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What are the real powers of a community?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

What are the real powers of a community?

Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices.

Each episode begins with one question asked of a small group of 4 to 6 open-minded and passionate individuals who explore complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs, and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.

Our fourteenth episode discusses the power of communities.

Starting the Conversation

As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation led by Canay Atalay who leads a discussion on how communities can help our society to reach a more sustainable, fair, and creative collective future.

Welcoming Our Guests

We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss how communities are evolving and empowering society changes.

Canay Atalay is a keynote speaker, global cultural innovation strategist, conscious business model designer, and content creator. She assists global brands, startups, companies, and organizations with cutting edge open innovation strategy using new methodologies to re-invent and transform business. She is the co-founder of Human Works, a company that creates learning programs and experiences that facilitate innovation in the fields of conscious learning, technology, sustainability and inclusiveness. Canay is the founder of Children First World, a ground-breaking movement creating awareness for the inclusion of children and teenagers, a children-first approach to design and innovation, and encouraging people to awaken the inner child within all of us.

Rachel Happe is the Co-Founder and Principal of The Community Roundtable, created to support business leaders developing their community and social business strategies. Rachel has spent the last 20 years helping organizations implement emerging technologies to advance their business strategies. Top tier clients benefit from Rachel’s ability to make sense of abstract trends and her ability to see the implications that technical and operational decisions can have on people and processes. She understands how networked communications environments can transform how people work, their productivity and their personal satisfaction by aligning their passions, skills and relationships.

Michel Bauwens is the founder and Vision Coordinator of the P2P Foundation and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. He is a best-selling writer, researcher and conference speaker on the subject of technology, culture, and business innovation. Michel travels extensively giving workshops and lectures on P2P and the Commons as emergent paradigms and the opportunities they present to move towards a post-capitalist world. Michel is also the director of research of a platform for policy development aimed toward a society of the Commons and a founding member of the Commons Strategies Group, with Silke Helfrich and David Bollier, who have organised major global conferences on the commons and economics.

Richard D. Bartlett is the co-founder of Loomio, a digital tool for deliberation and decision-making for groups of 3-300 people. He is the co-founder of The Hum, a consulting company that offers online training & practical guidance for decentralised organisations. Richard writes about how we work together, at any scale, from relationships to organisations, to facilitate social change on He is the author of Patterns for Decentralised Organising, sharing solutions to the most common failure points of collaborative groups.

Listen to the tour de table introduction of our participants.

Key Shared Insights & Perspectives

In light of the global crisis, understanding the power of communities is crucial to finding alternatives to our current economy and the obsolete systems in place.

Our previous episode on Activism focused on trust as one of the few forces that holds our world together.

Real, impactful progress depends on individuals finding their trusted, kindred communities to become accountable and bring change into the world.

Urgency to Restructure Legal and Accounting

The historical accounting and legal structures reinforce our current dominant hierarchical model.

Until the accounting structures embedded in the capitalist system are corrected, those structures will keep driving the same behavior.

Rachel discusses how the common accounting concept of amortization is rooted in slavery. At the time, it was an innovation to account for the aging and reduced production capability of enslaved people.

Listen to Rachel Happe sharing her perspective.

Recent Innovations in Cooperatives

Socially conscious business model designers see open source community organizations as a way to move away from a capitalist economy and toward a contribution economy. These designers see value as based on more than arbitrary balance sheet adjustments and consider people assets instead of liabilities.

Today’s communities have the tools to uncover hidden impacts, such as damage to the planet, and build structures that embrace nature and future generations as shareholders.

Driven to find new ways to assign value, measure ROI, and share wealth, open source communities are experimenting with three unconventional accounting model innovations: Contributive, Flow, and Thermo-dynamic accounting.

It Starts With a Shared Purpose

When we look at the state of the world and our out-dated systems, it’s easy to conclude that if we only had better structures, our problems would disappear.

Yet, this reality shouldn’t be an excuse to bypass our own personal responsibility.

The path to improved structures can begin with little more than a shared purpose, a willingness to make change, and a simple spreadsheet.

Our personal power and responsibility is to ask essential questions that define local values and align small communities seeking real, impactful change:

  • How do we create open and safe communication flow?

  • What happens when conflict arises?

  • How can decision-making be inclusive without perpetual meetings?

  • How do we evolve and make adjustments incrementally to avoid complete chaos?

Listen to Richard expressing his perspective on getting started without waiting for the system to change.

Moving from Controlled to Distributed Leadership

What will it take to trade in our limited, traditional views of leadership and foster the shared, collective, and extended leadership practices that build the capacity for change and improvement?

It starts by analyzing and rebalancing our personal thought and feeling structures.

Repeating our thoughts, especially for leaders, is a basic human tendency - like an addiction. Our rational minds are conditioned to identify with pre-existing ideas, rather than welcoming new ones.

When we trust and allow our emotions to come forward to guide us, we give ourselves a chance to truly listen and learn.

In the same way we redistribute the voices in our minds, distributed leadership in communities promotes trust by recognizing the value of each individual’s unique perspective. As a result, these communities can give us the space to become human again and develop our ability to listen and co-create like children. It doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.

Listen to Canay sharing her understanding of distributed leadership.

Networks represent an anthropological revolution due to their capacity to create small, dynamic groups with a shared purpose outside of a particular territory. This goes hand-in-hand with distributed leadership because rather than imposing a “command-style” leadership model, successful networks are guided by the relative skill and wisdom of individual members combined with a limited “control-style” leadership model designed to prevent chaos and protect the integrity of the ecosystem.

French anthropologist, Pierre Clastres, wrote about South America Indian groups who rejected hierarchical leadership in his book Society Against the State (1974). He studied their tribal systems of redistributing power concentration and found they led to communities that were both affluent and complex, which refuted the usual negative definition of tribal society.

Similarly, a jazz band’s musical quality is enhanced by a fluid, collaborative format that achieves artistic balance by inviting each member to take the lead. Instead of being an example of “leaderlessness,” it exemplifies “leaderfullness.”

Listen to Michel as he uses the jazz band analogy to describe his view of distributed leadership.

Individual Take-aways

As we came at the end of the hour, our group ended the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table. Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation.

Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.

Final Thoughts to Consider

We started off our discussion with Richard reminding us that “Communities are the space to create Culture”.

When we are part of organizations where diversity is “a bug not a feature” and “an exception to be managed” as pointed out by Rachel, it clearly shows an opportunity for leaders to co-design with an engaged and connected community of people.

Leaders can be storytellers, using technology that enables connected communities, in order to bring forth a partnership model versus one based on dominance. It all starts with open collaboration, driven by a shared desire and a common set of values.

Implementing distributed or fluid leadership brings a new, emotion-focused approach to the way we work together. We find the joy of relationships within ourselves and with others as we progressively delve deeper and “unlearn” in order to truly listen.

By balancing the different “characters” of our inner selves, we discover new, dynamic systems we can apply in communities to help all members thrive.

If this short summary resonated with you, go to YouTube to view the entire discussion or listen on iTune, Spotify, Speaker or SoundCloud.

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