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Build Compassionate Communities

Inspiring Books

Build Compassionate Communities

Inspiring Books

Photo by Muneer ahmed ok on Unsplash

Alperovitz, Gar. America Beyond Capitalism (Wiley, 2008).

As discontent with the economic and political status quo mounts in the wake of the "great recession", America Beyond Capitalism is a book whose time has come. Gar Alperovitz's expert diagnosis of the long-term structural crisis of the American economic and political system is accompanied by detailed, practical answers to the problems we face as a society. Unlike many books that reserve a few pages of a concluding chapter to offer generalized, tentative solutions, Alperovitz marshals years of research into emerging "new economy" strategies to present a comprehensive picture of practical bottom-up efforts currently underway in thousands of communities across the United States. All democratize wealth and empower communities, not corporations: worker-ownership, cooperatives, community land trusts, social enterprises, along with many supporting municipal, state and longer term federal strategies as well. America Beyond Capitalism is a call to arms, an eminently practical roadmap for laying foundations to change a faltering system that increasingly fails to sustain the great American values of equality, liberty and meaningful democracy.


Clark, Susan and Teachout, Woden. Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012).

Reconnecting with the sources of decisions that affect us, and with the processes of democracy itself, is at the heart of 21st-century sustainable communities. Slow Democracy chronicles the ways in which ordinary people have mobilized to find local solutions to local problems. It invites us to bring the advantages of "slow" to our community decision making. Just as slow food encourages chefs and eaters to become more intimately involved with the production of local food, slow democracy encourages us to govern ourselves locally with processes that are inclusive, deliberative, and citizen powered. Susan Clark and Woden Teachout outline the qualities of real, local decision making and show us the range of ways that communities are breathing new life into participatory democracy around the country. We meet residents who seize back control of their municipal water systems from global corporations, parents who find unique solutions to seemingly divisive school-redistricting issues, and a host of other citizens across the nation who have designed local decision-making systems to solve the problems unique to their area in ways that work best for their communities. Though rooted in the direct participation that defined our nation's early days, slow democracy is not a romantic vision for reigniting the ways of old. Rather, the strategies outlined here are uniquely suited to 21st-century technologies and culture.If our future holds an increased focus on local food, local energy, and local economy, then surely we will need to improve our skills at local governance as well.


Cultivate.Coop. What Is a Co-op? Zine

The What Is a Co-op? zine explains the basics of how a co-op works, from the various types of cooperatives to how to begin one in your community. Written in clear and accessible language, the zine outlines the purposes, goals, and principles shared by cooperators. This beautifully designed 16-page resource can be put to use wherever learning happens: in the classroom, in your workplace, on the bus, or in a workshop. It makes a great handout, and is an introduction to co-ops that readers will return to again and again.


Dorst, Kees. Designing for the Common Good (BIS Publishers, 2016).

"Designing for the Common Good" is a collection of 21 case studies spanning different sectors that demonstrate how design approaches can be used for social change. It also offers hands-on tools for implementing design solutions. The goal of the book, which is written for public sector workers, designers, and "anybody who is ready to take on the challenge of designing the future of our society," is to enable readers to become innovation leaders in creating for the common good.


Flaherty, Jordan. No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality (AK Press, 2016).

In "No More Heroes," Jordan Flaherty explores why so many people with privilege end up making things worse when they try to help. Over the course of researching the book, Flaherty finds this "savior mentality" in FBI informants, anti-sex-work crusaders, Teach for America corps members and "out-of-touch" journalists. The book is a celebration of grassroots movements focused on real, systemic change and an instructive book for communities seeking to chart a new path forward.


Graham, Julie. Building Co-operative Power (2014).

Building Co-operative Power explores strategies from the Connecticut River Valley as a guide and inspiration for developing a regional co-operative economy based on a vibrant and engaged worker co-op sector. It speaks directly to obstacles and opportunities for making worker co-operatives an increasingly important part of the U.S. economy. The authors relay practical insights on co-op governance, communication, conflict and inter-cooperation. These are highlighted by cautionary tales and sagas of personal transformation.


