Community Engagement Begins by Reaching out to your Neighbor

Last month I launched the Braddock District Community Engagement Initiative - a multi-faceted effort that encourages people to get more connected to each other and their communities, and strengthens community organizations through leadership training, support and connections.

The first part of this effort is the most basic, but perhaps the most important and it starts with you. We need to get to know each other. Each month, let’s commit ourselves to meeting one new person from our own neighborhood. Take a break from raking your leaves to say hello to a neighbor. Stop and talk to your neighbors when taking a walk around the block. If you are ready to take it one step further, volunteer to host a block party. How do you do that? It’s easy. Pick a day and time, and draw up some flyers. Then, deliver them to the houses on your street. You can make it potluck – asking everyone to bring a dish to pass – or if you are ambitious you can provide the food. Most importantly, you will foster connections between your neighbors.

The police tell us that the most engaged and connected communities also have the least crime. The same can be said of zoning violations. Communities where people know each other as friends are going to have less conflict, and neighbors who respect their neighbors are not going to violate laws or impose upon those next door with troublesome conduct. When we are friends, we “police” our own conduct better, and we watch out for the welfare of those around us.

This first step is simple, yet fundamental. It requires breaking ourselves out of our comfort zones a bit. Take a chance to meet that new neighbor. You will be the better for it.

Next month we will build on this effort. So, get out there and meet a new friend!

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