8 Ways to Engage Your Community During Challenging Times

During challenging times, community becomes, not just nice, but essential. Spending time together energizes, connects, and unites us. Here are eight ways to engage your community, find common ground, and move beyond differences.

1. Start a Gift Circle

A Gift Circle is a group facilitation format that matches resources with needs, creates community and inspires gratitude and generosity. The goal of a Gift Circle is to provide a warm, free, and welcoming space for community to gather and share but, as this how to guide points out, variations of the Gift Circle format also hold the potential to “cultivate healthy interdependence in communities, providing a sense of psycho-spiritual belonging and connection to ameliorate the vast sense of alienation and scarcity experienced by so many.”

2. Participate in a Dialogue Despite Differences

Bridging divides is not always easy, but Restorative Justice, which was created as an alternative to criminal justice, is a good place to start. This guide includes eight restorative justice strategies to honor relationship as a crucible of change, open people’s minds rather than change them, and encourage the kind of conversation that allows participants to feel safe, which makes it more likely that they’ll override their biases and hard-wired reactions.

3. Build Thriving, Resilient Communities

Building thriving, resilient communities doesn’t happen overnight. But there are many things we can do to put a foundation for healthy communities in place, from community gardens and repair cafes to energy conservation efforts, new business models, community resilience toolkits and more.

4. Host a Stranger Dinner

Have you ever thrown a dinner party and had guests bring someone you didn’t know? A Stranger Dinner takes this concept further by requesting that guests bring people you don’t know. The idea is to bring different folks together around food to make new friends, gain different perspectives, and share delicious food and conversation.

5. Host a House Concert

Music, along with entertaining us, has long been a way for people to connect, share their troubles, lean on each other for support, and celebrate the joys of life amidst challenges. If you’d like to share music with your community, consider hosting a house concert. It’s a fun, low-cost way to bring people together.

6. Design a Neighborhood for Happiness

Social isolation is a growing problem. The way we build our neighbors and create local community goes a long way in determining the level of connection between people. In his book All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, Jay Walljasper shares an overview of New Urbanism, an architectural movement to “build new communities (and revitalize existing ones) by maximizing opportunities for social exchange: public plazas, front porches, corner stores, coffee shops, neighborhood schools, narrow streets and, yes, sidewalks.”

7. Reinvent the Potluck

A potluck meal is a wonderful way to bring people together to share, connect, and eat. Here are tips for throwing a successful event designed to build community.

8. Build a Better Block

Bringing people together to create better neighborhoods, now and into the future, is a fantastic use of community brainpower. The Better Block project was created in 2010 to show cities how blocks can be revived to improve safety, health, and economics. The team behind the Better Block shares insights into how they got started and how other teams can do the same, from assembling community activists and artists, working with local nonprofits, partnering with local events and more.

For more sharing resources, check out Shareable’s vast How To Library.

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Top photo: Annie Spratt (CC-0). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

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