Building Supportive Community

INTEREST AREA: Building Supportive Community – Ten First Steps

Video: Beginning Empathy Circle

Video: Task-Oriented Meeting

Community: Core Creative Edge Focusing ™ Concepts

  • Sharing from The Creative Edge creates feelings of empathy, a deep understanding of the validity of the other person’s unique point of view
  • Sharing from The Creative Edge also creates feelings of connection, a deep understanding that, underneath our uniqueness, we share a common humanity
  • The Focusing Partnership method creates a sense of community and shared humanity similar to the Greek concept of the love called Agape, the Christian love of The Christ Within each person, and the compassion of the Buddha for the Universal Oneness underlying everything
  • This Agape is the glue which binds us into a human community, providing the motivation for overcoming conflict at all levels in society
  • This creation of Agape, creation of love, can happen when the Focusing Partnership method is used for the purpose of building Focusing Groups/Teams  or Focusing Communities, or it can arise in Creative Edge Organizations as Focusing Groups/Teams do problem-solving toward a common goal
  • Call it “buy-in,” “commitment,” “loyalty,” “full engagement,” but an essential by-product of shared creativity and collaboration is a sense of being deeply connected to other people and working toward a common goal
  • The creation of Community has benefits for conflict resolution within interpersonal relationships but also within organizations and at the national and  international level      (See Creating At The Edge /Culture of Creativity for full underlying concepts of Creative Edge Focusing™ )

Building Supportive Community

The Building Supportive Community Project brings the Creative Edge Focusing ™  Model, with its two Core Skills, Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening, and seven Applied Methods of Creative Edge Focusing Pyramid, into existing support groups and communities, as well as starting new Focusing Communities.

Some applications are 12-Step Groups, Support Groups, Community Mental Health , Religious and Spiritual Communities,  Hospitals , Prisons , Schools , Conflict Resolution, Participatory Democracy ,  and Collaborative Work Groups and Collectives. See (PDF file) Focusing and Twelve Step by Steve Crawford and Focusing Recovery by Suzanne Noel for an integration of Gendlin’s Focusing theory and the 12-Steps.

Community means a felt-experience of interconnection and mutual support as well as the capacity to work together toward a common cause. In a community everyone can belong, respected for their uniqueness or their role but working toward the common good.  For community to work, people need ways to respect and to capitalize on differences and to resolve interpersonal conflicts.

Community can be built starting with people who initially come together for mutual emotional support, as in a support group. That experience of sharing can build outward into an actual community which can organize toward a common goal, for instance, advocacy.

Or, community can be built starting with people who initially come together to accomplish a shared goal, as in a grass-roots campaign or a non-profit or for-profit organization. The good feelings created through collaboration can end up having also created feelings of mutual care and supportive community.  

Dr. McGuire’s  manual, Focusing In Community: How To Start A Listening/Focusing Support Group (in Spanish, Focusing en Comunidad: Como Empezar un Grupo de Apoyo de Escocha Y Focusing)teaches the basic skills needed.  Audio and video tapes and phone sessions and workshops enhance this learning.  The Creative Edge e-discussion/support group connects you with other people throughout the world who belong to Focusing Communities.

See the attached article The Focusing Community for a full description of the model.

Support Groups/ Twelve-Step Groups

The Listening/Focusing peer counseling model for building community starts at the emotional support end. The exchange of Listening/Focusing turns in Focusing Partnerships provides the empathic glue that bonds people together and motivates them to want to take care of each other, individually and in terms of uniting around a shared goal.

In a support group, usually around a particular topic like divorce, cancer, adoption, addiction, grief, we have the opportunity of discovering that we are not alone. Others have had similar experiences. They are interested, also, in hearing our own unique story, in all of its detail. Pooling all that we have learned, we can solve our problems. Support groups are places for powerful bonding because of this shared experience.

The Listening/Focusing exchange in Focusing Groups/Teams and Focusing Communities can be as powerful as psychotherapy in terms of healing and moving forward, yet it is safe, self-empowering, and inexpensive. These are bonuses to support group participation too good to pass up!( See More on Focusing in Support Groups.)

Community Mental Health

The Focusing in Community model can also be applied as a grass-roots method for integrating mental health care, as a peer counseling method, into communities.
See APPLICATION: Community Mental Health

Creative Edge Organizations Are Communities

In addition to incorporating Creative Edge Focusing into emotional support groups , building supportive community can start with groups who come together to accomplish a common task.  The Creative Edge Organization model can be used for motivation from the bottom up. The  Collaborative Edge Focusing Decision Making Method/, with components of Shared Leadership, Coordinated Collaboration, and Creative Edge Impasse Resolution,  grounds power and responsibility for decision making in each individual. See More on Task-Oriented Community Building.

Starting either with emotional support groups or collaborative work situations, by teaching the two simple skills of Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening, and the seven applied methods of Creative Edge Focusing Pyramid, you can strengthen community through

  • the personal, creative, and spiritual growth of each member
  • the relational aspects of mutual care and conflict resolution
  • the task-oriented level of problem-solving, group decision-making, and concerted action toward a goal.

Ten Ways To Build Community Using Creative Edge Focusing ™

  1. Using the Self-Help Package, including our free online support, start a CE Focusing Group in existing communities you belong to: your church or other spiritual community, school Parent-Teacher Organization, Parenting Support Group, Twelve-Step community. You can start by forming your own small Focusing Group of friends as the core for bringing the method to the larger community.
  2.  If you are a support group facilitator, you can start by using the Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening skills in the existing group. At a more advanced level, you can bring the Focusing Partnership method, the equal exchange of Listening/Focusing turns into existing support groups. This can provide a step toward continuation of the group as an independent self-help group or an enriching addition to the existing group.
  3. If you are a facilitator in a community situation, such as a school, hospital, prison, religious community, you can bring the Focusing Partnership, Focusing Group/Team, and Focusing Community methods of Creative Edge Focusing Pyramid into these situations, building empathy, community, and mutual support.
  4. When you incorporate Interpersonal Focusing for conflict resolution between individuals and Collaborative Edge Focusing Decision Making for conflict resolution at the group level, a Focusing Group becomes a Focusing Community. You are now using methods which allow the diversity of a gathering of individuals to become a community.
  5. If you are a community organizer, trying to motivate, mobilize, and bring people together for concerted effort toward a goal, use the Collaborative Decision Making Method to bring Listening and Focusing into meetings. Using Creative Edge Impasse procedures like Focusing Partnership breakouts and Group Focusing followed by Round-Robin sharing will encourage the bonding that comes from sharing from felt-experiencing. You can find a simple format in Instant “Ahah!” Collaborative Decision Making.
  6. As a community organizer, you can also start Focusing Groups/Teams for creative problem solving as well as to prevent burnout through mutual support.
  7. As a community organizer, you can also use the One Small Thing method for Empowerment Organization to get groups thinking creatively about how to motivate people from the bottom up.
  8. As the staff of a corporation or non-profit organization, you can use Focusing Partnerships, Focusing Groups/Teams, Interpersonal Focusing, and Collaborative Edge Focusing Decision Making, the methods of Creative Edge Focusing Pyramid, to build community through the mutual sharing of creative thinking and problem solving as well as mutual support.
  9. As concerned citizens, legislators, diplomats, peace makers and negotiators at any level, you can use Collaborative Edge Focusing Decision Making and Interpersonal Focusing to create new solutions to conflicts between groups, communities, and nations.
  10. Network with organizations which specialize in grass roots organizing and participatory democracy, adding Listening/Focusing skills to existing methods.

Related Articles (PDF files)


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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.