Recommended resource: GOOD Issue 19, The Neighborhoods Issue. GOOD started planning the issue back in January, inviting its readers to help plan and produce it. The printed magazine went out to subscribers this month, and pieces are being published online in daily increments. Dozens of good articles in the issue (here’s the rss feed), but in keeping with the Our Blocks focus on getting practical information into the hands of people who want to make a difference in their neghborhhoods, these are articles I like the best:
The GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods: A Neighborhood Manifesto. Closer to a Table of Contents than the Communist Manifesto, lists 12 articles from the issue that provide readers “with the tools you need to make your neighborhood more than just the place you live. What all these tips have in common is the fact that they connect you to the actual human beings who live around you—and make your neighborhood better as a result.”
Start a Community Garden. Tips from Marvin Yee, the community garden program manager for San Francisco: Find a plot of land; Secure some seed money; Put together a dedicated team; Draw up your proposal and begin talking to your neighbors; Contact your parks and recreation department with your proposal. For more information check out the American Community Gardening Association.
Throw a Block Party. Tips from Jon Lawrence, who puts on an annual block party for up to 300 people in Bloomington, Indiana: Form a planning committee and pick a date and location; Make sure it’s legal; Promote the hell out of it; Work out your budget; Decide on food; Plan entertainment and activities; Enlist volunteers; Wrap it up. More on block parties from Our Blocks here.
Meet Your Neighbors Without Seeming like a Crazy Person. Tips from Kit Hodge, founder of the Neighbors Project. Say “Hi”; Spruce up your outdoor space, and spend time there; Practice common courtesies; Hang out in your neighborhood, and shop locally; Get involved with your neighborhood in a formalized way. More crazy things you can do with the neighbors here, here, and here.
Share Your Yard (or Get Your Neighbors to Share Theirs). More space, lower bills, and enough pooled cash to install that solar-powered hot tub—there are a lot of practical reasons to share yards with your neighbors. As with any kind of sharing, however, it’s best not to go into the situation willy-nilly. Here’s how: Identify what you want; Approach your neighbors; Plan for a social space; Make an agreement.
Join a New-and-Improved Commune. Tips from Stephanie Smith of WeCommune and Alex Marshall of Brooklyn Cohousing: Decide on your community’s values early on; Keep lines of communication open; Trust the power of consensus; Enjoy the economic benefits of communal living; Learn from the success stories; Don’t think being in a community is the same as being friends.
Create a Neighborhood Clubhouse. Artists/Professors Ted Purves and Susanne Cockrell of fieldfaring ran, among other things, Oakland’s Temescal Amity Works and the Reading Room – a store that sold nothing. Their tips: Pick your vibe; Have a purpose; Make it inviting; Have a bathroom people can use; Tap other people’s talents.
Get on Community Access Television. Pepper public access television with shows by people with useful skills they can share with their neighbors. Here’s how: Figure out who runs the stations in your area; Respect the station’s ethos; Have a good idea; Get organized; Find someone who actually knows how to use a camera; Spread the word; Make a good show.
All images by Trevor Burks: