Anybody can make a difference and everyone should try. John F. Kennedy
I can’t fix up the whole world, but I can sure work on my little bit of it. Jason: Sustainability Street Pioneer
We all have the right and the power to shape the future! Eileen Dover
The madness of modernity has instilled some very strong and quite unhappy “new social mores” in us over the last 50 - 70 years. Aspects of our new cultural insanity have given us, along side the environmental crisis, an obesity epedemic, waves of depression and, perhaps worst of all, Reality TV.
It has also given us an un-natural “passive distance” or “passive rejection” of each other in community. In a worst case this has led to, thankfully rare, instances where an elderly member of the neighbourhood has died in their home and been undiscovered for days, weeks or even months.
It is not easy turning around the modern, social conditioning of decades. But it so can be done! We might each be just one single person or one small group for sure. But we are one person or smalll group who can become so much stronger, connected, fulfillled, enriched, accomplished … and part of the greatest of local triumphs called “our little community”!
And when such social richness is layered with the excitement and meaning of re-connecting with and helping to heal the Earth, the depth of reward is bottomless. Both the social and the environmental achievements inevitably become exponential
The Shy Gap
Leaping the shy gap is one of challenges involved in building a lovely, little, local community group. Our conditioning, which is to be separate from each other may derive from the simple unfamiliarity, foisted on us by the demands of the fast paced modern life. So called time poverty. Or, it may have a more pernicious origin encouraged by the “it’s a jungle out there mindset”.
This modern “jungle” mentality is cooked up by everything from the “terrorists next door” message through to the dishonest “law and order” headlines which sells the media. Any rational examination of the facts of either, reveals sensational, vested scare-mongering. Which is not to invalidate the experience of any victim who has suffered through criminality. However, the liklihood of the opposite is closer to the truth. It makes common sense and recognised by research, that warmer, friendlier streets with a sense of community and openess are safer streets. They have people out and about who are looking out for each other. They are nice to each other.
It IS a Village, NOT a Jungle out there! Creating a friendly, warm, interesting, respectful and democratic local group of equal participation is the absolute best that “one or a just a small few” of us can do to create both a socially safer local place and an ecologically safer world!!.
Democratising Group Building Techniques 1 … EasyPeasy
The Sweetest Sound
Dale Carnegie, or somebody of similar ilk from the Sixties, once opined that there is “no sound sweeter to the human ear than the sound of one’s own name”. Apparently, a person will hear their name ring out, if mentioned, above the cacophony of a crowded room full of babbling voices.
Even if it’s just a few folks around the kitchen table meeting for the first time, work at learning everybody’s name and use it often. The idea of name tag stickers also springs to mind?
Voicing The Village
This heading derives from a term “Voicing the Audience”, which is used in interactive theatre in education and by the best and friendliest group facilitators. When a person hears “their voice” among a group of people, newly met, creates a sense of belonging, ownership and a desire to hear it some more. That’s the sound of a person who’s happy to be there.
See the Model Agenda for an introductory meeting, Chapter 8.3 page 33 for some specifc “voicing” ideas such as ....
o Good Ol’ Round The Circle .. Quick As ...
o Stories From The Real World
o Being there
o The Meeting Mirror
Techniques 2 … A l’il bit deeper and wider.
Dynamic Group Enhancement Exercises
Also know as Ice-breakers or energisers. These days, there is just so much new research out there which points to the incredible power of the brain to be enhanced, relaxed, more creative and cognitively better. Nuerology and brain plasticity is the trendiest new hobby to be into. And to think it has been right above our noses the whole time. Arts, games, song, playfulness, etc, etc, all add many layers of intangible power to both social and environmental accomplishment
Share the Chair
Something to work on over the long term. Being asked to “run a meeting” is a great honour. Scary but in the end very satisfying. Chairing is also a wonderful skill to have, and, the more people we have who are good at bringing the best out of a group of new Earth’o’philes, the quicker the inevitable social tipping point for sustainability will arrive.
Described extensively in this manual. Basically, we are all learners and we are all teachers! In so many ways. It’s invaluable for all of us to have a role in delivering Sustainability Street learning, based on what we already know!.
SillEgalitarianism vis-a-vis “Leaderfullness”
The SSA is infused with techniques, tips, narrative and exhortation designed to maximise group democracy, participation and hense satisfation. This will nourish the blossoming people movement with competant skilled folks. Rather than groups with “leaders” we need “leaderful groups”.
However, sometimes you need to seek sanction to be the “pushy meeting person”, so things keep things moving along. You know how it is. There is always one sweet soul whose entire life history has fed into the formation of their ideas and opinions and they are so keen to share that. Bless their hearts.
So, while there can be no question than galitarianism, ownership, democracy and leaderfullness are precious, sometimes repectful internvention can be good for all. Like, say, when we get on a plane or a train, we are very happy that there is just one person sitting at the controls. Sometimes the tiniest bit of soft bossy can help ... no ego, just pure, good intent.
