Want to Get More Connected?
When people talk “community building” these days, they often mean online communities. There’s a big place for Facebook, obviously, but what about the people just outside your front door? Too many of us today find that our physical neighborhood is just a spot on the map, not a community. Meaning a network of trusting, supportive, life-enhancing relationships that’s right at hand.
A connected neighborhood is even good for your health. This first came to light back in 1961, when a Roseto, PA, doctor noticed that his Italian-American village had almost no heart attacks. This despite a love of potent cigars, copious amounts of wine, and regular infusions of sausages fried in lard. Researchers found the magic ingredient: community. A newer study shows the same thing. People who live in close-knit neighborhoods are almost 70 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
Just think, you can sit on the front porch savoring a jumbo pour of Malbec every night, as long as your neighbor brings it over. Don’t quote us on that, but it just might be true! So we’ve put together a buffet of links to ideas and inspiration for building community in your neighborhood.
We're going to cover:
- Be welcoming
- Keep in touch and meet up
- Throw parties and plan events
- Be ready to help each other
- Make your neighborhood cool for kids
- Go green together
- Design neighborhood pride
Welcome new neighbors, of course. Here’s a great list of ideas. Favorite: wrap a pile of your go-to takeout menus.
Looks count. Open your curtains, turn on some lights, and make your front door inviting. Visit HouseLogic.com for front-entrance tips.
Turn your front yard into your backyard. Good point from Houzz: “How often do you run into your neighbors in your backyard? Probably never.” Just move some of your backyard activities out front.
Friendlier fences. How about a gate in the fence between your yard and your neighbor’s? It’s good for visiting and emergencies. Check out this story of a neighborly fence designed to be taken down now and then. (When putting up or changing fences, always check city ordinances; some are strict.)
Keep in Touch and Meet Up
Create your own network. Nextdoor lets you create a private, secure social network for your neighborhood. It’s a bit like a digital bulletin board. But maybe you’ve already heard of it: nearly 130,000 US neighborhoods use it to chat, share stuff, find lost dogs, alert each other to crimes, and in one case, find a liver transplant donor! Watch a demo here.
Find common interests. Meetup makes it easy to find or start a neighborhood group that shares a common interest, be it training for a marathon or learning Gaelic.
Throw Parties and Plan Events
A classic block party. Here’s a 10-step guide from the “experts” in Denver, where neighborhoods all over the city throw block parties during first week of August.
Annual holiday party. Christmas, Yule, July Fourth, Halloween … For Halloween inspiration, check out this slide show of great Halloween neighborhoods.
Observe Neighborday. It’s the last weekend in April, and you can do anything your neighbors are into doing together. You’ll be local and global at the same time.
Neighborhood yard sale. Besides building community, multi-family sales draw more buyers. Curbly has tips and printables for multi-family sales. And YardSaleQueen.com lives up to the name with extensive general advice.
Be Ready to Help Each Other
Cooking brigade. Takethemameal.com helps volunteer cooks coordinate meal deliveries when a neighbor is sick, adjusting to a new baby, or otherwise in need.
Plan for emergencies. Establish a common meeting point, decide who will take on various roles, and see what everyone has to offer. For example, does anyone have a generator? Check out this step-by-step guide to neighborhood preparedness. It was developed in California but works for any community.
Establish a Neighborhood Watch program. Visit National Neighborhood Watch for get-started tips and resources, and talk to your police department about local initiatives.
Make It Cool for Kids
Make your ’hood a “Playborhood.” Read Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play. The author’s own backyard play space is open to all the neighborhood kids, whether his family is home or not. It’s smart to ask your insurance agent about liability issues.
DIY a neighborhood summer camp. At Parenting, tips from a mom who’s a veteran of six DIY camps. You can always start small with a morning-only camp.
Garden space. See the American Community Gardening Association’s 10 steps for getting started. To find space, start with your local government. Many officials are embracing community gardening as an asset to their city. Nonprofit organizations with spacious lots might be into it too. See if any grants are available.
Green space. City dwellers: work together to green up a common area. Studies show that trees and greenery bring people together. We like hanging out in parks, not parking lots! Get a free “depaving” guide here (you’ll have to fill out a form). Or build a parklet.
Backyards. Yours is small, theirs is small, but together … Or you have the green thumb, but they have the sun … You get the idea. Here’s some advice, and a sample sharing agreement. (Depending on what you’re doing, you might want to consult an attorney, or your homeowners association if you’re in a condo.)
Tools and skills. Local Tools is an online lending-library management system that makes it easy to share rarely used tools and appliances. A local business or community center might store the stuff. Streetbank is a less formal way to share (no need for common storage space) and lets you swap skills too.
Books. Build a Little Free Library. More than 50,000 of these tiny book exchanges have popped up around the world, and it’s estimated that as a result, 600,000 neighbors have met each other for the first time.
Go Green Together
Buy solar panels in bulk. Communities across the country are launching Solarize initiatives to buy solar panels at a discount.
Carpool. Some of your neighbors may well work in the same area you do. When you carpool, you save gas, you save money, and you to get to know each other. Here’s a rundown on apps.
Observe Earth Day. Simply organize a neighborhood cleanup, or volunteer as a team for a citywide effort. Visit earthday.org for events and ideas.
Design Neighborhood Pride
Brand your neighborhood. Strengthen your neighborhood’s identity with design. Imagine a great logo on banners hung on light poles, or on T-shirts. Check out The Chicago Neighborhoods for one designer’s take on logos for 30 neighborhoods (and counting).
Create a mural. Murals can help define and beautify your neighborhood, prevent graffiti, and even turn dead spots into hot spots. Go to Urban Artworks or Mural Arts Philadelphia for a dose of inspiration. Sold? Here’s a how-to guide.
Community Resource: CDCs
If there’s a community development corporation (CDC) where you live, it might be a great resource for getting a neighborhood project organized and funded. CDCs are nonprofit, community-based organizations that work on revitalizing neighborhoods in various ways. They do big projects like developing affordable housing, but also smaller ones like streetscaping. If you can’t readily identify one in your city, check with your chamber of commerce. Here’s some general information about CDCs.