Hirshberg, Peter, Dougherty, Dale, and Kadanoff, Marcia. Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing Our Cities (Maker City Project ebook, 2016).

"Maker City" is a playbook for those interested in leveraging the maker movement to build community, create economic opportunity, revitalize manufacturing and supply chains, reshape education and workforce development, and redefine civic engagement. The ebook is a call to action for makers, community organizers, business leaders, policymakers, and anyone interested in learning about the maker movement. It provides everything from detailed case studies to an overview of the first ten steps cities need to take to become a "Maker City."


Jeffery, Al. Modern Tribe: Coliving and Personal Growth in the 21st Century (Publishizer, 2016).

"Modern Tribe" proposes a "renewed approach to our personal growth and wellbeing, through returning to community and coliving." Written by Al Jeffery, an international speaker, facilitator, impact-entrepreneur, and founder of Base Coliving, the book illuminates the fact that by 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities — but cities, as they are, may contribute to loneliness, isolation, and depression. Jeffrey argues for a new way of living and organizing ourselves to create healthier cities and people.


Kalen-Sukra, Diane. Save Your City: How Toxic Culture Kills Community & What to Do About It (Tellwell Talent, 2019)

Toxic culture is eroding our sense of belonging, community and well-being. Our capacity to collaborate and innovate together is also being undermined by the rising incivility and divisiveness.

We need each other to address the complex challenges facing our cities and communities--from the infrastructure deficit to climate change, homelessness, mental health and addiction issues. In order to thrive, our local democracies depend on our ability to revive the art of living and working well together.

Save Your City author and veteran community builder Diane Kalen-Sukra, MA, CMC empowers community leaders and citizens to be part of the solution. She demonstrates what's involved by taking readers on a journey from Bullyville to Sustainaville, including an eye-opening visit to classical antiquity.

The successful journey includes a renaissance of civic values and civic education as vital to fostering the type of culture that can sustain us, our democracy and our planet.


Lerner, Josh. Making Democracy Fun (MIT Press, 2014).

Anyone who has ever been to a public hearing or community meeting would agree that participatory democracy can be boring. Hours of repetitive presentations, alternatingly alarmist or complacent, for or against, often with no clear outcome or decision. Is this the best democracy can offer? In Making Democracy Fun, Josh Lerner offers a novel solution for the sad state of our deliberative democracy: the power of good game design. What if public meetings featured competition and collaboration (such as team challenges), clear rules (presented and modeled in multiple ways), measurable progress (such as scores and levels), and engaging sounds and visuals? These game mechanics would make meetings more effective and more enjoyable—even fun.


Levin, Yuval. The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism (Basic Books, 2016).

Pointing to the frustrations and challenges of Americans, including an insecure workforce, cultural division and political polarization, Yuval Levin, who is editor of National Affairs and the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, argues that both the left and the right of the political spectrum are "overwhelmingly nostalgic for a better time," with each side thinking that a return to its golden age could "solve America's problems." In "The Fractured Republic," however, he explores whether a politics of nostalgia is failing 21st century Americans and calls for a “modernizing politics that avoids both radical individualism and a centralizing statism and instead revives the middle layers of society—families and communities, schools and churches, charities and associations, local governments and markets.”


Massetti, Enrico. Co-op: Made in USA (The Toolbox for Education and Social Action, 2012).

While traditional means of employment have become increasingly inaccessible, employment within worker cooperatives has kept local economies afloat, allowing workers to find a community within the workplace, and maintain part ownership. Co-op: Made in USA is a pamphlet which explains the cooperative movement in the context of the United States. It has 64 rich pages of examples from various organizations and methods of governance which have been used within the co-op community.


McLeod, Molly. 10 Reasons Co-ops Rock (Poster) (The Toolbox for Education and Social Action).

Do you think co-ops rock? So do we! So much so that we had to make all the reasons we think cooperatives are awesome into a poster. The “10 Reasons Co-ops Rock” poster would be great as a gift or even as a promotional tool for your co-op (for display or sale). This beautiful poster would serve well as a teaching tool for workshops and classrooms, and it would look great in your workspace or home. Show off your co-op pride with this poster! “10 Reasons Co-ops Rock” has a glossy, smooth finish; it is printed on recycled paper by a U.S. worker cooperative; and it is roughly 11 x 17 inches.


