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70 Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity, and Change the World

70 Ways to Build Community, Oh My! Handmade

It’s become such a cliched phrase-something we say and recognize to be true but don’t often act on:

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

What does that even mean?

I am asked all the time – “How can I possibly do it all?”

The hard truth is you can’t.

You can’t be everything to everyone all the time. You can’t be the only one responsible for raising your children, running your business, managing your life. You CANNOT do it all alone. And you don’t have to. You shouldn’t even try!

The superwoman/man myth is so dangerous to our parenthood and our lives. It causes us to not ask for or allow ourselves to receive help and to deny when we feel vulnerable, needy, or afraid. It also puts up walls and barriers that keep us from reaching out to others and building a community that knows us for who we really are. We present what we want the world to see, the very best parts of who we think we are, but beneath it all:

We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common broken humanity. We all have wounded, broken hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help. 

Jean Vanier, Becoming Human 

 

Isn’t that is what is most beautiful about us? What unites us all no matter how diverse we might seem to be, is that we all need to belong, we all need support. Why deny that? Embrace it, that is where our humanity lives and where compassion comes from. Our brokenness is our biggest strength.

Jean Vanier is the leader of the L’Arche movement, a powerful community model that brings diverse people together to support people with disabilities in loving environments. His words are a call for all of us to live more compassionate and humane lives. He is also one of my personal heroes.

My mother was a young, visibly Black, single mama who had no family support while I was growing up. My nana was a brilliant artist but a truly awful mother, she was abusive, had serious baggage and offered my mother no support or encouragement. So it was little wonder that my mother felt called to help people who were suffering, to give them what she didn’t have. She worked in mental health and community development for people with disabilities and I often came to work with her. I have so many wonderful memories of visiting the group homes my mother worked in and spending time with people of every ability. This is such a huge part of who I am and how I see the world, but there was a price paid. My mother spent her days helping others and then came home to cater to my needs. No one was there to support her. She really did do it all alone and it took a toll on her physical and mental health. My childhood was beautiful but also incredibly hard, filled with loss and struggle.

When I moved out I was drawn to the same work with women, youth, and children. I have always wanted to offer people the support we never had when I was a child. No one should have to suffer alone or in fear. How I do that work has changed over the years but even here on OMHG it’s the same fundamental mission. To share love, be loved, spread love. Through handmade, yes. But mostly through connecting people with others and making them feel less alone and more empowered. This is the root of Jean Vanier’s philosophy:

jean vanier, sixty ways to build community, you are not alone, sustainable community development

If you are feeling like you just can’t do it all and you’re all alone-reach out! Open up. Creating community is the biggest investment you will ever make for yourself and of course for your business. Build both your local and online communities, connect with other people whose stories you care about, who you can be honest with, and who will be there for you when you are struggling. Be there for them. Stop trying to do it all alone, you will always feel like you are missing something and falling short. So whether you are a single mother struggling to fill the role of both mama and papa, or you have a large extended family, or a ton of supportive friends- it doesn’t matter. Your community is right there, waiting for you to  lend a hand or ask for someone to hold yours. Both are wonderful, both are needed.

It is just as important to accept help as to offer it, community building is about reciprocity. A give and take. So if you are in a position of strength offer help, if you see someone struggling stop and see if they will accept support, just be there for each other. Sometimes when we give help we actually get the help that we need. It is amazing that way.

I only have one caution – only offer what you are really able to give. Don’t offer because you think you should but don’t really want to do. Never give out of obligation, guilt, or because you want to feel good about yourself, give because you DO feel good about about yourself and giving is it’s own reward. We all deserve to have a village and it is up to us to make it happen.

How are you building community? 

Seventy Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity, and Change the World

This post was originally published in 2011 here and continues to be one of the most popular articles in the archives connecting with everyone from new suburban mamas to inner city ministers. As I slowly rediscover how OMHG fits in my life it was time to dust off this old friend for the first post of the year because the best goodness is worth revisiting. I made up an updated list of 70 Ways to Build Community that you can download, print, and share with your own communities by clicking the image above.  Learn the basics of personal community mapping with the 100 Ways To Build Community Mini-Guide available by donation here or if you are a maker in Atlantic Canada connect with the Maritime Makers initiative to build our local community and strengthen our region through cooperation!

