25 Ways To Build Community In Your Neighborhood
Do you long for community? Do you want to live in a place where kids play together in front yards and adults hang out on front porches? Well, you can, starting with where you live right now. You don’t have to live in an intentional community to have community.
Community isn’t the sort of thing you just plan, but something that organically emerges if you keep showing up and reaching out to your neighbors. As Wendell Berry puts it, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
In honor of Earthaven’s 25th Anniversary, which takes place on September 11th, we’d like to share 25 ways you can build community starting in your own neighborhood.
- Get to know your neighbors. If you can’t name more than a neighbor or two, it’s time to introduce yourself. Even if you’ve lived in your home for a while, simply smile and say, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to introduce myself…”
- Hang out on your porch or in your front yard. It’s hard to get to know your neighbors if you don’t ever see them. Just by being out in front of your house you can give off a welcoming vibe that encourages interaction.
- Be respectful of your neighbors. Don’t be that person. Clean up after your dog and keep it leashed when out walking. Be aware of any disturbing noise levels that you are creating and respect property boundaries.
- Organize a block party. This one involves a little work, but if you share the coordinating duties with other neighbors and keep it simple (at least that first year), a block party is an easy and fun way to get to know your neighbors.
- Build a community garden. This is a time-tested way to promote community interaction in your neighborhood as well as share in the bounty of fresh veggies.
- Host a backyard movie night. Treat the neighborhood to your favorite movie. You might want to keep it PG rated–it will be outdoors, after all.
- Create a formalized tool-sharing program. Sure, you can just ask Pat next door if you can borrow their drill, but consider establishing a more formal tool-sharing program to get everyone involved. My Turn is an online lending library management system that can get you started. Or check out Streetbank to see if your neighbors are already participating.
- Welcome new families. Bring them a traditional baked goodie or a list of your favorite local restaurants and businesses, perhaps a stack of your favorite take-out menus wrapped up in ribbon.
- Establish a neighborhood watch program. These programs can be one of the most effective deterrents to neighborhood crime.
- Celebrate Neighbor Day. Check out National Neighbor Day (coming up Sept 28) website where they provide tools and suggestions on how to engage your neighbors in a good way.
- Host a regular monthly gathering, same time, no RSVP needed. The idea can be simple: provide soup, neighbors can bring a baguette or drink to share, and their own bowl. The key is to keep it the same time every month and no RSVP necessary.
- Start a neighborhood book club. When you only have to walk two houses over, it is a lot easier to participate. Or if that feels like too much commitment, consider something slightly different like an “articles club.”
- Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk when it snows, especially if it is difficult for them. If your neighbors are older or perhaps just going through a hard time with a new baby or sickness, spend a few extra minutes to clear their sidewalk too. This is no small gesture.
- Support your neighborhood schools. Even if you don’t have children at the school, it’s important to remember that the local school is also a member of the community and can greatly impact the neighborhood, positively or negatively. If you can attend an event, you’re helping the school as well as getting to know your neighbors at a fun community event.
- Address concerns or issues directly with your neighbor. Don’t let a problem fester and escalate. Rather than immediately calling authorities to report a problem, first try to work it out with your neighbor directly.
- Buy locally. You will not only see and interact with your neighbors at the local businesses and along the way, but you will also get to know your other neighbors—the local business owners and employees.
- Support our youngest entrepreneurs by buying the neighbor kids’ lemonade. Encourage the initiative and resourcefulness of the young by buying what they are selling. Be that person for the neighborhood kids.
- Treat your neighbors to a front-yard concert. Music has always been something that brings people together. Check out Boulder’s Mapleton PorchFest for inspiration.
- Share your skills. Are you tech savvy? Perhaps you can sew or like to tinker with cars. Your neighbors would love for you to share these skills with them, either by teaching them or just helping on a one-time basis. Skill-sharing banks are popping up in neighborhoods across the country. See how this Ohio community is using this as a way for neighbors to share their valuable skills.
- Coordinate a neighborhood yard sale. Garage sale, tag sale, yard sale…whatever name you go by, this is a good way to clear out your home’s clutter and help your neighbor do the same.
- Start a networking group. Like the old Sesame Street song goes, you just never know “who are the people in your neighborhood, the people who you meet each day.” One of them just might be the perfect person for you to connect with professionally. Who knows? Your next position or client could be as close as the neighbor who lives four houses down. Meet up at a neighborhood coffee shop and publicize the networking group on your community board to cast a wider net in the neighborhood.
- Let your neighbors know when you will be out of town and ask them to contact you or the police if anything is suspicious. You don’t need a formalized neighborhood watch program to keep the neighborhood safe. If you ask your neighbors, they will likely ask you in turn, which helps to keep the neighborhood safe for everyone.
- Welcome new little ones to the neighborhood. The ritual of welcome is a powerful one. We feel a sense of belonging when we are welcomed. Let’s begin from the moment we are born.
- Drive like your children live here…because they do! We all like to live in vibrant, bustling neighborhoods, but this means people, especially kids, need to feel safe when walking or biking around.
- Connect online to connect offline. Websites like Next Door have created whole new online neighborhoods, but it’s important to remember to not use these sites in place of actually getting to know our neighbors in real life. So, go ahead and create that neighborhood Facebook group page, but be sure to use it to encourage offline interaction.