McKinney, Mary Benet. Sharing Wisdom: A Process for Group Decision Making  (Thomas More Association, 1987).  

For any person in a parish who must participate in some form of group decision making. It shows that a faith-filled approach to group work can help bring about a sense of church for everyone in parish ministry.    [The process in this book can also be adapted and applied to other kinds of groups needing to make important decisions.


Mesbahi, Mohammed. Heralding Article 25: A People's Strategy for World Transformation (Troubador Publishing, 2016).

Described as a pioneering analysis of world problems, "Heralding Article 25" is an argument that Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — for adequate food, housing, healthcare, and social security for all — is "imperative for the survival of humanity in the 21st century." As Mesbahi points out, after years of political inaction, "only the massed goodwill of ordinary people can bring about an end to poverty in a world of plenty through enormous, peaceful and continuous protests across all countries." Mesbahi calls for a united public voice that has the potential to reorder government priorities and "empower the United Nations to truly represent the people of the world."


Nimbark Sacharoff, Shanta. Other Avenues Are Possible: Legacy of the People’s Food System of the San Francisco Bay Area (PM Press, 2016).

"Other Avenues Are Possible" is an overview of the San Francisco People's Food System of the 1970s, which included supporting cooperatives, challenging agribusinesses and supermarkets, and connecting advocates, activists, and participants on both the local and national level. Written from a personal perspective, the book weaves historical research, interviews, and stories about what proved to be a groundbreaking movement that laid the foundation for today's thriving Bay Area co-op ecosystem.


Rose, Jonathan F.P. The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life (Harper Wave, 2016).

In "The Well-Tempered City," Jonathan F. P. Rose, who is described as a visionary in urban development and renewal, champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century. Garnering comparisons to Jane Jacobs's "The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City", the book offers a five-pronged model for "how to design and reshape our cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity."


Rosenberg, Marshall B. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Puddledancer Press, 2003).

In this internationally acclaimed text, Marshall Rosenberg offers insightful stories, anecdotes, practical exercises and role-plays that will dramatically change your approach to communication for the better. Discover how the language you use can strengthen your relationships, build trust, prevent conflicts and heal pain. Revolutionary, yet simple, Nonviolent Communication offers you the most effective tools to reduce violence and create peace in your life—one interaction at a time.


Scholz, Trebor and Schneider, Nathan. Our to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet (OR Books, 2016).

Here, for the first time in one volume, are some of the most cogent thinkers and doers on the subject of the cooptation of the Internet, and how we can resist and reverse the process. The activists who have put together Ours to Hack and to Own argue for a new kind of online economy: platform cooperativism, which combines the rich heritage of cooperatives with the promise of 21st-century technologies, free from monopoly, exploitation, and surveillance.


Schragger, Richard. City Power: Urban Governance in a Global Age (Oxford University Press, 2016).

When the city of Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2013, it marked the end of a long period of slashing municipal costs and courting private investment. At the same time, New York City was seeing an economic resurgence and moving towards reduced income inequality and more equitable economic development. These two examples raised a fundamental question of whether American cities can self-govern or whether they're at the whim of global capital. In "City Power," author Richard Schragger argues that cities can govern, but only if we let them.


Sofield, Loughlan, Rosine Hammett, and Carroll Juliano. Building Community: Christian, Caring, Vita (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1998).

Insights from psychology, group theory, and theology are knit together to create a primer for Christian communities. Especially helpful are insights into conflict, forgiveness, decision-making, intimacy, and confrontation.


Somé, Malidoma Patrice. Ritual: Power, Healing and Community (Penguin, 1997).