All Oh My! Handmade Goodness printables and free downloads are for non-commercial, personal use only please. Copyright is owned by the designer unless otherwise stated.  If you have a commercial inquiry please contact the designer or email the editor. Please don’t host the PDF on your own site, we love sharing but link to the original post for the download, thanks!

100 Ways to Build Community this Summer

100 Ways to Build Community this Summer | #OMHG

“Community” has become a popular word in marketing-speak and is used to describe everything from support groups to mentoring sessions making it harder and harder to spot real connection (you can read my full unfiltered thoughts about this here in ‘Community is Not Clubs’).  Speaking to the global maker community through OMHG has been incredible but the more saturated with information and aggressively salesy the online world becomes the more I have needed to figure out new ways to find genuine connection and real human moments. Because of this OMHG has taken a break from publishing submissions and monthly themes as my work for the creative community goes back to my roots of community organizing, grassroots advocacy, and developing programs with measurable outcomes and tangible results.

Instead of sharing stories online lately I’ve been consulting with Etsy and sharing my knowledge to help pilot a new community-led initiative that will invest in creative economies, build networks of support for local makers, and start conversations about the maker movement as a vehicle for positive community change starting this summer in four Canadian cities. I have also launched Maritime Makers a new non-profit volunteer collective uniting makers in four Canadian provinces to promote a new model of inter-provincial cooperation. In my backyard I have been supporting local makers and businesses in the small town I live and love in to develop a greater awareness of the impact micro-businesses and women led enterprises bring to local economies. My future holds council meetings, block party potlucks, organizing diverse events, creating opportunities for free classes and education for makers of all ages & abilities, and continuing my daily practice and inquiry into crafting a present in each moment through #365DaysOfPresence.

So while I’m spending this summer working on making goodness happen for makers I thought it would be fun to host a new community challenge by revisiting the closest thing I have to a manifesto. Roll up your sleeves and join me in committing to our communities this summer and practicing good citizenship with a little help from this list of 100 Ways to Build Community.

To join the challenge commit to doing as many of the items on this as you can during the summer or write your own list and commit to that! Share your community adventures with the tag #OMHG and make this your summer of community. 

100WaysCHALLENGE

1. Commit to doing at least 5 things that will build your community each week.

2. Share freely of yourself, of your time, of your talents. Don’t be precious with your gifts, use them, give them away, offer help, pitch in with ideas-your contributions are needed and your voice is important.

3. Try not to get caught up in thinking about how you can grow your community too much and begin with something small you can follow through on.

4. Start with one. One friend, one outreach email, one volunteer shift. One action can be a first step in the greatest adventure of all.

5. You don’t have to do it alone-one at a time find mentors and friends who lift you up and will catch you when you fall then invest time and love into growing those connections.

6. Kindness always matters-hold the door, thank your cashier, tip your server, people won’t always be kind in return but adding to the good in the world is sweet on its own.

7. Make community a practice and part of your daily life. Being part of a thriving community is like any great work-it takes time, dedication, and regular commitment.

8. Don’t be a stranger-sometimes our lives and responsibilities take us away from our communities but we can always go back or adapt how much we can contribute.

9. If you can do just one thing every day let it be making someone else smile (belly laughs score triple).

10. Be a tender and patient gardener. Communities are like tiny seeds that if nurtured carefully and given the right conditions will take root and bloom into a vibrant garden.

11. Map out your community-find out where the resources, tools and services you need are. For your offline community mark the places you visit regularly, people who are important to you, and resources in your neighbourhood. Make a map for your virtual communities too and you will always know how to find what you need and help others do the same.

12. Say hello with a smile-on the street, on social media, to your loved ones in the morning.

13. Do small things in a big way-you don’t have to volunteer a million hours or change your life to invest in your community, a simple friendly welcome to a new person or giving up your spot in line to a tired mama can change someone’s day and make your community a better place to live.

