National Night Out resources and ideas

in community engagement

These are some resources you can use to plan community-building activities in your neighborhood around National Night Out.

The National Night Out website. From the About page: NNO is designed to Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs; Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. “Last year’s National Night Out campaign involved citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials from over 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide. In all, over 36 million people participated.”

Click here for National Night Out Party Ideas. Excerpts:

  • Serve food, but keep it simple: Watermelon, Lemonade, Coffee, tea and dessert, Ice cream cones, Pretzels and chips, Fruit and cheese plates, Pizza, Cookies, Hamburgers, Hot dogs, Corn on the cob, Salads.
  • Facilitate conversations: Design a mixer: “Find a person who…” – with prizes, Block history stories, National Night Out stories, Photos from past block parties and NNO events, Oldest resident award, Longest resident award, Newest resident award.
  • Do something for the community: Collect for a food bank, Beautify a common area, Plan a fall clean-up or bulb planting, Recruit additional Neighborhood Watch leaders and block captains, Discuss neighborhood problems & opportunities, Distribute neighborhood block list.
  • Have fun: Bike parade, Board games, Skits, Make a mural or banner, Coloring Contest, Pony rides, 3-legged race, Football, baseball, basketball, street hockey, Roller blade, Youth parade with a theme, Jump rope, Chalk art, Face painting, Bubbles, Sack races, Magic show, Sing-alongs, Water balloons, Frisbee competition, Piñata, Clowns, Bike Safety, Child ID Kits, Block party, Cookout, Parade, Jump rope contest, Hula hoop contest, Barbecue, Street dance, Volleyball, Storytelling (truth or fiction), Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Scavenger hunt, Take lots of pictures, Karaoke, Rummage sale, Music and DJ, Dunk tank, Movies, Sandy beach party, Street carnival, Disposable camera distribution/photo contest, Self-defense demonstration, Jail & Bail, K-9 demonstration, Funniest hat contest, Welcome new neighbors, Live music, Horseshoes

There’s always something: Read the Trademark Fact Sheet (“Violators will be subject to legal action”). For instance, if your group needs to raise funds for your NNO, and you want to hit up a local business, you need to let it know that it “may not have its participation/association with NNO publicly advertised, displayed or promoted, unless it is registered as an official NNO sponsor with NATW’s national office, or unless NATW extends advance written approval.”

Other resources:

Have you organized NNO activities in the past? We’re helping organize some communities around NNO this year, and hope you can help by sharing stories, tips, do’s and don’ts. Particularly interested in how you kept the community going after NNO. – Thanks

Bringing Community Leaders Together – A Step-by-Step Guide on LikeMinded

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One of the huge benefits of adopting “community building” as a hobby is that from time to time, you get to volunteer to work with real organizers. Early this year, I started to help the Council of Acorn Residents on a project they hoped would bring leaders and orgs in West Oakland more closely together. Dubbed “Solutions Salons”, the idea was to get community leaders together – with food, drink, music, and conversation – and hope something good would come of that. Like the salons of the Enlightenment, but without the hoopskirts. Initial results have been encouraging (see Oakland Local article reprinted with permission below).

The residents wanted to document the process we’re going through, so if you’d want to try it in your own neighborhood, you’d have a model you can use and improve upon. We created a project on LikeMinded called (very modestly) “Bringing Community Leaders Together – A Step-by-Step Guide“. It includes a timeline, and sample invitations, evaluations, surveys, and other docs that can give you a head start. This process has just begun, and we welcome your ideas on how to move it forward.

If you haven’t heard of LikeMinded, it’s the new platform Craigslist Foundation and the Knight Foundation launched last month, where people can share stories about what’s working to help improve communities. You can read more press reports about it here.

We’ll get into this in more detail during our “Someone’s Done That Already: the Best Practice of Using Best Practices” session of the June 2 Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp on Empowering Communities at UCSF.

Community groups make connection in West Oakland

by Jennifer Inez Ward (@oaklandscene), Oakland Local (@oaklandlocal)

Residents, community organizations and business owners gathered at the Acorn Town Center and Courtyards late last week to discuss better ways of networking and communicating as part of the Solutions Salon for West Oakland Leaders.

