
The Universal Properties
There are three universal properties that exist within communities of abundance:
  1. Gifts – The gifts – skills, abilities, talents and knowledge – of the people in our neighbourhoods are boundless. The strongest a community can be is when everyone shares their gifts.
  2. Associations – A gift is not a gift until it’s given. Creating relationships is essential to connect the gifts of individuals together, allowing them to become amplified, magnified, productive, and celebrated. There might be 10 people who can sing, but there won’t be a choir until they know about each other.
  3. Hospitality – Even a rich, vibrant community has a boundary and will create outsiders. However, strong communities are welcoming and recognize that individuals who were once strangers become community members with new ideas, gifts, and energy. Only weak communities build walls.
Acting together, these three properties transform our communities and how we live within them. In the following clip, John speaks in greater depth about why these properties are at the heart of abundant communities.
The Elements of Satisfaction
Strong communities are more than just a “nice luxury.” From their work with communities around the globe, Peter and John believe that strong communities are vital, productive and important. Health, safety, environment, economy, food, children and care are the seven responsibilities of an abundant community and its citizens. There are things that people can do only as families and neighbours that are vital to a good and satisfied life. Peter and John have called these things as Elements of Satisfaction and they grow out of abundant communities:
  • Our neighbours are the primary source of our Health
  • Whether we are Safe and Secure in our neighbourhood is largely within our domain
  • The future of our earth – the Environment – is a major local responsibility
  • In our neighbourhoods and villages, we have the power to build a resilient Economy
  • We are coming to see that we have a profound responsibility for the Food we eat
  • We are local people who must raise our Children
  • Locally, we are the site of Care
Underpinning the Elements of Satisfaction is a belief that when we link-up our individual qualities with those of others, they are amplified. Collectively, we are able to create the things each of us needs for a rich and fulfilling life. Listen here as Peter speaks about this in more depth.
The Elements of Satisfaction also challenge us to acknowledge that many of our current systems, structures and technologies are reaching their limits in terms of their ability to provide us with what we most need. Listen here as John illustrates this idea more fully.
The Importance of Place
When speaking about the impact of this work and his collaboration with John, Peter identifies that his own thinking has been changed. Specifically, he describes having a more heightened sense of the subtle distinctions in the language of community. He is now much more focused and interested in the importance of working within a place-bound community because that is where citizens have more power. Listen as Peter uses the work of Tamarack and Vibrant Communities to illustrate how this appreciation of place impacts how one approaches the creation of abundant communities.
Leadership and Connectorship
The transition towards an abundant community also requires important distinctions between more traditional definitions of leadership and what Peter and John define as “connectorship.” As “connectors” the role of leader as convenor and/or connector of one person to another is most essential. In this clip, Peter responds to a question asking for further explanation of this idea.

Reflection Questions
  1. What about the idea of an abundant community resonates with you?
  2. In what ways are the universal properties of abundant communities alive in your neighbourhood or community?
  3. How might you play the role of a “connector” in your neighbourhood or community?
Links and Resources
Abundant Community – This website profiles John and Peter’s book The Abundant Community and includes resources, stories and commentary on the themes and concepts it introduces.
The Abundant Community – Purchase a copy of this book from
Are We Raising Care-less Children? – In this recent blog, John McKnight shares his thoughts about the question: What can families and neighborhoods do to counteract eroding empathy in our young people?
If You’re Not Fast You’re Food – In this commentary, Peter Block suggests that modernist beliefs have reached their limits and that the new identity we are seeking replaces the assumptions of modernism with a worldview that values cooperation, abundance and measures of well being that have nothing to do with material wealth.
Meet Peter Block & John McKnight
Peter BlockPeter Block - Peter is an author, consultant and citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. His work focuses on empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and community building. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Peter to build the skills outlined in his books including: Flawless Consulting; Stewardship; The Empowered Manager; Freedom and Accountability co-authored with Peter Koestenbaum; The Answer to How Is Yes; and Community: The Structure of Belonging. They offer an alternative to the patriarchal beliefs that dominate our culture. He also serves on several boards and advisory groups, which include Cincinnati Public Radio and Elementz, a Hip Hop Center for youth.
John McKnight describes his collaboration with Peter as “amazing” because – while they both focused on the values of community – their life experiences had them working in different spaces which meant there was much they could learn from each other.
John McKnightJohn McKnight - John is emeritus professor of education and social policy and co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. For nearly three decades, John McKnight has conducted research on social service delivery systems, health policy, community organizations, neighbourhood policy, and institutional racism. He is the co-author of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer; serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighbourhood development and directs research projects on asset-based community development and methods of community-building that incorporate marginalized people. Peter Block describes being struck by the similarities between himself and John, even down to “using the same metaphors” and describes working with John as “finding myself in another form.”