More about community transformation from Peter Block

Last week I facilitated a planning meeting for organizations and individuals working on issues of economic independence for individuals with disabilities including financial support through Supplemental Social Income (SSI). Across the US, programs like theirs are facing enormous funding cuts as state governments face extreme budget shortfalls. These service providers, like those in education, health care, and throughout our system, were extremely concerned about how they would continue to support the people they serve.

The SSI Program is a federally funded program which provides income support to eligible individuals who are aged 65 or older, blind or disabled. SSI benefits are also available to qualified blind or disabled children. The SSP Program is the state program which augments SSI. Both SSI and SSP benefits are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Eligibility for both programs is determined by SSA using federal criteria. If an eligible individual qualifies for SSI, they qualify for SSP. The benefits are in the form of cash assistance.

Then the conversation shifted. A feeling of hopelessness gave way to a realization that everyone in the room had to come together to completely reinvent the system. They could do this by looking at the resources they did have and finding better, more effective, and interdependent ways of working.

Given hard times, this excerpt from Peter Block‘s new book, Community, The structure of belonging, seemed particularly timely.

“Community transformation calls for citizenship that shifts the context from a place of fear and fault, law and oversight, corporation and system, and preoccupation with leadership to one of gifts, generosity, and abundance; social fabric and chosen accountability; and associational life and the engagement of citizens. These shifts occur as citizens face each other in conversations of ownership and accountability.”

What is it that we wish to hold ourselves, not just our leaders accountable for? What is the world we want to live in? What responsibility do we have for creating that world?

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