14. Only offer what you can actually give and always be honest about your limitations.

15. Be present in your daily life- take time each day to simply be with yourself or the people who light you up.

16. Really listen to people and care about their stories. Allowing someone to be heard without judgement is where community begins, one story at a time.

17. Gather to celebrate-launches, births, new jobs, housewarmings. These events are the core of community life and are more joyful when shared.

18. Offer hugs and encouragement often.

19. Show up regularly, heart in your hands, ready to be of service.

20. Choose what kind of a community you want to cultivate in your life-write it down, map it out, envision it clearly then start taking steps towards that ideal.

21. Don’t just stick with what you know, be inclusive and seek out diverse people & perspectives. A community where everyone thinks and looks alike is a tribe or a clique not a vibrant culture.

22. Praise more-write little love notes, send encouraging messages, let people know they are doing a great job and you appreciate them.

23. Collaborate instead of competing-explore ways to collaborate with other people who have similar interests or complementary skills.

24. Unstick from the wall and get engaged! If you are uncomfortable in groups find a safe place that you feel comfortable pushing outside of your comfort zone.

25. Retreat from the world regularly. Turn off all the devices and spend time adventuring near and far without stopping to comment or capture it on camera.

26. Be compassionate with your community-no place or person is perfect, no two stories are the same.

27. Donate time, money, and products to causes, projects and organizations that are important to your community.

28. A playful community is a happy community-be silly, make jokes, goof off, embrace the ridiculousness of life and have fun with it!

29. Learn about the history, culture, and values of the places you live and hang out – pay attention to what is needed and where you can be of service.

30. Make time to be available for community projects and connections on and offline throughout the year.

31. Pick up the phone and call a friend, let them know you are here and you care.

32. Send more handwritten letters and packages of love in the mail.

33. Drop in and visit with someone who needs it-a senior, a new mama, someone struggling with loss-you don’t need to have the right words just knowing you are thinking of them is enough. Bring a meal or do the laundry for bonus points!

34. Do nothing regularly. Read the books you love in your fuzzy slippers and have a long bath or whatever else recharges your batteries and leaves you feeling cared for + ready to care for others.

35. Ask for help in concrete ways when you need it and then accept that help with grace when offered.

36. Go out of your way to be unexpectedly awesome-shovel someone’s driveway, drop off a box of goodies, offer to babysit.

37. Expect nothing in return.

38. Preserve and invest in local knowledge by connecting with local makers or organizations and help keep important regional techniques and skills alive like handwork, basket weaving, bee keeping etc.

39. Shop at farmer’s markets and craft events, say hello to the vendors with a smile and praise their talent + skill.

40. Introduce yourself to makers & leaders you love, let them know why they are important to you and ask how you can support their work.

41. Give lots of hugs – spread a little squishy happiness in your community.

42. Be a ray of sunshine for someone during a tough time-a tight squeeze and reminder of how awesome you think someone is can make a crap day magical.

43. Invite people into your home for dinners, play dates, craft nights & visits.

44. Sign up to volunteer or support at least one community event or committee this year.

45. Reach out to people who inspire you or you would love to connect with and say hello, you never know what might happen!

46. Listen carefully to peoples stories and show you care about their lives by checking in about important news or changes.

47. Help without waiting to be asked and be specific with what you can offer-a general offer of help is usually less helpful then a list of ways you want to get involved.

48. No more online only friendships! Call, send mail, Skype, meet up, visit each others kids, online connections are just as real as offline ones.

49. Follow up with your supporters, send them a thank you card or email.

50. Create opportunities for connection-plan a large or small community event, gathering, or project to bring people together on or offline.

51. Visit your local library, thank your librarians, donate books, support fundraising drives and keep your family reading!

52. Host a gift/cookie/mitten/recipe swap or throw  a dinner/dance/costume/ party.

53. Stop liking things & start loving them-take your sweet self offline and support something in person. Adore a business, blogger, or event? Participate, join up & give it some of your love.

