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October 2009 | Volume 3, Issue #4

In This Issue
What's Brian Been Reading
Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month...Gavin Knight
Jazzthink Resources for Nonprofits
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links
The theme of this e-zine is the role of conversations in co-creating community.  I find much of the language and ideas that I'm exploring with colleagues and clients these days are improvisations around the core chart that I found in Peter Block's book, Community: The Structure of Belonging.  I've been recommending it enthusiastically and people who have read it claim to be convinced by the significance of his approach.
Here's the way Block connects community and conversation:
The idea of community restoration becomes concrete when we grasp the importance of language.  When we understand that, we can see how our language, or conversation, is the action step that makes creating an alternative future possible.  ... the aspect of a community that gives it a new possibility is simply the conversation it chooses to have with itself. (52)
Some years ago I picked up a book written by the Utne Reader community entitled Salons: The Joy of Conversations.  They are gatherings where people engage in serious, delightful conversation.  Here's their idea of how conversations co-create community, with an important nod in the direction of conversation as jazz:
Utne Reader"[Salons are] conversational and conceptual jazz. ... Salons are gatherings where people talk big talk, talk meant to be listened to and perhaps passionately acted upon.  Salons are incubators where ideas are conceived, gestated, and hatched, sometimes slowly and ruminatively, sometimes with dazzling speed.  Salons are frontiers of social and cultural change.  Salons are concert halls where conversation is presented in virtuoso style. ...  Important changes don't often occur as a result of sudden, earth-shattering events.  They happen in increments, through a slow buildup of fragile, almost imperceptible experiences.  Gradual alterations in attitudes and opinions add up, until you find yourself doing something you know you wouldn't have done a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago.  Salons are communities where such tiny alterations occur and evolve into something meaningful." (vi, ix & xii)
I am pleased this month to feature another Canadian jazz musician who sees the connections among jazz, community, and conversations.  Bassist Steve Kirby directs the jazz program at the University of Manitoba.  The passage below first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press.  It bears careful reading.
Shifting our ways of conversing to co-create flourishing communities in our workplaces will take deliberate practice.  More attention will have to be paid to how our words sound and are heard.  Habits of careless conversation will have to change.  The gift of listening will have to be nurtured.  But the consequences of these changed attitudes and behaviours are worth the effort in finding and refining our community-building groove.


Brian Fraser
What's Brian Been Reading

Charles Handy calls himself a social philosopher.  He has been an oil company executive, an educator, an administrator, a broadcaster, and currently a writer and speaker.  Now in his 70s, he spends much of his energy reflecting  on his life and offering some gems of insight.  This one is from his 2006 book, Myself and Other More Important Matters, that I finally got around to reading this past summer.    
Charles Handy book   ... Organizations are not machines.  That has been the central message of all my books.  They are living communities of individuals.  To describe them we need to use the language of communities and the language of individuals.  That means a mix of words we use in politics and in ordinary everyday life.  The essential task of leadership (a word from political theory, unlike the word 'manager') is to combine the aspirations and needs of the individual with the purposes of the larger community to which they belong.
   You do not need to be a genius to see that the task is much easier if the leader knows what the purpose of the community should be and can convince everyone of its importance.  The individuals in the community must be the right ones for the different tasks.  In general, if people know what they have to do and why, if they have the skills to do it, are trusted to get on with it as best they can and are appropriately rewarded when they succeed, the community will be more likely to succeed in its mission.
What I particularly like about Handy is his focus on organizations being built on relationships and relationships being build around conversations.

Steve KirbyJazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
Steve Kirby on Jazz as a Perfect Metaphor for a Healthy Community
"The whole jazz performance process is an exercise in building community - at any given moment, any member in the group can emerge as the leader or fall back into a supporting role. The group's wit and intelligence largely depends on the willingness of the individuals to cooperate. The amount of varied experiences that each individual brings to the table contributes to the richness and uniqueness of the group's sound - just like in any conventional community. A neighborhood is only as good as the people that live in it. ...
The jazz process promotes listening to one another, engaging one another, debating one another, and in the end presenting a sound that identifies the whole group as a singular entity. Sometimes a song will start with the bass. The bass melody might be simple and crude and funky. Then a saxophone will come in and make a little comment on that. Along comes a trumpet to point the right direction and it all gets powered by the drums. The musicians may meander around a musical topic for awhile until one of them comes up with a familiar melody which they all support and present as though it was rehearsed. Then they go off on their own individual commentary on it, absolutely listening to each other, judging and discerning which nuances have the most weight at any given moment.
That interaction is a perfect metaphor for a healthy community."
Steve Kirby is an Associate Professor and the Director of Jazz Studies in the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2009 B2 
Idea Encore
Jazzthink Resources for Nonprofits on IdeaEncore Network 
Jazzthink has begun to post discussion starters for nonprofit boards, staff, and volunteers on a wonderful new resource sharing website developed by Flo Green and Scott Bechtler-Levin.  There are four Thought Provokers currently posted and more coming soon.  Click here to review and download them.  There's also an opportunity to review them, like books on Amazon.  But check out the whole site while there.  It's a rich resource for nonprofit capacity builders. 

Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

The Cellar Logo

 "Vancouver's answer to the Village Vanguard, this small (70-seat) club/restaurant presents the best local jazz, as well as some touring acts.  Great sound, which has been used to enhance the club's record label, Cellar Live."
- Down Beat magazine's list of 100 best jazz clubs in the February 2009 issue