Since I attended the Communities for a Lifetime meeting over a year ago (which I wrote about in a previous blog), I’ve been meeting with Jess Luce, Supervisor with the Communities for a Lifetime (CFL) Initiative, part of Dakota County Public Health, about ways to get involved locally in the initiative.  I jumped at the chance to help start a “Neighborhood Network,” a pilot project to try to bring a neighborhood together to strengthen social bonds. What a great opportunity to apply my professional skills and interests in my own back yard (almost literally). The county CFL Initiative seeks to find ways to assist communities and neighborhoods be more connected and self-supported so residents of all ages can live active, vital lives.

While people in many neighborhoods do interact informally, there are many forces that make it difficult to happen naturally.  People are busy.  In Minnesota people don’t see their neighbors for months in the winter, and people spend lots of time in their cars, rather than in their front yards.  A Neighborhood Network is an intentional way to bring people of all ages together to connect and support one another. Theoretically this should result in better health and an improved quality of life.

A Neighborhood Network can take many forms; it depends on what residents want and need.  Some possible formats and activities:

  • Tool lending and borrowing
  • Free little libraries
  • Crime watch program
  • Neighborhood cook‐outs, picnics, progressive dinners potlucks
  • Neighborhood clean‐up day
  • Maintaining common spaces
  • Community garden
  • Neighborhood newsletter
  • Neighborhood web site
  • Helping  neighbors with occasional outdoor chores, rides to the airport, homework help, dog walking
  • Texting emergency information during power outages

Actually the list of possibilities is endless.

I started out by walking around and talking to neighbors last summer to gauge interest and found that in fact people think this is a good idea.  Alas, the organizing process has gone slowly (like I said, people are busy). Jess and I are finalizing a survey to see what ideas resonate with people and what makes sense in my particular block.

Have you organized or participated in a neighborhood-based group?  What worked or didn’t work?  Any suggestions?