find more at chjoplin.org/ youarehere
Imagine… a neighborhood that feels good to come home to, and a block that is peaceful, safe, and well-cared for. Imagine neighbors knowing each other, who celebrate together, turn to each other in times of needs, who are friends. When there is a new family or a new baby, everyone on the block welcomes them. Imagine a place where relationship is the context for conflict, where bothersome neighbors are understood before they are judged. Imagine a place where neighbors discuss annoyances with each other early on, instead of letting it fester and brew. Imagine a neighborhood that has seasonal events and develops its own community character. One neighborhood may be known for its extravagant Christmas light displays, another for its tendency to give out King-sized candy bars on Halloween, and another who throws the best tailgate parties in town. By practicing “good neighboring” you get to create the kind of community and well-being you hope for and imagine on your block. Having good relationships with your neighbors decreases crime, improves physical health, extinguishes loneliness, and improves your overall quality of life. We invite you to imagine what might happen on your block if you began neighboring well. STEP 1: GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS: Using the grid provided, take time to get to know your eight closest neighbors: the two on either side of you, the three directly across the street and the three behind you. The best way to do this is to go door-to-door in pairs. You can bring your spouse, a child or another neighbor with you. First introduce yourself as “your neighbor who lives at such and such address.” Explain that you have recently felt the need to get to know your neighbors and believe the beginning of a great neighborhood starts with getting to know the people around you. If you’d like, bring a small gift (like cookies or a pie) and ask them questions about themselves. If you get invited into the home, take the opportunity. If you have a chance to exchange information, make sure to have a small notepad and pen with you so you can record names, addresses, phone numbers and email.
STEP 2: WALK YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD Walking is a powerful way to gain influence and presence in your area. Make sure to look up while walking, greet passersby, wave and always smile. When people see you walking, you become a “character” in the neighborhood. Take as many opportunities as possible to stop and visit with neighbors sitting on their porch or pulling into their driveways. This takes a little initiative, but it is worth the effort. As you become known in your neighborhood, you will become a trusted member of the community. STEP 3: THROW A PARTY Once you’ve gotten to know your neighbors, make plans to throw a party on a weekend or weeknight. You can host in your yard or talk with a neighbor about collaborating on hosting a party together. Your party can be connected to a holiday, a sporting event, or just because. Some ideas include: a neighborhood breakfast, a pumpkin carving and chili party, an ice cream social, a holiday party, or a dessert night. The best way to do this is to make it a potluck style event so that everyone gets to contribute. Make flyers with the location, day, start and end time, what kind of food people need to bring and your name and contact information. Two-three weeks before the event go door-to-door at a time when most people are home and hand the flyers out to the neighbors on your block and each block to the north and south of you or east and west of you. Making this personal connection is the best way to ensure people show up. If people aren’t home, bring clear tape and tape the flyer to their door so they are sure to see it. If the party is outdoors, make sure to have games like corn-hole, ladder ball, or a water balloon toss. As people arrive, be a good host by introducing yourself, ask lots of questions, and make sure to introduce different neighbors to each other. Lastly, have a sign-up list so people can leave their name, address, and contact information. STEP 4: STAY IN TOUCH Now that you’ve received everyone’s contact information, this is a great time to build on-going community. A couple days after the event, send an email or make calls thanking people for coming to the party. Let them know that it was a pleasure getting to know them and that you hope to collaborate on events in the future. This also may be a great time to start a Facebook page or use another form of social media to stay connected with your neighbors. You can use this page to share inspiration and ideas on neighboring, communicate events, barter for goods, and ask for help. Make sure to set up the group with a reminder that the page is intended to be a positive environment and is not to be used to complain about neighbors or the neighborhood. If you find someone using it for this purpose, promptly remind them of the rules of the page and that they will be removed from the group if it happens again. STEP 5: BE AVAILABLE Making time for others is a key part of neighboring. Oftentimes, this requires us to slow down, and be aware of the people entering and exiting our neighborhood. Here are some practical ways to “be available” to your neighbors: work in your yard, get to know the kids on the street, spend time on your porch, go for walks, or help a lost dog. If you see a neighbor outside, make it a point to go and talk to them. Some of our biggest opportunities to get to know our neighbors beyond a casual wave, happen as we take the initiative to reach out. STEP 6: SHARE A MEAL As you begin to build trust with neighbors, be intentional. Invite a family, couple, or individual over for dinner or a Saturday brunch. Sharing a meal with someone provides excellent opportunities to know their story, laugh together, and
