(Community Design) Dancing through Difficulties, “by the Numbers,” into Sovereignty

Kent Dahlgren
7 min readSep 23, 2020

For years you’ve barely kept your nose above water, through life’s ups and downs, and bam: COVID-19, and the catastrophe of 2020.

Even with two jobs, you’re facing eviction, with debts are mounting.

One neighbor after another are moving, and you watch in despair as members of your community resettle “just 30 minutes” — and a world — away.

Their homes snatched up my savvy developers, demolished in the name of progress and gentrification, to be replaced by…what?

Newly-constructed townhouses, side by side, empty and hollow, where once stood homes seething with the clamor of families several generations deep.

As your beloved hood is stripped of its neighbors you burn the hours each sleepless night, twisting and turning as you consider giving in and taking the leap.

But to join the neighborhood’s economic diaspora adds 40–60 minutes to your workday commute, and moves the children out of their current school district.

No single word can capture the depth of your pit-of-your stomach frustration, but for now let’s use outrage.

Before we get too much further, let’s talk about what by the numbers means in the title of this article, for this article introduces the first three of a seven-step framework called C.A.L.M., or Community Activation and Launch Methodology.

The C.A.L.M. model is a step-by-step recipe used by 214 Alpha to launch and sustain self-sufficient communities.

What kind of community?

As described in this article, a neighborhood of about 1,200 homes and 5,000 residents is a good start, which could well be your community.

The C.A.L.M. model is informed by 20+ years of experience with grassroots activism, and outrage is its first step.

All those sleepless nights weren’t for naught, and you’re in good company, although it may not feel that way.

That’s because the shock, trauma, and horror of these living circumstances robs a person of their clarity as they operate from a place of anxiousness and panic.

It’s important that you feel outraged, because it helps you get rooted and committed to a solution, but let’s find a way to bring you some lasting peace.

By digging deep into why this matters to you, your efforts will be fueled by well-informed convictions about how and why a spirit of pragmatism is more important than ideological (but escapist) purity.

People tell themselves they are advocates, but will avoid being affiliated with any project that’s not perfect in every way.

Only those who allow themselves to play in creative mode are those lacking authentic outrage, and with so much actual suffering in this world, we don’t have time for escapism.

We’ll get into this a little more in the third step: Community Building, because you’re going to need a team to bring about lasting change, but let’s finish Outrage by introducing step two: Vision.

Sooner or later you’re going to need to come up with a vision for how to address the dissatisfaction, right?

Somewhere along the path of outrage, someone (maybe you) realized there’s a better way, and this came in the form of an idea.

Let’s call your idea a vision for how you might address the pain that’s caused such outrage in the first place.

At the end of this step you have a well-articulated vision which can be described in steps, and easily-described by others, meaning: some distillation of your vision may be necessary.

Why bother distilling your vision so it can be shared with others?

Bluntly, you’re not going to do this alone.

Before we get into step three, let’s talk about how to define an appropriately-sized vision.

To the left you’ll see two circles, indicating the relationship between a circle of concern and a smaller circle of influence.

This size of these circles are dependent upon one another.

For example, you may be passionate about national politics, but the more energy you invest in maintaining a large circle of concern, the smaller is your circle of influence.

As you may notice, this is the danger of remaining vigilant and aware of each day’s BREAKING NEWS; it robs you of any influence change your immediate circumstances.

This is why we counsel that you select an appropriately-sized circle, and as described in this article, one such “circle of influence” is a neighborhood that can be walked in about 45–60 minutes, includes about 1,200 homes, and about 5,000 residents.

To effect change within this neighborhood, you’ll need to prune the size of your circle of concern, which will take discipline, but will help with morale almost immediately.

Almost as important is the ability to convey your vision to others within one or two sentences, because they are going to need to share this vision with others.

For example, let’s consider a neighborhood of 5,000 residents.

Our plan is to produce & keep W.E.A.L.T.H. local:

Wealth: opportunity for local wealth building & retention.

Economic Sustainability: to root & grow regenerative economy in the places of greatest need.

Access & Inclusion: of all residents & community-approved participants.

Living: moving from making a living to making a life.

Trauma: disrupt the embedded trauma response pattern.

Health: strengthen immunity against disease.

Not a bad vision, is it?

To deliver upon this vision, you’re going to need a team, and that brings us to step three: Community Building.

In this step you’ll be assembling your core advocacy team, and this team will demonstrate your first examples of self-governance.

Who takes notes at each meeting? What happens if the treasurer moves away? Who represents your community to the media? How do you handle conflicts or disagreements?

Remember to start simple: you’re not recreating the European Union; you just need more than one person to be successful.

In our experience, begin with at least two or three persons of equal personality distribution, with a regular “release cadence” to ensure steady progression, and so on.

Additionally: think back to your Vision.

Are all members of this team able to articulate the vision for the community in a similar manner?

This is your first test for how well you will be able to persuade members of your community. Don’t skimp on this step.

And let’s to back to Outrage, which was our first step.

This burning in your belly and pounding in your chest is how you can tell the difference between predatory advocates and key stakeholders.

A predatory advocate can be deadly to a community’s aspiration to elevate itself from their trauma; they parrot the words and they know the costumes, but the have too rarely felt the heat, and so they do not truly understand the basis of outrage.

The predatory advocate will collect money to do nothing while counseling the community waits for a utopian, ideologically-pure solution, because the predatory advocate has no financial incentive to fix the underlying problem.

The predatory advocate will swoop in just as soon as you declare your intention to fix things, and aspire to either pay you off, or shout you down.

Hold close those feelings of outrage discussed in step one, because it’s how you will secure and retain a voice within your community when the time comes.

In the articulation of our vision, we need to deliver protopian solutions, which are those with get incrementally better each time around, delivering ample reasons for the community to feel that things are steadily improving.

And just like that: we’ve discussed the first three steps of the C.A.L.M. model.

Outrage, Vision, and Community Building are the first three of seven total steps within the Community Activation and Launch Methodology, followed by step four: Fundraising.

Once you’ve completed the first three steps, you are a lot closer to securing grants, loans, investors, and other forms of capital, because the prior steps are what investors look for in a project.

In the project described in this article, we plan to deliver earn, learn, and job creation opportunities that immediately benefit the neighborhood, using a plan resembling a franchise, so the project can be packaged up and implemented elsewhere.

And by leveraging the hyper-local (neighborhood) economy provided by 214 Alpha’s app, the neighborhood is able to quickly achieve financial self-sufficiency, enabling the homegrown advocacy team to reclaim their community’s dignity on their terms.

In effect, the neighborhood goes into business with itself, forming the financial and educational basis for bringing neighbors back into the hood.

See how quickly outrage transformed into action?

Rest easy this evening knowing you’re in good company, because I have it on good authority that this story has a happy ending.



Kent Dahlgren

Product management fix-it guy. World-famous people skills. Extremely small hands. (edit) marketing lady says I’m also supposed to say “CEO of software company”