Community Building within Communitas

31 May, 2012

Following the initiative of Dr. Bob Roberts, the founder of Project Return in Louisiana, in offering community building experience in a Louisiana prison, we have offered to date four community building workshops in local CSC institutions.  Dr. Bob Roberts served as a facilitator in the first of these at Cowansville Institution in 2006.  This life-changing experience would be the first of others held at Cowansville, at the Federal Training Centre in Laval and in the community with a mix of ex-inmates, inmates and volunteers. All have been remarkable occasions.  Subsequently we have offered several Community Building Workshops in the city.

This process originated in the early 1980s, begun by Scott Peck, who began organizing these workshops, with the sole aim of creating “community” with those present, by providing a safe place in which to share our own humanity, and implies the total acceptance of one’s neighbour, despite differences.

Click here to view our 2014 Community Building Workshop

A typical workshop procedure:

Participants gather in a circle for two or three eight- hour days, having in mind a single goal of commitment to become a “true community.” The workshop is entirely experiential; that is, the members of the group do not receive instructions on how to become a community or how to behave in a community. Peck’s reasoning is that passive learning, while easy, is almost invariably shallow; experiential learning, on the other hand, although demanding, is infinitely more profound and rewarding. In accordance with the community building model only a few “ground rules” regarding communication and commitment are offered by workshop leaders:

Stages in the Process



1This is characterized by politeness, avoidance of overt disagreement, denying individual differences, beliefs that a “community” already exists, and indifference/resistance to the goal of building a community.


2In this stage, open conflict can be quite apparent with attempts to “heal and convert” others into adopting a particular way of thinking.


3This stage is the bridge to community. Emptiness refers to the difficult task of letting go of one’s barriers to community.


4Once the group has completed the task of emptiness, it enters community. It is during this stage that the dynamics of the group change. Characteristics such as the expression of and respect for individual differences, shared leadership, spontaneity, quietness, joy, commitment to embracing painful realities and the ability to begin thinking about the health of the group as a whole can emerge.

Where this model is used

Having begun in United States, there are individuals and groups of people throughout North America that have experienced a Community Building Workshop and try to practice the skills learned in their own milieu. The model has been replicated in other parts of the world, including Quebec (Mouvement vers l’esprit Communautaire – MEC).

Although originally targeting general public groups, the methods have been used in specific settings, in businesses, in families, in conflict situations, etc. in particular, any area of life where there are few opportunities to speak and be listened to – thus, our interest in bringing it into prison settings and our community life.


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