share neighborhood news. Oftentimes, this place of intimate connection is what we resist the most, but it is also one of the most fruitful ways to move a relationship forward from an acquaintance to friendship. When you invite someone over for a meal, you are communicating that you accept this person or family and that you are willing to be known and to know them. STEP 7: SERVE ONE ANOTHER One of the best ways to build comradery in a neighborhood is to serve one another or serve alongside each other. You can begin by identifying places you need help yourself. Borrowing a tool or cooking supplies or asking for help with a project are all appropriate ways to begin the dialogue. When you ask for help, you put yourself in a position of humility, and you create an opportunity to get to know what skills, talents and abilities your neighbors have to offer. Another place to start is to ask your neighbors if they have any projects or needs. You may not be a handyman, but you may be able to babysit their kids one night, water their flowers while they’re away on vacation or provide tutoring for a child. One last way is to actually anticipate needs before you are asked. Examples of these are numerous: pulling out or in trash cans, shoveling snow, picking up trash around your block. STEP 8: DEAL WITH CONFLICT Tension and conflict among neighbors are common and people respond to conflict in a variety of ways. Some ignore the problems, others become angered, some end up living in quiet misery or eventually move out of the area. Good neighboring is the best prevention against such problems. By building a relationship with your neighbors, you can ensure all conflict (which will occur at some point) can be discussed within the context of trust and mutual respect. There is something that happens when you know your neighbor and the reasons behind their sometimes annoying actions or lack of action. Before dealing with conflict, be sure you are not angry at the time of your discussion. Rehearse in your mind exactly what you are going to say in order to communicate how you are feeling and what your concern is. Also, make sure to go into the conversation being open to the possibility that you are not right. Leave room for the other person’s opinion and way of thinking to affect how you are viewing the situation. As you speak with the person, make sure to listen for what they value, and try to understand how they think. Discuss the problem using “I” statements: “I go to bed early and am sensitive to your dog barking late at night.” Conclude by suggesting some possible solutions to the situation. Brainstorm together how you can work together to respect each other. STEP 9: ASSET-MAPPING Most of the time, we focus on the needs of a community: how it is broken and how it can be improved. Asset-mapping takes the opposite approach by uncovering people’s gifts, talents and abilities, important structures or gathering places, community services, faith-based organizations, and businesses in your neighborhood. To asset map your neighborhood, follow this link http://ctb.ku.edu/en and look for the asset mapping tool.
STEP 10: RESEARCH YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S HISTORY Determine the name and boundaries of your neighborhood. You can find out this information by calling your local city hall. If the city has no designated names or boundaries, look for major natural boundaries (streams, lakes, hills, valleys) or man-made boundaries (major thoroughfares, railroad tracks, large cemeteries, large parks). Generally, a neighborhood should be approximately ½ mile long by ½ mile wide if dealing with a grid pattern and should have a one to five mile perimeter. Another fascinating way to fall in love with your neighborhood’s history is to find out the stories of its beginnings and how it’s changed over the years. There are several places to start. For the more studious type, start on the internet looking up the name of your neighborhood to find out any information. If there is nothing there, your local library should have information on the establishment of your area. For the outgoing and extroverts, make friends with older residents or residents who have lived in the area a long time. Conduct an informal interview, asking them several questions: a. How long have you lived in the area? b. Do you know the name and boundaries of this neighborhood? c. What was the neighborhood like ___ years ago when you first moved in? How has the neighborhood evolved since you first arrived? d. Were there any cultural or community defining events? What is this neighborhood known for? e. What are some of the assets in our neighborhood (parks, archit tecture, non-profits, faith-based orgs, businesses, people)? f. What architectural styles are represented in this neighborhood? g. What are your dreams or hopes for the neighborhood (more green space, more community events, art/cultural projects)? h. What are things you’d change in the neighborhood? STEP 11: ORGANIZE A NEIGHBORHOOD GROUP As neighbors begin to dream and imagine what their neighborhood could become, the need for formal connections and a formal structure may become necessary. Neighborhood groups start for a variety of reasons: to improve a park or construct a gathering space, to install public art, emergency preparedness, to throw cultural or community events, to preserve historic buildings or sacred sites, to ensure city code is being enforced, to collaborate with police on crime prevention, or to promote economic development. Whatever the reason(s) for forming an organization, this is the highest level of neighborhood management. Members of the community are informed and engaged in a common vision and have installed effective leadership to accomplish stated goals. In order to start a neighborhood group, please contact the City of Joplin’s Neighborhood Services Division at 417-624-0820 x518. Recommended Reading: The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon