At Building Resilient Neighbourhoods, we often talk about community resilience as a set of “muscles” we can intentionally develop that will help us pro-actively respond and adapt to different shocks and stressors that may come our way. We need those resilience muscles right now, and the good news is that the more we use them, the stronger they get! It’s like physical training– by finding small ways to build community connections we are actually helping our neighbourhoods and communities develop the “muscle memory” to be resilient right now, but also for other future challenges we may face together.
Building resilience through neighbourly connections
There are many characteristics that make a community or neighbourhood resilient (PDF), but through our research and experience, we have found that an overarching factor is the sense of connection to the people and places where we live.
Over the past several years our Resilient Streets program has been supporting people to foster social connections between immediate neighbours through 4 types of activities. While physical distancing means some adaptations, we love how creative people are being to find ways to build connections and resilience.
Here are some of our favourites including simple, practical things you can do to make your own street or apartment building more connected and resilient while staying safe.
Four types of activities you can do to build resilience with your neighbours:
1. GATHERINGS & CELEBRATIONS
Host a block party, “hallway” or balcony gathering, or an online “party-in-place”
Our inboxes (and likely yours too!) and daily news have been filled with inspiring stories of Italian sing-alongs, social distancing street parties and balcony dance parties, as well as daily group cheers for health care and other essential service workers.
Get creative like these neighbours did maintaining distancing while hosting a block party or start a virtual “party-in-place” to gather with neighbours online with a weekly theme ( share your favourite jokes, introduce your pets, share what you’re doing to stay healthy, etc.)
Or follow in the footsteps of our colleague Cheryl who hosted an impromptu “hallway mini-gathering” when visiting her mother at a distance, and other neighbours joined in the fun.
2. MUTUAL AID & THE SHARING ECONOMY
Start a neighbourhood “pod”, neighbour-to-neighbour buddy system, or “ask/offer network”
We love this example of “Seeds for Solace” where a couple in Vancouver put together small packs of seeds as well as a little “growing guide” and left these out for neighbours to come and take (along with a hand-delivered note offering other types of support).
Tools and Resources:
- Mutual Aid 101: Toolkit, #WeGotOurBlock. This toolkit includes step by step instructions for how you can build your own mutual aid network, including sample invitations in multiple languages.
- Buddy Systems has created an online template for setting up a Buddy Up! Ask/Offer Map of your own and is offering trainings by donation.
Plant a modern-day “Victory Garden” and organize a neighbourly produce exchange
Recently there has been a renaissance of Victory Gardens being planted by people interested in increasing local food security. You can grow for yourself or donate to others in need of food. Some neighbours are even coordinating what they grow to share in a produce exchange together (at a distance, of course!).
Tools and Resources:
- How to Plant a Victory Garden
- Designing a Coronavirus Victory Garden: First Steps
- Small Space? Container Gardening Tips
3. PLACEMAKING – SHARED SPACES & PLACES
Start a window walk, neighbourhood scavenger hunt, or kindness board
Communities and neighbourhoods across the country are informally contributing to neighbourhood Window Walks. You can join the fun by adding some art to your windows, chalking up your sidewalk, or creating a neighbourhood scavenger hunt for others to enjoy. Some blocks and buildings are setting a theme for each week, like the example below.
Create a Little Free Pantry
Some Little Free Libraries are getting makeover and being converted into Little Free Pantries where neighbours can offer and access food and other essential items.
Tools & Resources:
4. LEARNING & MAKING TOGETHER
Organize neighbour-led workshops or a skills exchange (or just offer your own!)
Invite your neighbours (or lead by example) to share their skills by teaching each other something they know how to do (e.g. art, yoga poses, cooking, etc.) or set up a virtual neighbour-led workshop or gathering of neighbours who enjoy a particular activity.
We love this example below from Dana who attended one of our Resilient Streets workshops a couple of years ago:
I started a weekly stitch and bitch group in my building over two years ago after going to a Resilient Neighbourhoods meeting in James Bay, and we’ve been going ever since. But now we’re not able to use our lounge (partially because the lights have been turned off to discourage use, and some of us, myself included, have health issues). So a friend of mine is letting me host a weekly Zoom call using her paid account, and a few other friends who normally couldn’t come to the stitch & bitch (not in our building, or even country) will also be joining in. So we’ll still be meeting up, and stitching and crafting, and chatting and showing each other our work, and having a glass of wine or two, but via a Zoom call. We need to keep connected with each other, we’ve all gotten very used to our weekly stitchy sessions and don’t want to stop them, particularly with the massive upheavals happening everywhere right now. I’ve also put an update notice of the change of plans on our resident board downstairs, so anyone else who wants to join us online can.
We’re collecting ideas and stories of resilience building and neighbourly support and we’d love to hear your ideas and experiences! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can continue to add to the bank of uplifting stories and useful tools!