“The stories within these books have the poignancy of new discoveries as well as the unworn imagination of the ancestors. The commentary has the sharp edge of modern thought and the intricacy which results from the intellect being woven through the ritual complexities of tribal life. The purpose of constructing thresholds that bring this world together is to find the powers that can heal the rends in tribal as well as modern communities.”--Michael Meade, from the Introduction. Versed in the languages of psychology, comparative literature, as well as ancient mythology, healing, and divination, Malidoma Patrice Some bridges paths between the ancient tribal world of the West African Dagara culture and modern Western society. Ritual is written with wild imagination, careful critical reflection, and intuitive insights that will force the reader to encounter the world anew.


Stilger, Bob. AfterNow: When We Cannot See the Future. Where Do We Begin? (MCP Books, 2017).

On March 11, 2011, overwhelming and incomprehensible disaster struck the northeast coast of Japan. Life for those in the region would never be the same. This book is about the awakening that follows disaster. About the minutes and months and years that come after now. It is about what happens when we're smacked on the side of the head and open our eyes, startled out of the trance in which we have been living our days. It is about the opportunities always present, often invisible, to create the lives we want, now. AfterNow chronicles the author's journey with the Japanese people over 6 years -- his own story of awakening after plunging into this disaster and the stories from people who found where to take their first step, and the next. It offers the tools and processes and worldview people discovered to create what comes after now.


Swimme, Brian, and Thomas Mary Berry. The Universe Story: from the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era--A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (HarperSan Francisco, First Edition, 1992).

From the big bang to the present and into the next millennium, The Universe Story unites science and the humanities in a dramatic exploration of the unfolding of the universe, humanity's evolving place in the cosmos, and the boundless possibilities for our future. Insights from psychology, group theory, and theology are knit together to create a primer for Christian communities. Especially helpful are insights into conflict, forgiveness, decision-making, intimacy, and confrontation.


Sylvester, Nancy, and Mary Jo Klick. Crucible for Change: Engaging Impasse through Communal Contemplation and Dialogue (Sor Juana Press, 2004).

Review by Judy Cannato, M.Ed., M.A., author of Radical Amazement: Contemplative Lessons from Black Holes, Supernovas, and Other Wonders of the Universe (Sorin, 2006) from Amazon site.

The experience of impasse is ubiquitous, manifesting in every layer and arena of our lives. What is not universal is the experience of engaging the impasse in a way that leads to transformation. Crucible for Change: Engaging Impasse through Communal Contemplation and Dialogue sets the pace for attending to impasse in a way that leads to significant shifts in awareness and relationship.

Teilhard de Chardin used the word hyperpersonal to describe the next step in the evolution of human consciousness. The hyperpersonal involves free human beings freely engaged in relationship and conversation that yields wisdom beyond that which any particular person can access alone. Crucible for Change gives us a glimpse of such wisdom. The collection of essays is written by women who have participated in Engaging Impasse (2003-2004), a process initiated and developed by Nancy Sylvester, IHM and a design team of professionals from various disciplines.

Engaging Impasse participants spent more than a year reflecting on their own experiences of impasse in church and society while dialoguing with others who had similar encounters. Experiences of impasse and reflective dialogue were joined with communal contemplation, and one of the results has been this collection of insightful essays filled with wisdom and courage. This book not only shares the process of communal contemplation and dialogue, it is a valuable resource for those who find themselves in experiences of impasse.


The Toolbox for Education and Social Action. Co-opoly: The Game of Co-operatives (2011).

In Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives, players start a cooperative (a democratic business or organization). In order to survive as individuals and to strive for the success of their co-op, players make tough choices regarding big and small challenges while putting their teamwork to the test. This is an exciting game of skill and solidarity, where everyone wins – or everybody loses. Will the Point Bank continue to dominate the players, or will they break free and take control by jump-starting the movement for a truly democratic economy in their community By playing Co-opoly, players discover the unique benefits and challenges of the cooperative world – as well as the skills needed to participate in a co-op!Co-opoly is ethically produced - it is printed primarily by other worker co-ops, entirely in the USA, and on recycled and sustainable materials.


The Toolbox for Education and Social Action. Co-opoly Education Kit (2011).

