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Professor John McKnight: Community Building

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Concept of Hospitality

The downside of some kinds of groups is that they draw a boundary around them, a circle, right. And you call... Who used the word exclusion? You did. And we say the people outside the boundary, right, are excluded. But we have no intention of excluding anybody. It's just you have to have a lab. And so it is a little bit of a tension that exists around our coming together in groups.

The community organizer's job is always in organizing a group to form a kind of group that has a welcome at the edge. Isn't that nice? We're all... Because when we set the boundary, we're creating outsiders unless we have a welcome at the edge.

So people who are organizers concerned about inclusion of everybody in have to be strong on the welcoming thing, and hospitality means... Hospitality is a word which comes from an Indo-European root hus, H-U-S, and it got...and it meant enemy. Isn't that funny? Hus, enemy. Hostile comes from it. But hospitality comes from the same root. And hospitality is the welcoming of a stranger. You can't be hospitable to a friend. Hospitality is the welcoming of a stranger.

The reason hospitality developed, we think, historically, is because people knew that if you didn't welcome strangers, you would lose all these things that a stranger brings when they come in. Hospitality is the way a group says Come on in. You're welcome. We'd like to have you here. So I've often thought that hospitality may be the best organizing idea that we have.

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