The event was sponsored by the Council of Acorn Residents and was the second meeting held to specifically look at new ways West Oaklanders can come together. Organizers said they wanted participants to have an opportunity to brainstorm ideas about events or projects that can foster stronger ties in the community (photos).

BRIDGE Housing and The John Stewart Company also co-sponsored the salon, which featured a wide array of West Oakland groups. Participants at the meeting included members of The Crucible, People’s Grocery and the Alameda County Youth Development office. Educators also were at the gathering including the head of the soon to open charter school, Vincent Academy.

Many organization representatives and business owners said one of the biggest challenges (more…)

KaBOOM! Playground Build in West Oakland

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Some of my pictures, videos and tweets from the KaBOOM! Playground Build Day at Wade Johnson Park and the Oakland School Police HQ, Acorn & Lower Bottoms neighborhoods, West Oakland.

From an introduction by Carletta Starks, one of the principal organizers of the event:  Why Wade Johnson Park: OUSD Police Services Chief, Pete Sarna, recognized that the children in the area did not have a playground or other activities to keep them busy, and identified Wade Johnson as a Park that could be developed for the children in the area. Chief Sarna contacted KaBOOM! and worked with the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency to get accepted as a site for a KaBOOM! Project. The site was approved, and KaBOOM! and its funding partner, Foresters, began the process that led up to Build Day.

Who is KaBOOM!: KaBOOM! is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving play and fighting the Play Deficit by ensuring that every child has a great place to play within walking distance.

Live tweets with pics here: scroll down to April 30, from 8AM to 3PM

Some Photos

Some Video

See also: KaBOOM! – Empowering Neighborhoods and Restoring Play; Foresters post-event press release; More photos, from Yuan Zhu.

“Solutions Salon” Brings West Oakland Community Together

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OAKLAND, CA, March 11, 2011 – Lyn Hikida – More than 40 people participated in a solutions-oriented community meeting hosted in West Oakland last Thursday by the Acorn Residents Council, BRIDGE Housing, and The John Stewart Company.

The “Solutions Salon” attracted representatives from 20 nonprofit organizations and the Oakland City Council, Oakland Housing Authority, the Oakland Police Department and the Oakland Unified School District. Attendees divided into small groups to discuss 2011 plans, the challenges they face, and ways they can work together to overcome those challenges.

“The response was fantastic,” said Janet Patterson, Chairman of the Acorn Residents Council. “People networked, shared resources and began to build better connections within the community.”

Many of the conversations centered on a theme of encouraging and maintaining stronger involvement by people who live in West Oakland, including the residents of the Town Center & Courtyards at Acorn.

Participant and longtime West Oakland resident Nakia Linzie-Shavers is a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates, which serves foster children in Alameda County. “It was useful to learn about the range of services in the area,” she said.

“For me, the event opened up more avenues for other types of programs that we can support for residents,” added Damita Barbee, President of St. Paul Economic Empowerment Development Corp., “which, hopefully, will result in increasing the number of lives we can empower and enrich.”

Shaun Tai, Executive Director of Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center, was struck by the diversity of participants, leadership and resources. “What I gained was a sense of hope that with more events like the Solutions Salon, there will be things that we can act upon together as a cohesive community,” he said. “We can’t just keep talking; there needs to be action.”

One of the next steps, according to Patterson, will be the creation of a resource directory to facilitate access to programs and strengthen connections between the organizations that provide services.

To view photos from the event, visit:

Icebreakers & games for team and community building

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Some free icebreaking, team-building, community-making resources and selections, mainly from nonprofits, schools, and government agencies.

Some notes on when to use icebreakers, and what makes them good – from the Resource Center of the Corporation for National & Community Service (@nationalservice). “Icebreakers are often used to encourage people to open up or feel comfortable, invite participation in a group activity, and stimulate inclusion. However, an ineffective icebreaker can create discomfort or tension, straining rather than energizing a group dynamic.”

