“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.
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!