Family Power
Unless otherwise indicated, all text herein © Richard S. Kordesh, 2004-2014.  All photos on this page by Richard Kordesh.
Many people work part-time, often from home.  The dicey financial challenges that come with keeping up with mortgage payments call for creative thinking on how to use homes as productive and sustainable assets.  Richard's book, Restoring Power to Parents and Places, addresses this challenge. A few years ago, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Rich studied how families in various parts of the U.S. use their homes and land for business and farming.   One of the papers from that project has been published on the Casey Foundation's website.  .

Productive Family Housing & Habitat
To the right: Richard with Prof. Alice Butterfield, Jane Addams College of Social Work, UIC, doctoral students from Addis Ababa University, and community work group members from the Entoto community in Addis Ababa.
To the left.  This family in Addis Ababa makes injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread, and sells 500 units per day to local hotels.  The family rearranged its small, 2-room home in order to make the most efficient use of its space.
Richard S. Kordesh, Ph.D.

Richard writes about, practices, and encourages family-generated community building.  See his essay on this topic in the Oak Park Wednesday Journal.  It's called The Community's Co-Producers.
The limits of consumerism: As families struggle to make their home payments and sustain themselves economically, they often face crushing levels of consumer debt that in many ways they were encouraged to take on.  Community development approaches and policies that restore their productive capacities are needed more than ever.  These would help to limit the over-emphasis
on their roles as consumers.
 Recovering from Powerlessness through Productive Family Life

The economic dilemmas faced by many families are in important respects a result of a loss of power due to the fact that they don't produce or create much for themselves.  Moreover, the over valuing of housing led many families to cash out and spend home equity that turned out to not really be there.  The result is that their mortgages are larger than the current value of their homes.  For millions, this unsustainable combination of powerlessness and the loss of home value has led to foreclosure and crisis.

An over-emphasis on being a consumer fosters dependency, vulnerability, and the loss of control of a family's life decisions.  The family must function as a producer and creator as well.  Consumption needs to be embedded within the the goal of restoring productive family life.  

Family Power

The Family and the Empty Middle

by Richard Kordesh on 02/22/17

With our political discourse devolving into polarization, the idea of a middle ground seems increasingly idealistic.  But, the center, as empty as it seems to be when it comes to issues like education, crime, immigration, and others must be rebuilt if anything hopeful is to get accomplished.  

How we frame issues, and why we frame them the way we do, tells us a lot about how ready we are for the kind of consensus that the middle ground affords.
How we frame a middle ground perspective on the family shapes not only how embracing we are culturally, but also how we see such related matters as how to know whether a community really has the capacity to educate its children effectively.  The right tends to define the family too narrowly, while the left tends to ignore it, and deal with related issues such as gay rights, women's rights, and race.  I try through my work on the loving, co-productive family to frame such a middle-ground view of the family.

The Psychological Necessity of a Loving, Intact Family

by Richard Kordesh on 07/08/16

My recent studies and year of supervised practice in psychotherapy demonstrated to me from a different perspective how vitally important a loving, stable family is for children's development.  However, I think we've come as a culture to a point where people are much more articulate about how harmful family life can be than they are about how necessary, loving family life is.  I'm more convinced than ever that if we are to build good communities for kids, we've got to make the renewal of productive, stable families with at least two, committed and caring adults part of the process.

Yes, single parents need support as well.  Many do well by their kids.  But, if we assume that widespread single parenthood is normal, then we also assume that half the people involved in bringing kids into the world don't have to be there to help raise them. That can't be accepted as normal.  Good communities don't work that way.

As I return to writing about and engaging in community building, I better understand from a psychological standpoint why this is the case.

Co-Productive Family Life: Blending the Old and the New

by Richard Kordesh on 06/28/14

How desperately our society needs to evolve a new form of loving, productive family life!  How urgently our young people need a vision of family life that is dignified and feasible practically.  Yet again, I have talked with another young friend about whom I care very much, with her worrying over whether it will even be feasible for her and her male partner to come together in marriage.  The traction for marriage has become very weak, very thin, almost to where it's not considered seriously by many adults.  I believe that traction has eroded because many young folks barely know what it's like to enjoy enough control of one's immediate life to consider building a family and a decent family habitat.  Even phrasing the issue that way sounds out-of-reach, outmoded, or outside their relevant range of choices.

But, the alternatives that do match with "reality" are for more living singly, pairing up without commitments, and working in children when and where it might seem feasible.  If our society is going to provide traction for family life, it will have to begin offering pathways to it that, given the current expectations of young people, will seem at least in certain ways, old-fashioned and "out of the box."

