An excerpt from
The Vision-Building Tool in Action

Since late 2002 I have been observing the application of the Vision-Building (VB) tool in the Wildflowers process of community building in seven communities in the United States and China. I have conducted participant observations at eleven half-day or daylong VB sessions and interviewed more than two dozen participants in these intellectually challenging and often emotionally tense meetings. I have become convinced that VB is not merely a tool but also a rewarding process of experiential learning and discovery, and that one cannot fully appreciate its value and power without seeing it in action. This report, therefore, will focus on the actual functions and effects of Vision-Building in community building rather than formally evaluate its operational mechanisms or methodological implications.

First I will review the different ways that participants have used the VB tool to express themselves. I will then examine the effects and impact of the VB tool in the second section and show that application of the tool has also undergone a continuing process of deepening and developing, which explains why senior Wildflowers fellows have cherished it at all stages of their community work. In the third section, I will briefly explore the links between the VB tool and the Wildflowers theory of community building, arguing that the VB tool cannot be used to its full potential unless one fully grasps the Wildflowers theory.

I. Multifunctional Applications of the Vision-Building Tool

In his paper entitled Vision Building: Discovering Invisible Cultural Premises, Dr. Hanmin Liu describes the VB tool as a two-step process of cultural discovery. First, by using blocks, figurines, and other objects to build a three-dimensional model, individuals are able to bypass the usual modes of oral expression and express the inner dynamics of their organization or community. Second, through deep analysis of the models and open-ended discussions, individuals are able to uncover and amplify the implicitly held cultural premises that are important to their community as well as to themselves (see Liu 2002).
It seems to me that Dr. Liu’s early theoretical paper may have underestimated the functionality of the VB tool in practice, because the tool can do much more than express the wills of individuals and their community. The VB tool sometimes has surprised its inventor with slightly or significantly different functions that can be classified into the following four categories.

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