Design Your Own Version of Co-opoly: Want to make a version of Co-opoly that is all about you and your community? With this kit and a copy of the game, now you can! Create your own version of Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives so that it can take place in whatever setting you prefer, facing whatever kinds of situations you'd like, with the help of our user-friendly guide. You will be able to create game components that are relevant to you, and all of the elements of Co-opoly can represent you from the beginning to the end of the game.

You will receive: 1) A PDF of customizable cards to build your own version of Co-opoly, and 2) An easy-to-use worksheet that will help you fill out every card. These can be used by individuals or in group settings—like co-op meetings or classrooms. (Please note that you will need a copy of Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives to make use of this kit.) This is a perfect tool to use in classrooms, co-op development programs, co-ops new and old, and community groups that want to explore the cooperative movement.

 You can make as many copies of your customized version as you want, but your custom version can not be sold. This kit is entirely digital and will be delivered to you via e-mail.


The Toolbox for Education and Social Action. Own the Change: Education Kit #1: Intro to Worker Co-ops (2015).

Keep the conversation going in your community and educate about worker cooperatives with the Own the Change educational materials. This first kit makes a great pair with a screening of Own the Change! We will be offering six resources over the course of 2015 and this is the first kit in the series.


The Toolbox for Education and Social Action. Own the Change Educational Kit #2: Building Democratic Foundations (2015).

Keep the conversation going in your community and educate about worker cooperatives with the Own the Change educational materials. We will be offering six resources over the course of 2015 and this is the second one in the series.


The Toolbox for Education and Social Action. Questlandia.

In Questlandia, you’ll gather with friends to build a unique kingdom, then try to save it from collapse! Questlandia is a role playing game about personal shortcomings, the cost of courage, and the challenge of enacting meaningful change.

You and your friends will tell the story of a one-of-a-kind fantasy world. Then, you’ll take on the role of characters trying to achieve their goals in a society on the brink of collapse. Questlandia is a cooperative storytelling game for 3-5 players, and is friendly to new or experienced roleplayers. All you need is a deck of cards and a handful of dice to start your kingdom!


Vanier, Jean. Community and Growth (Paulist Press, 1989).

Jean Vanier's Community and Growth sheds such light on the topic of community. The richness flows from years of keen observation, experience, reflection, and prayer on this issue.  Vanier has lived and breathed community, not just studied it. Humility and grace flow from each page. Vanier's servant leadership in the l'Arche communities is a wonderful living witness to the world of what Christian love looks like fleshed out. A real strength in this book is Vanier's insight into human nature. Even as Christians we are a mixture of light and darkness. But God's grace shines through when we accept others as they are. Yet at the same time, the community beckons each individual member to grow more Christlike. This book teaches us how to live in any kind of community: the home, church, small group, or any gathering. Vanier writes that a true community "provides a sense of belonging and an orientation of life to a common goal and common witness" (p.10). With such clarity and perception Vanier paints a vivid picture of community for us: the importance of unity, forgiveness, mission, selflessness, communication, celebration, humility, and respect for authority. Community and Growth helps us along the journey of "life together." There are some books that are to be read once. And there are others to be read and reread. This book invites us to return to it over and over--like an old friend.


White, Micah. The End of Protest (Knopf Canada, 2016).

In "The End of Protest," Micah White, co-organizer of Occupy Wall Street, poses the question: Is protesting broken? He thinks so, and offers the perspective that activism is at a crossroads between innovation and irrelevance. White points to a future of activism through the lens of his unified theory of revolution. Ultimately optimistic, the book presents a new era of social change with increasingly sophisticated movements around the world.


Whitehead, Evelyn Eaton, and James D. Whitehead. Community of Faith: Crafting Christian Communities Today (Twenty-Third Publications, 1992, Reprinted 2001, Authors Guild

Increasingly, small faith communities have become vital sources of spiritual development and ministry across a wide range of Christian churches. Community of Faith: Crafting Christian Communities Today offers a practical analysis of what makes community groups work, along with a theological look at key elements in a spirituality of Christian community. Drawing on theological, sociological, and strategy perspectives, the book provides a comprehensive blueprint for an effective ministry of community formation.


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