Neighborhood Pride: Ten Ideas To Boost Block Spirit
Creating community is easier than you think.
Is it just me or, is the modern urban neighborhood getting remarkably old-fashioned? In the Los Feliz (locals pronounce this los-FEE-liz) community of Los Angeles where I live, it feels like everything that was old is new (and smart) again. Things my grandparents in Kentucky have always done—checking in on neighbors, sharing a new crop of tomatoes—seem not so much folksy as generally just a good way to live, even if you are in the big city.
So, as my way to welcome you to this new space on GOOD, here’s a list of ways (organized from most ambitious to least) you might improve your little corner of town. Welcome toWalking Distance.
1.Turn your front yard into a farm.
Grass is an expensive, water-intensive waste of space. Rip out the sod and start a small front yard farm to produce food for your household and some of your favorite neighbors. Sounds daunting (or don’t have a yard)? Organize some other like-minded urban agrarians and transform a vacant lot into a community garden. You may even get a tax credit.
2. Start a neighborhood time bank.
Time banks are a fantastic way to leverage skills the larger economy doesn’t always value. “In a time bank, everyone’s time is valued in the same way” says Autumn Rooney, organizer of the Echo Park Time Bank in Los Angeles. Exchange a French lesson for a ride to the airport or watch someone’s cat for a tennis lesson. The key is to have a system in place to facilitate the exchange. Oh, and make sure you know how to throw a party. “You should be a people person,” says Rooney. The group hosts biweekly parties to recruit new neighbors and refine the process. Learn how to start your own here.
3. Make every Sunday a block party.
Sundays are lazy time, and the worldwide movement Ciclovia has taken advantage of our weekend sloth. “There’s less traffic on Sunday,” says Tim Joe Linton, one of the organizers of cicLAvia an initiative to bring the car free days to the car capital of the world. Aside from the obvious benefits of music and picnics in the street, letting the bikes take over can be a boon to the local economy. “Many local shops see their business double,” Linton says.
4. Start a bowling league*.
Robert Putnam wrote a treatise on the decline of civic participation in America rooted in unlikely data: Americans aren’t bowling together anymore. What does bowling have to do with civic engagement you say? Read Bowling Alone (keeping in mind it was written before the Obama campaign) and in the meantime, choose a team color, a regular night to meet, and see how bowling together makes you feel not so alone.
*If you and your neighbors aren’t the bowling types, find another team sport that requires matching uniforms and a regular meeting time. Kickball? Capture the Flag?
5. Leverage social media for you library and other neighborhood resources.
Start a blog (or Facebook fan page) for your library branch, a city wiki, or Google map for your neighborhood. This will help you (and your grateful neighbors) make the best use of your local resources. The more input the better, so enlist your neighbors to help and you’ll be amazed at what you discover about your local haunts. Davis, California’s, Wiki is about as good as it gets.
6. Throw a potluck with your neighbors.
All of them. This may mean inviting people you may not know, like, or otherwise find interesting, but that’s what makes this fun: everyone is invited. If you want to add some entertainment, include a slideshow. Learn from the experts at Slideluck Potshow.
7. Bring back hide and go seek.
Nothing makes a block come alive like kids (or adults) playing games outside. Other games to teach the youngsters: freeze tag, dodge ball, and how to catch lightning bugs (and free them, of course).
8. Build a community treehouse.
Do I really need a reason? Get some treehouse inspiration here.
9. Install a bench in front of your house (and create other types of informal public spaces).
Temporary dog parks, hop scotch zones, and dumpster pools work too.
10. Say hi to your neighbors.
Now that one’s not so hard, is it?
Here's to dynamic neighborhoods, smarter communities, and the treehouse making a comeback. How are you breathing life back into your neighborhood?
Kyla Fullenwider is the Pepsi Refresh Project Ambassador for Neighborhoods. Learn more about the Pepsi Refresh Project here, and submit your own idea for how to move the world forward here.