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25 ways to strengthen your community

Providing people with ways to come together as friends, neighbors, and citizens creates a firm foundation that enables a neighborhood to solve problems and seize opportunities.

By Jay WalljasperShareable / July 30, 2012

Two volunteers hold the top of a spiral slide being installed at a neighborhood park in Kent, Wash., in 2011. Communities are strengthened when neighbors come together to eat, play, and solve mutual problems, says author Jay Walljasper.

Manuel Valdes/AP/File

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The neighborhood is the basic building block of human civilization, whether in a big city, small town, or suburban community. It’s also the place where you can have the most influence in making a better world.

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These suggestions, drawn from my book The Great Neighborhood Book (a collaboration with Project for Public Spaces), are focused on strengthening the sense of community and spirit of the commons by providing people with ways to come together as friends, neighbors, and citizens. That creates a firm foundation that enables a neighborhood to solve problems and seize opportunities.

This is drawn from a presentation I regularly give to community, civic, academic, professional, and business groups. For more information, see Jay Walljasper.com.

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1. Give people a place to hang-out.

2. Give people something to see.

3. Give people something to do.

4. Give people a place to sit down.

5. Give people a safe, comfortable place to walk.

6. Give people a safe, comfortable place to bike.

7. Give people reliable, comfortable public transportation.

8. Make the streets safe – from crime.

9. Make the streets safe – from traffic.

10. Remember the streets belong to everyone, not just motorists.

11. Don’t forget about the needs of older neighbors.

12. Don’t forget about the needs of kids.

13. Let your community go to the dogs.

14. Reclaim front yards as social spaces.

15. Remember the best neighborhoods, even in big cities, feel like villages.

16. Plan for winter weather as well as sunny, warm days.

17. Don’t fear density – people enjoy being around other people.

18. Don’t give up hope – great changes are possible when neighbors get together.

19. Build on what’s good in your community to make things even better.

20. Remember the power of the commons: people working together for the benefit of everyone in the neighborhood.

21. Never underestimate the power of a shared meal to move people into action.

22. Start with small steps – like planting flowers.

23. Become a community booster, watchdog, patriot.

24. Learn from other neighborhoods in your town and around the world.

25. Take the time to have fun and enjoy what’s already great about your neighborhood.

This article originally appeared at Shareable.net, a nonprofit online magazine that tells the story of how sharing can promote the common good.

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