The challenge for community building is this: While visions, plans, and committed top leadership are important, even essential, no clear vision, nor detailed plan, nor committed group leaders have the power to bring this image of the future into existence without the continued engagement and involvement of citizens

Therefore, the challenge for every community is not so much to have a vision of what it wants to become, or a plan, or specific timetables. The real challenge is to discover and create the means for engaging citizens that brings a new possibility into being. To state it more precisely, what gives power to communal possibility is the imagination and authorship of citizens led through a process of engagement. This is an organic and relational process. This is what creates a structure of belonging. This is more critical than the vision and the plan.

From Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block


Designer | Facilitator

Trained as a political scientist, Axel Magnuson has worked for many years in the international development arena. In the 70s, employed by Save the Children, he used participative community development methods to helpĀ farmers in southern Lebanon get back on their feet after the civil war; in Senegal, working for USAID, he designed measures to help farmers in the large scale Senegal River Basin Project and worked on country-level aid strategy.

After his stints overseas, he shifted to marketing, including work in research, management, strategy, and public relations, and with private sector organizations focusing on the auto and medical equipment industry. Unhappy with consultant-led and dominated approaches, he returned to participative planning. He immersed himself in the evolving processes of co-design, applying them to international development, hospital mergers, local environmental activism, and master planning.

Later, he trained as a graphic designer andĀ applied the same co-design principles when working with clients on logos, websites, and event posters. He is an artist in his core and is lately experimenting with silk painting.

He lives with his wife of nearly 40 years in Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts, occasionally catches fish and lobster from his backyard at Lobster Cove, and enjoys visits from their two grandchildren. Email.