101 ways to build community
The Top Ten … and 101 Other Ways To Build Community
Adapted from Professor Robert Putnam’s Building Social Capital Website www.bettertogether.org
1) The importance of building community
= Deep down, we all know what to do. We all know how great a strong local community can be - for safety, fun and they say it’s even good for our health. Humans are naturally one of the most social and strongly bonding of animals. So, what are we waiting for?
= Build connections to people.
= Build trust with others.
= Get involved. Be real. Be humble.
= Acknowledge others self worth.
2) Say G’day to Strangers
= Help fix someone’s flat tyre.
= Stop and make sure the person on the side of the highway is OK.
= Ask a single diner to share your table for lunch.
= Return a lost wallet or appointment book.
= Ask a new person to join a group for a dinner or an evening.
= Use public transport and smile, or have a chat with someone you regularly see.
= Leave work early and go to the park.
= Make friends with someone of a different ethnic or religious group.
3) Get involved with your local shops and services
= Support local shops.
= Get to know the staff at local stores.
= Fight to keep essential local services - the post office, police station, school, etc.
= Persuade a local restaurant to have a designated “meet people” table.
= Say “thanks” to public servants – police, firefighters, town clerks.
4) The importance of family
= Tape or video your parents’ earliest recollections and share them with your children.
= Plan a holiday or day out with friends or family.
= Turn off the TV and talk with friends or family.
= Talk to your kids or parents about their day.
= Tell friends and family about community and why you think it matters.
= Get to know your children’s teachers.
= Volunteer in your child’s classroom or help on an excursion.
= Attend your children’s athletic contests, plays and recitals.
= Have family dinners and read to your children.
= Start a children’s story hour at your local library.
= Call an old friend.
5) Join/organise a local club/Group
= Join a gardening club or start a community garden.
= Get involved with Brownies or Cub/Boy/Girl Scouts.
= Start a monthly tea group.
= Join the volunteer fire department.
= Go to church, temple, mosque, ashram or shrine...or go outside with your children … talk to them about spirituality.
= Join or start a babysitting cooperative.
= Join a nonprofit board of directors.
= Volunteer at the library.
= Join a book club discussion or get the group to discuss local issues.
= Volunteer to deliver Meals-on-Wheels in your neighborhood.
= Volunteer your special skills to an organisation.
= Employers … give employees time (e.g. 3 days per year to work on civic projects).
= Employers … encourage volunteer/community groups to hold meetings on your site.
= Join a carpool.
= Sing in a choir.
= Audition for community theatre or volunteer to usher.
6) Play sport and Head outdoors
= Participate in walkathons.
= Form a local outdoor activity group.
= Organise or participate in a sports league.
= Help coach Little League or other youth sports – even if you don’t have a kid playing.
= Help run the snack bar at the Little League field.
= Play cards with friends or neighbours.
= Form or join a bowling team.
= Give your park a weatherproof chess/checkers board.
= Exercise together or take walks with friends or family.
7) Get involved in Local Politics
= Participate in political campaigns.
= Stand at a major intersection holding a sign for your favorite candidate.
= Run for public office.
= Offer to serve on a town committee.
= Rather than say “government stinks,” help fix it!
= Businesses: invite local government officials to speak at your workplace
8) Make sure to involve older & younger people in your community
= Form a computer group with local senior citizens.
= If you grow tomatoes, plant extra for an elder who lives nearby, better yet, ask him/her to teach you and others how to bottle the extras.
= Collect oral histories from older local residents
= Young people could teach a local group about an environmental issue they learnt at school.
= Involve a local school in an event
9) Get involved with your
9) Get involved with your neghbours
= Plan a “Walking Tour” of a local historic area.
= Invite the local aboriginal community to come and tell your group about your local area.
= Eat breakfast at a local gathering spot on Saturdays.
= Start a fix-it group with friends willing to help each other clean, paint, garden, etc.
= Offer to mow a neighbours yard.
= Form a “tools cooperative” with neighbors and share ladders, hammers, etc.
= Bake a cake for new neighbours or work colleagues.
= Ask neighbours for help and reciprocate.
= Plant tree seedlings along your street with neighbors and rotate care for them.
= Organize a gathering to welcome a new neighbour
= Surprise a new neighbour by making a favorite dinner–and include the recipe.
= Volunteer to drive someone.
= Say hello when you spot an acquaintance in a store.
= Assist with or create a neighbourhood newsletter
10) Get Involved in or run a Local Event
= Host a street party or a holiday open house.
= Bring a plate to a Town Meeting.
= Hold a neighbourhood barbecue.
= Gather a group to clean up a local park or cemetery.
= Attend home parties when invited.
= Host a movie night.
= Organise a neighbourhood litter pick-up – with lawn games afterwards.
= Speak at or host a monthly lunch series at your local library.
= Attend Memorial Day parades and express appreciation for others.
= Go to a local folk or crafts festival. Accept or extend an invitation.
= Start a lunch gathering or a discussion group with co-workers.
= Offer your services at a Sorry Day event