But, stable, co-productive family life can evolve to embrace new bondings: gay marriages, for example, and arrangements in which men stay home with kids and moms go to work.  We can diversify the relationships while building productive and co-productive arrangements that tap the wisdom of the past, but express it in new forms.  We must do better for the next generation of young people.  The possibilities do exist.

Moving to the Interior

by Richard Kordesh on 04/08/14

Recently, I've begun a new phase of my work.  I'm still about building good communities around children, and I'm still devoted to building up the co-productive capacities of families.  But now, I'm studying and beginning to practice on the inner dimensions of those challenges.  Since, fall, 2013 I've been studying as a Fellow at The Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.  I've also been taking courses there in Self Psychology and Object Relations.  And now, I am beginning a supervised clinical practice in a school in Chicago's south side where I will be earning the hours I need to eventually apply for my clinical license.

Good community development work asks a lot of individuals.  Loving, productive parenting requires a certain psychological readiness on the parts of mothers and fathers.  And so, by learning how to help children and parents with their inner issues, I hope to become more fully capable of carrying forward with my commitment to strengthening families.

This movement into clinical practice will enrich the writing and consulting I will continue to carry out that addresses family-generated community building.  And it will afford me the honor of helping kids, moms, and dads individually with their struggles and their quests.

Although this work will be new for me, my interest in the inner life is not at all new. I've been in analysis and therapy myself.  I've kept detailed, personal journals for over 40 years, many of which recount and explore my dreams.  So, I think of this new foray into clinical practice as a way to bring my lifelong inner work into more conscious alignment with my lifelong outer work in community building.  I'm blessed to have this opportunity.

Oak Park: Weaving Together People in Place

by Richard Kordesh on 04/26/13

I am blessed to live in a place where community really matters.  In Oak Park, lots of people work in many, varied ways to make this village a diverse, highly participatory, and yet densely integrated place where friendships overlap with institutional affiliations and civic activities.  I see people I met while I was coaching youth baseball for over ten years in the late 90s and early 2000s.  I reminisce with parents about those years and catch up with news of their now young-adult sons and daughters (I coached the sons, and many of the little sisters attended the games).  I'll see them at the Farmers' Market or at local stores. 
Now, I am on the board of the rapidly expanding Sugar Beet Cooperative.  At the core of this network are families in northeast Oak Park, many of them of the same age now that I was while coaching.  It's fun and warming to get to share important concerns about food and sustainability with them, while getting to know their little ones!
Then there is the church choir in which Maureen and I sing.  Some of the choir members are also supportive of the Sugar Beet; those represent more overlapping interests.  Our Village and civic organizations regularly sponsor festivals, fairs, and other events that reinforce ties with old friends and open opportunities for new contacts.  Local print and electronic media provide many accessible forums for expressing views and updating events.  As planners like to say, "place matters," and in Oak Park, a lot of good work goes into fostering, encouraging, and celebrating our crisscrossing civic and social relationships.

Richard is proud to have served until Fall, 2011 as Board President of the North Lawndale Employment Network(NLEN), a first-rate nonprofit helping residents of this Chicago neighborhood, including many ex-offenders, overcome barriers to employment.   NLEN is the parent corporation of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, which produces urban honey and sells honey and personal care products under its trademark label, Beelove.
Red potatoes grown in our backyard garden
"In laying the foundation for a global movement ... this book succeeds beautifully, and Kordesh provides concrete advice for all the players needed to make it happen – parents, community organizers, and policy makers."

BlueInk Review
Parents as Co-Teachers

The spectrum of possibilities for educational reform must be expanded to embrace the roles of mothers and fathers as teachers.  Two of the main vectors in education reform, one which celebrates homeschooling and the other which advocates comprehensive, all-day schools, tend to talk past one another.  Richard has worked with both sides on this issue.  He and his wife home schooled their sons during middle school in collaboration with their public school.  He has also funded, has helped to plan, and has written about making formal schools into collaborative centers for productive family and community engagement.
From the ForeWord Review's Five-Star rating of Richard's book:

"This book represents a serious study of the causes of and possible solutions to the loss of parental power in modern American society ... Those involved in supporting the growth of family-based productive activities, especially parents, educators, and community and political leaders, will benefit from reading this book."
Richard served on the first board of the Sugar Beet Cooperative.

He now serves on its sister organization, the nonprofit, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse.

Recently Published Essays

Several of Richard's recent essays about gardening and parenting have been published by local media.  The Oak Park Wednesday Journal published The Voluntary SpringIn the Winter, It's Still the GardenPrudent Cuts Now Lead to Robust Blossoms, and Turning Over a New Season.
His essay, Springtime's Steady Awakeningappears in the Oak Park-River Forest Patch.
See the article in the Oak Park Wednesday Journal that features Richard's and Maureen's life on their urban farm.
​Productive Families Make the Place