54. Children are the future of any community-find ways to connect with kids locally and globally to share your time or skills. Schools, libraries, local groups and even websites can be great places to find community connections.

55. Parents, let your kids connect you to other families-stay at the playground after school to meet up, offer play dates and potlucks, join in on activities and participate whenever you can! Teach your kids that community always starts at home.

56. Start your own Success Squad or mentorship support group.

57. Care about what other people think of you. Do you want your community to know you as kind, capable, compassionate? Make sure your actions are in line with the person and community member you want to be.

58. Be a constructive, creative part of conversations on topics that matter to you and your work.

59. Take a class-at a local learning centre, at an event, or online.

60. Teach a class-join the growing freeschool/skill share movement and share your knowledge.

61. Plan a mini-retreat or adventure with friends.

62. Volunteer at a half-way house, jail, at-risk youth centre, homeless shelter, or animal rescue and meet important parts of your community that might be overlooked.

63. Grow a garden-in your backyard, on your rooftop, in your windows, with your kids, at a community plot. Save the seeds and share them with friends.

64. Take part in on + offline discussions and meet ups to connect with other people who have similar interests to you.

65. Ditch the car. Walk, bike, ride the bus-greet people as you go and your community will open up around you.

66. Be a loyal supporter to small businesses you love-find retailers, makers, and creatives then invest in their success. Financial support is excellent but regular cheerleading, spreading news of their work, and encouragement goes a long way too!

67. Take time to leave heartfelt comments online and interact with people-too often we like, pin, or scroll onto the next thing. If something matters to you stop for a minute to add your voice and make the internet a little bit more awesome.

68. Go camping with friends and family. Get to know your local parks, beaches and ecology to connect with a deeper sense of place.

69. If you haven’t heard from someone in awhile & have a niggling worry-reach out. Connecting with people you care about is always time well spent.

70. Notice problems and be part of exploring solutions-you don’t have to have the answers, no one does, but together we can each bring a part of the puzzle.

71. Don’t engage in or escalate violence, practice resolution, careful listening, and tolerance.

72. Plan less, adventure more. Lists and must-dos are grand things but not everything should be scripted. Make lots of room in your life for randomness and adventure.

73. Know the names of your neighbours and the people you see every day.

74. Thank the people who make your community function-the post office workers, your doctor, teachers, leaders & community organizers.

75. If you see someone struggling stop and help-carry a bag of groceries, distract a cranky toddler in a busy checkout, offer your seat on the bus to an elder.

76. Speak up about things that matter to you-even if it makes you uncomfortable.

77. Enthusiasm is contagious, pass it on whenever you can.

78. Teach your children about the importance of community involvement and that no one is ever too young to contribute something valuable by having them volunteer for causes or groups that matter to them.

79. Travel. Explore the world outside your community near and far.

80. Be a peacemaker-do your best to stay calm and help resolve conflicts.

81. Learn when to lead. If you see a need or a gap and have the skills + abilities to fill it, take action! Don’t wait to find your ideal community, you can lead the way.

82. Practice when to follow. Our communities are full of creative leaders doing incredible work, seek them out and allow yourself to be led, support the people that are passionate about helping to create a better world for us all.

83. Compassion is priceless, charity is cheap. Spend time volunteering at a homeless shelter, transition house or food bank in the harsher months, deliver food and warm clothing to children in need where you live, stretch your heart through experiencing what so many live with daily in your own towns.

84. Develop deeper friendships- take things below the surface and create meaningful relationships that support and sustain.

85. Avoid judgement and nay-saying. We never know how deeply our words can affect another person’s path-be careful to not step on dreams and hopes because you think you know what is right.

86. Slow down and savour it. Stop at that park bench and sit awhile, call a friend to come join you. Take the long way home-wander your local shops, stop for a coffee, linger in a bookstore, stop to talk with strangers.

87. Practice good citizenship – get involved with your town or city council, attend meetings, and participate in the governance of the places you live. It isn’t always the most exciting way to spend your time but is an investment in the future we can’t afford to ignore.

