HOW TO BUILD A STRONG COMMUNITY
There are lots of reasons you may have picked the city or town where you live. Maybe you loved the downtown area with its mix of interesting stores and restaurants, or perhaps it was just the convenience of being a short drive away from your workplace. If you have a family, you might have selected it because it has a good school system, safe bike trails and a lot of parks and greenspace to enjoy. But have you ever thought about your responsibility when it comes to building and growing a strong community not only for yourself, but for others to enjoy?
Comfortable, strong and stable communities can really improve your quality of life and allow you to engage in intentional living. When it comes to the ingredients needed to create this, there are a handful of basic requirements. Think safe and dependable housing; quality education programs from pre-school through high school, with pipelines to colleges as well as the skilled trades; and parks, recreation facilities and sports programs that are easily accessible and affordable for a range of income levels.
As with everything, diversity drives innovation. So the more opportunities your community can offer, the better it is for everyone. And as people work together to improve their spot on the map, the teamwork that this takes instills an appreciation for the power of community.
If you’ve taken a look around the place you call home and think there’s room for improvement, follow these simple tips for creating a strong community where people can live intentionally, a place that will be able to improve everyone’s quality of life.
Communities rarely speak as one voice. A diverse group of people will have different opinions on a wide range of issues impacting local life. So while there may be a mix of ideas being brought to the table on any one topic, there are ways to keep the communication lines open and clear:
- First, go into any community discussion with an open mind.
- Always listen to the concerns of your friends and neighbors. Don’t just hear them or give them space to talk, but really listen.
- Try to understand their positions on specific issues, especially when they differ from yours.
- When it comes to difficult topics or even controversial subjects, make sure you are able to express your opinion without getting emotional. Civil, respectful voices go a long way toward making hard conversations more productive.
- If you are a decision-maker for your community, make sure you are considering others’ suggestions and opinions, then follow through with plans to get the job done.
Sense of Connection
There are lots of ways to deepen a sense of connection within your community. It’s easy for everyone to rally behind a winning local sports team, or work together to pass a millage that will build an addition onto an overcrowded school building. But relationships within your community can also happen over a deck of cards or a slice of homemade pie. One way to build camaraderie is by organizing events such as a community dinner, a local art festival or even a weekly game night. These events can be hosted in your local recreation or community center, a city park, or any local church that wants to open its doors. Many of these events are inexpensive to host once you have a location secured. Brew some pots of coffee, set out water and juices, and invite everyone to bring a dish to pass. Food and friendships – both old and new – make for great bonding.
To foster better communication across the community, make sure there are regularly-scheduled meetings to allow for people to gather and express any concerns they might have about local issues, or offer any recommendations or new ideas to the group. Most cities and towns have at least one regular governmental meeting each month that the public is invited to attend, and has time set aside within that window for public comments. But if your community has a large group of opinionated, active members, consider setting another informal gathering time each month so people can share what’s on their mind. This could become a productive platform for new ideas and suggestions that can be taken to city officials at their next regular meeting.
An important ingredient in building a strong community is having leaders you can trust, who have the best interests of the whole area at heart. These are leaders who respect their neighbors’ ideas, give them space and time to speak, and clearly have a mutual respect for others – even when their opinions land on opposite sides of the aisle. Trustworthy leaders know how to engage in meaningful conversations, make good decisions and ensure they are carried out. If this is lacking in your community, consider seeking a local leadership role, or urging a friend you admire to take on that job.
Form a Welcoming Committee
These welcome-to-town groups used to be quite prevalent across the U.S., but as people’s lives became busier, they seemed to disappear from many cities. It’s time to bring them back, now more than ever. Communities are constantly changing and evolving with each new person and family who moves into their boundaries. Welcoming people is an easy way for your community to put its best foot forward, and it brings newcomers into the fold right away. There are plenty of ways to roll out the welcome mat for new residents. The simplest way is just to walk over and introduce yourself. Some communities host quarterly potluck dinners and make sure all the new faces are invited to meet their neighbors. Depending on the size of your community, a nice touch is to create welcome bags or baskets for each newcomer. A personalized community key ring, a list of community events and festivals, a map of town, and coupons for local stores and restaurants can all be tucked inside. Round it out with small bags of candy, mints or grab-and-go snacks like BodyKey by Nutrilite™ Meal Bars in delicious flavors like chocolate brownie or caramel peanut butter for a sweet welcome.
Finding a place to call home is wonderful, but working to build a strong community through intentional living and teamwork is what makes people want to stay.
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