When deciding the philosophy of LACF, the founding board of directors had a range of ideas about the Foundation’s mission. Some thought it should create an endowment for preservation. Others thought it should manage philanthropic funds for people, families and companies. Still others thought it should raise funds to give to local charities.
It seemed that the unifying principle of these views was the concept of community building. We researched community experts. Perhaps the earliest writer on community in the new world was John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who wrote: “We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our community as members of the same body.”
Psychologist and author Scott Peck wrote about community in his book “The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace”. Peck’s writings are also spiritual – perhaps not the best model for secular community building.
The year the Foundation was forming, John W. Gardner penned “On Leadership “. The discovery of a pamphlet “Building Community” adapted from a chapter from “On Leadership”, provides the most comprehensive, logical, and eloquent view of building community. “On Leadership” was adopted as the guidebook for the Foundation.
John W. Gardner has been called “one of America’s greatest 20th-century visionaries.” His life was the subject of the PBS documentary Uncommon American. Dr. Gardner was president of the Carnegie Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was the U.S. Secretary and the founding Chairman of Common Cause. He died at age 89 in 2002.
He ended his professional career in our area as a Haas Professor of Public Service at Stanford University, providing the Foundation the opportunity to involve him in the Foundation. He was the speaker at our 1997 brunch and was a valued adviser during his time at Stanford.
He wrote the Foundation this note after his brunch talk, “I enjoyed my time with your folks. They are a bright and interesting group. I’d be proud to be named an honorary founder.” Dr. Gardner is the Foundation’s one and only Honorary Founder, an proper distinction for the man whose writings inspire the Foundation today.
Below, in Dr. Gardner’s words from “Building Community”, are the ten essential ingredients he believed comprised a healthy community:
Wholeness Incorporating Diversity
“The play of conflicting interests in a framework of shared purposes is the drama of a free society … to prevent the diversity from destroying the wholeness, there must be institutional arrangements for diminishing polarization.”
A Reasonable Base of Shared Values
“There has to be some core of shared values. This is possibly the most important ingredient. Values that are never expressed are apt to be taken for granted and not adequately conveyed.”
Caring, Trust and Teamwork
“A good community fosters an atmosphere of cooperation and connectedness … gives groups and individuals reasons to believe they are fully accepted … and institutionalizes arrangements for dispute resolution.”
Effective Internal Communication
“There should be active and continuous communication among a variety of organizations and agencies in and out of government. Non-governmental organizations can develop effective information sharing networks.”
“A healthy community reaffirms itself continuously. It builds its own morale.”
“The healthy community has many ways of saying to the individual ‘You belong, you have a role to play and the drama has meaning.’ It is more than anything else that accounts for the sense of identity as characteristic of community members.”
Links Beyond the Community
“…the community seeks to preserve its own integrity while reaching out to play an effective part in a larger whole. In the most desirable outcome, the community leaders will establish collaborative ties with leaders of other sub-communities.”
Development of Young People
“Any community that seeks to ensure its continued vitality will not only enable those young people to develop to the full, but will prepare them for their future roles, instilling the share values, fostering commitment to shared purposes and teaching them to preserve and renew the common heritage.”
A Forward View
“A healthy community should have a sense of where it should go, and what it might become.”
Institutional Arrangements for Community Maintenance
“There must be continuous collaboration between local government and the private sector. There must be an infrastructure of neighborhood associations, churches, citizen groups, youth-serving organizations and professional groups…”