88. Make art together -invite friends over for make dates and craft parties, many hands make happy work.

89. Be a connector. Notice the overlaps in people and groups you have relationships with and be the bridge that connects them so both can grow.

90. Organize a community event like a trash pick up, group picnic, or play date.

91. Be a mentor-help other people grow by sharing your skills and experiences & getting involved in their projects.

92. Sell less, share more. If you are a business owner or marketer who spends a lot of time promoting look at ways you can do less selling and more sharing of knowledge, opportunities, and resources.

93. Cheerlead and champion-everyone needs someone rooting for them. Let your friends, supporters, and inspirations know that you are on their team.

94. Fail with friends, instead of keeping failures and losses to yourself or launching projects and ideas alone involve your friends and community in your grand ideas and not-so-grand outcomes.

95. Share your sorrows and your successes, being open and vulnerable is terrifying but keeping sorrows to yourself and only sharing your success can be lonely and isolating.

96. Say yes to invitations that are important to you-go to the party, attend the events,  join in the community projects.

97. Explore different currencies like barter and exchange. If there is something you need find someone who needs what you offer and swap!

98. Support the source: of your food by knowing your farmers, of your objects by knowing your makers, and your community by knowing your leaders.

99. Never forget how enough you are. You are awesome, important, capable, smart and valuable-your confidence and creativity are what we need to make our communities shine.

100. Make your own list of 100 ways to build community and share it with everyone!

I hope this list reminds you of just how important your contributions are and helps you gain the confidence to reach out and begin. Making community building a practice and part of my routine has led to a thriving business and incredible network of friends + supporters, taken me places I would never have thought possible, and taught me so much about about myself and place in the world.  If you are looking for cheerleading and championing as you create your community give what you can to join our warm and welcoming network.

Cheers to a summer of connection, creativity, and citizenship. May your community building adventures fill your life with goodness, love, and enthusiastic support!

This list has been an ongoing work in progress since I published the first version of 60 ways in 2011, what community building idea would you add? 

{Part 4} Dig A Business Foundation: Intellectual Property

{Part 3} Dig a Business Foundation: Intellectual Property | Oh My! Handmade

Also in this series: {Part 1: Website}  | {Part 2: Contracts} | {Part 3: Structure}

First off, I’m super proud of you for tackling each of the areas so far. We are going to wrap up with how you bring home the bacon: your business’ intellectual property.

For the vast majority of creative businesses, your intellectual property is your most valuable business asset. It’s how you get paid and the reason people love your brand. Because of this, creative businesses should have a process to regularly identify any copyrights or trademarks that have been created and to assess if registering them is in the best interest of the business, and if so, to complete the registration. Plus, once you’ve identified these valuable assets, you can start thinking about ways to monetize them via licensing, digital products, or service packages.

So what kinds of creations do copyright and trademark laws cover?

Copyrights

Copyright protects “works of authorship in a tangible form”. The tangible form part is easy, it just has to be memorialized in something that you can hold, view, or perceive (even if only for a few moments). The works of authorship part can be a little trickier.

I often like to back into it, by explaining some of the things that are not protected by copyright. As you’ll see there are times where parts of a piece do have copyright protection, while other parts do not.

  • Titles. Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans are excluded from copyright protection. So I could make a photograph called Necessary Silence and you could publish a book under that same name and neither of us could stop the other. However both my photograph and your book would have copyright protection, just not the title.
  • Factual Information. Another category not receiving copyright protection is works containing only commonly available information (think calendars, lists, or tables) and facts. Calendars are a great example of this; the 7×4 grid representing the month of June does not have copyright protection (because it’s a table). However, the calligraphy lettering and illustration that you pair with that grid would be protected by copyright.
  • Ideas. How you carry out your idea is what’s protected, not the underlying idea. For example, you can’t stop someone else from drawing animals riding bicycles. What you can prevent is someone tracing your illustrations, downloading them off your website and printing them, or buying a print from you and making copies of it.
  • Functional Items. The final area that trips up some creatives is that copyright does not protect objects that have a primarily utilitarian function. Common examples of this are clothing, accessories, and furniture. Once again, portions of the design could have copyright protection. For example, the elements required for a chair to work wouldn’t get protection (the back, seat, and legs). But if I carve an intricate pattern in the back of the chair, that design could gain copyright protection.