From Teambuilding & Icebreakers (pdf): “The primary goal for an icebreaker or a getting acquainted exercise is the development of an environment which is anxiety-reducing and which allows individuals to “break the ice” or get acquainted by having fun.” – from Associated Students, Western Washington University

Teambuilding, Icebreakers & Energizers from the Association of Washington School Principals. Includes Teambuilding, icebreakers & energizers, Inclusion, School Observances, General leadership concepts & activities, Inspirational stories.

Teamwork Exercise: Icebreakers, from Collaborative Justice. Icebreakers offer an easy initial opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to the larger team and to share a bit about our lives in an effort to promote openness and sharing among team members, and to set the tone for our future work together.

Icebreakers, Energizers & Team-building Activities (pdf) from the Youth Power Curriculum of Contra Costa Health Services. “The Guide is a resource for teaching youth about activism, leadership and community organizing. Use the easy-to-follow lessons in this practical training manual to partner with high-school aged youth to create real changes in their lives and communities.”

The Programming and Technical Assistance Unit of the Florida DJJ provides several free guides (in pdf form) for both trainers and participants. Icebreaker categories include Breaking into Groups, Change, Communication, Following Instructions, Introductions, Reviewing Difficult Material, Values, and Waking Up / Relieving Tension.

Great Group Games, cited by the American Library Association, includes group game instructions, how-to videos, downloadable worksheets, and editor’s picks. Founded by Stacy Chan (@greatgroupgames) “to share group game ideas between youth leaders, teachers, parents, camp counselors and community leaders”.

Icebreakers from From their About page: “This site is run by two self-proclaimed game-lovers, Joe and John. We pride ourselves in bringing you instructions for the best, most fun group games and activities. This website is completely free.” See also: Index of all group games; Teambuilding. – “This site features instructions to several playtested, high quality free icebreakers, fun games, and team building activities.”

From Icebreakers, Team Building Activities, and Energizers (pdf) by the Lions Club International: “activities to facilitate introductions, to introduce a topic, to review concepts recently learned, to encourage team building, and to energize. There are also some miscellaneous activities at the end that you might find interesting or useful.”

From Games and Icebreakers by the Intervarsity Ministry Exchange: “Creative methods to spur discussion or introduce people or an idea.” MX is a “participatory website, accessible to anyone, for easily sharing ministry resources.”

50+ Icebreakers and Cultural Games from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. What are Icebreakers? What can Icebreakers Do? Considerations in Planning Icebreakers. Things to Be Careful about in Using Icebreakers.

Team Building Activities (pdf) by the National Community Development Institute. A 26-page document with details on icebreakers and community building activities. Developed by NCDI and other organizations (, Categories include Constituency Building Icebreakers, Community Building Activities, Learning Styles, Inspirational Stories, Team Building Articles.

From the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program: “Ice breakers can effectively break tension and encourage interaction between people, whether they know each other or not. While we often encounter some who are resistant to doing ice breaker activities, more often than not, these activities generate laughs and set a more positive tone for the meeting.” See also their index of tools for various phases of community building.

The wiki Teampedia is a “collaborative encyclopedia of free team building activities, free icebreakers, teamwork resources, and tools for teams that anyone can edit”. Founded by Seth Marbin (@smarbin) before he joined Google as a trainer, then as GoogleServe Global Director. See also the Resources page, with links to sites, blogs, books, and more.

Team-building activities from Training for Change. A small selection of team-building exercises, but provides useful details such as setup, variations, and debrief.

The Useful Games site was developed by David Wilcox (@davidwilcox) and Drew Mackie, who have worked together since the early 1980s on regeneration projects, partnerships and community participation. During that time they developed a range of workshop games, some of which are available here. Content appears as blog items, and are indexed under our games.

From Wilderdom: Icebreakers, Warmups, Energizers, & Deinhibitizers. Wilderdom is a website run by researcher and psychologist James Neill (@jtneill). Related resources in this site: Game Index, Trust Building Activities, Team Building Activities.

From Volunteer Power: Ice-Breakers, Event Openers, and Team Building Activities for Committees, Boards, and Volunteer Staff Meetings.