Thoughts on community dialogue

By Chris Tittle

“In a dialogue, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. A dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other.”
-David Bohm


Times of great uncertainty and transition, such as the one we seem to find ourselves in, are also times of great opportunity and energy. They invite us to entertain the idea that what we know from the past is no longer appropriate in a rapidly changing world, that creativity is necessary to respond to emerging and persistent challenges.

How do we, as individuals and communities, respond creatively to change? What habits, patterns, assumptions, values do we hold that may actually block our collective creativity?

These are some of the questions we’ve been asking ourselves throughout the process of creating Change the Exchange. Specifically, how might we best invite ourselves and others into a living process of exploring community resilience? There are many ways into this question and we’ve chosen just one to focus the conversation – money and exchange.

Ultimately, this is an exploration of relationships and how a community can meet its fundamental needs in a meaningful and healthy way. In a culture that has reached a shocking level of monetization and commodification, consciously choosing to re-humanize relationships and re-weave the threads of a thriving local economy can be a challenging yet empowering process.

As students at Schumacher College, most of us are rather transient members of this community. Yet as relative outsiders, we find ourselves with a unique opportunity to both share our experiences from elsewhere and catalyze deeper exploration of some challenging themes. We don’t come with answers, but perhaps a fresh approach and some thought-provoking questions.

“Creativity, in almost every area of life, is blocked by a wide range of rigidly held assumptions that are taken for granted by society as a whole,” writes David Bohm, the visionary physicist and thinker. These assumptions, conscious and unconscious, naturally condition and constrain our approach to dealing with personal and social issues. For Bohm, one of the most effective ways of releasing these creative blocks and creating new shared meaning out of life is through dialogue – a particular kind of dialogue which does not seek a specific outcome or expect tangible ‘results’, but one which is a living and generative process itself.

In designing and facilitating a workshop for Change the Exchange, we have consciously decided not to approach it with an outcome-oriented mindset. We don’t know whether a new LETS scheme or a time bank or a stronger local currency is the answer. We are pretty sure though that there isn’t just one answer and that focusing more on the questions and the relationships will ultimately unleash a more creative response.

So this Friday, we are inviting people with a passion for issues of economic resilience and community cohesion to bring their experiences, opinions, curiosity, expertise…and to allow themselves to perhaps see something new from another angle. Dialogue, in this sense, both offers the opportunity to creatively explore challenging issues and seeks to embody the very nature of relationships we are trying to explore – open, collaborative, creative, trusting.

If the new economy we would like to create is to be more cooperative and re-humanizing, the process by which we inhabit that economy must be an expression of these same values. In many ways, the drive to produce outcomes at the expense of process is at the heart of our old destructive economics. Shifting focus from the structures to the relationships, from the nouns to the verbs, may offer a more meaningful and generative experience.

So come join our dialogue this Friday from 3-5 at Bogan House in Totnes with an open mind…and maybe we’ll together create just what we need.

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One Response to Thoughts on community dialogue

  1. ctittle says:

    Reblogged this on an oak tree in the garden and commented:
    Change the Exchange is an event that several of us at Schumacher College have been co-creating over the past few months with the help of Transition Town Totnes and members of the larger Totnes community. For more info, check out http://www.changetheexchange.wordpress.com

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