Trademarks

Like many of the laws we’ve covered in this series, trademarks are actually centered on consumer protection. This set of laws grants brand owners the exclusive right to use a word, phrase, or logo as a brand identifier. So that when consumers see that brand identifier they know exactly who is providing them the product or service.

For example, when we go under the golden arches into a McDonald’s and order a Big Mac we know that McDonalds Corporation is providing that service and selling us that product, not some random mom and pop burger stand.
Because of this, if you want to register a trademark there are a couple important rules to consider when adopting your brand identifier.

Cannot be generic or descriptive. Since you will be the one and only business allowed to use this identifier, you cannot be granted a trademark for a generic term (e.g. earrings) or something that only describes the products or services you are selling (e.g. design studio). However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use a generic or descriptive term if it doesn’t apply to your products or services. Apple is a great example, apples are a generic term when applied to food; but we never associated apples with computers until Apple made that association for us.

First to plant the flag. The second rule is that trademark laws are playground rules. The first one to plant the flag gets the trademark, as long as they keep using it. So if I adopted and registered a trademark here in the United States in 2010, I could stop anyone from using that trademark that wanted to use it in the United States after me. But if I found out later that a small mom & pop had been using it since 1965, I wouldn’t be able to stop them. This also brings up the concept that trademarks are registered in individual countries, so just having a trademark here in the U.S. doesn’t prevent someone in Canada from adopting the same mark.

Cannot be confused with existing trademark. Finally, we have to check that your trademark cannot be confused with an existing trademark. For example, I wouldn’t be able to get a trademark for a clothing store called Anthro, because the trademark would easily be confused with Anthropologie. However, having a trademark doesn’t protect you for every product or service in the entire marketplace (think Delta – am I talking about water faucets, airlines, or dental insurance?). We only have to check for confusingly similar trademarks for related products or services. So if I wanted to open a gallery called Anthro, I’d probably be safe.

{Part 3} Dig a Business Foundation: Intellectual Property | Oh My! Handmade

Print out this worksheet by clicking here or on the image above and sit down with your favorite beverage. At this point I’m thinking you probably deserve a glass of wine.

As you work through the worksheet think about all the items you have created in 2014 that could be copyrighted or trademarked. Once you’ve got a list, then place a star next to anything that you’ve already protected with a registered copyright or trademark. If something is not starred and is critical to cash flow, then put that at the top of the list to register.
After you’ve done that, spend some time daydreaming about ways that you could create cash flow from some of these items: should you approach a new licensing agent, create digital products, design an e-course to teach your system to other business coaches?

Congrats! You’ve now reinforced four critical areas of your business foundation. If you didn’t drink a glass of wine before (or even if you did), reward yourself with one now.

I’d love to know in the comments below your biggest aha! moment from this series and what aspect of your business foundation needed the most TLC.

Kiffanie Stahle | The artist’s JD

artistsjd_2001Kiffanie Stahle is a lawyer, photographer, and small business owner. In April 2014, she created the artist’s JD, a place where creative business owners can get the tools and resources they need to tackle the legal aspects of their businesses. Kiffanie believes that the law doesn’t have to be scary or hard to understand. And she knows this to be true because she’s been practicing law since 2011. When Kiffanie is not creating art or running her business, you might find her concocting something in the kitchen, soaking up the sun, or plotting her next adventure.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

This is final post in a 4 part series publishing every Thursday in January to help you dig a solid foundation for your business in 2015! Join us today for a special Q & A#OMHG chat with Kiffanie on Twitter, January 29th from 1-2pm EST. 

Also in this series: {Part 1: Website}  | {Part 2: Contracts} | {Part 3: Structure}