From For the Hands

#FellowMakers Part 1: Learning from History & the Triangle Factory Fire

Fellow Makers, young Italian immigrant garment worker in Brooklyn

Fellow makers, many of us have forgotten International Women’s Day began as International Working Women’s Day. The agenda? Changing conditions for the working women of the world and uniting the working class. On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women. On March 8, 1908, their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again, honoring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, an end to sweatshops and regulation of child labor. In 1910 at the Second International in Copenhagen, a world wide socialist party congress, Clara Zetkin proposed March 8th be proclaimed International Working Women’s Day to honour the work and struggle of women the world over.

The garment making industry had doubled in size between 1900 and 1910 with factories cramming unskilled immigrant workers from Russia and Italy into inadequate buildings without fire escapes or working regulations. Women who had previously worked from home were now forced to work in factories as piece-work sewing shifted to assembly production to meet demand.

#FellowMakers Triangle Fire Striking Workers

In November 1909 young women had helped instigate the “Uprising of 20,000”, the largest strike of women workers in New York history at that time, when 20,000 of New York’s 40,000 garment workers walked out of the factories and refused to work after being called to strike by Clara Lemlich. Clara was a 19 year old Ukrainian immigrant, who stood up in front of thousands of fellow workers to say:

“I am a working girl. One of those who are on strike against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here for is to decide whether we shall strike or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared now.”

The next morning they took to the streets. After the general strike of 1909 the majority of New York shirtwaist manufacturers had signed union contracts, except for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and on March 25th 1911 the need for women to unite went from a revolutionary spark to a blazing fire.

March 25th, 1911

Hundreds of women filed into the ninth and tenth floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory as they did every morning. Some women lugged the heavy machines they would work on all day and were required to carry back and forth from the factory. Many women would also take home clothing to be worked on by the whole family, with children as young as three sewing into the night. Workers were mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, who laboured long hours under miserable conditions facing regular deductions for electricity, mistakes, singing, or talking on the job. In some shops workers had to supply their own thread, needles, or rent the chairs they sat on to increase the profit margins for the shop owner. There were also men at work in the factories as pressers who spent all day standing at long tables using hot irons to press finished pieces, but the employees were overwhelmingly female.

That day when the women were bent over their machines a fire broke out and ravaged the factory killing 146 people, mostly Italian or Jewish women and girls. Many leapt from the roof or windows when they could not escape the factory floor because the fire escape doors had been locked to prevent stealing. Still known as the worst factory fire in US history the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire led to sweeping marches and reforms on worker rights not only in America but around the world. The cries of workers jumping to their deaths made Frances Perkins rush out the door to watch as in under twenty minutes over a hundred lives were lost, Frances would go on to be secretary of labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to serve as a Cabinet secretary. The event galvanized the Progressive movement in the US by uniting wealthy women with working women to improve social conditions for all. The fire also led three young Jewish women Clara Lemlich,  Rose Schneiderman, and Pauline Newman into a life of union organizing and political action. The working women who changed history were handmakers with little education or means, just like millions of us are today. Rose Schneiderman’s famous 1912 speech following the fire is as relevant now as it was then:

“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist — the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”

We like to believe things have changed since 1911, but have they really? Now that garment and textile factories aren’t in Brooklyn but in Bangladesh we can be comfortable thinking that if we buy or make handmade we are not part of the problem. The rising rage in the handmade community around reselling, manufacturing, and ‘craft-washing’ by factories and companies obscures a much deeper issue – if handmade is to be an alternative to the sweatshops we need to learn to scale fairly, democratically, and with organized structures for advocacy and accountability. Otherwise we run the risk of not being a force for change but a self-serving way to avoid dealing with larger patterns of consumption, all while making ourselves feel good.

#FellowMakers Triangle Fire Mourning

“That spring of 1911 we mourned our dead comrades, the victims of a society which was concerned only with the profits of an individual and not with the welfare of the many, of the working masses. The Triangle victims were martyrs in the fight for social justice, and the labor movement will always remember them as those who, with their young lives, paved the way for a better world with a more just society, a world free from exploitation, in which equal rights for all will be respected.”

Mary Domsky-Abrams, Blouse Operator, 9th floor (read her full interview with Leon Stein here)

Fast forward 100 years: manufacturing is carefully regulated in the developed world where we have unions, fair wage standards, building inspectors, child labour laws, and labour rights organizations. Across our borders and oceans conditions for women have not improved, they have worsened. Maybe Clara, Rose, and Pauline would have been the first to call North American sisters to arms when over 1100 people died and 2500 were injured in Bangladesh during the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013.  Unfortunately while tragedies get major press the follow up, policy change, and worker rights get less public interest because they impact our personal luxuries or divide us politically. Major brands like Loblaws, GAP, H&M, Target, Topshop, and more, use garment manufacturers in Cambodia and Bangladesh, where the factories employ primarily women and children.

In April 2016 it will be three years since the Rana Plaza factory collapse and despite promises to take care of injured workers and improve conditions the BBC reported women like Mossammat Rebecca Khatun are unable to work, Khatun spent two days under the rubble and lost her leg along with five family members. Others like Sharmin Akter had to return to their previous jobs despite being terrified and still others are unable to find work at all. “They consider us too damaged, they think we will not be able to work as hard as we did before.” one worker is quoted as sayingAs the CBC reported many of the brands implicated in the collapse have contributed little or nothing to funds that support those who were injured.  In the 140 page Human Rights Watch report “Work Faster or Get Out” conditions in the Cambodian garment industry are laid bare for us to consider the price of cheap labour. 90% of garment factory workers in Cambodia are women who face being fired for pregnancy, taking bathroom breaks, or working too slowly amid many abuses of fundamental human rights. Even now locking factory doors to prevent employees from stealing or holding union meetings.

Today, a century after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire workers are still routinely dismissed, intimidated, or killed for trying to unionize to protect each other and improve conditions in countries like Cambodia, not because our countries are better than theirs but because consumers like us believe sweatshops are morally okay if things are cute.  Don’t get too cozy on your handmade high horse, even shopping local or supporting ethical brands does nothing to help fellow makers in factories overseas. Sam Maher, policy director of worker safety at Labour Behind the Label wrote 18 months after the collapse,

“The survivors and families of Rana Plaza have been failed by everyone. Their government, their employers, the brands and, yes, even us – the consumers. As long as our response to such tragedy is to wring our hands in guilt, to worry about our choices and how we can feel good about the clothes we buy, we will continue to fail them. As much as we may want to, we can’t shop ourselves out of this. If we really want a fashion revolution, we have to do more. We have to stand with these workers and shout as loud as we can, so that they will not be forgotten and will not be left alone.”

#FellowMakers Rana Plaza Factory Collapse survivors photos by Kevin Frayer for Associated Press

These are the faces of the women who are often seen as “competition” to handmade businesses – if this is our competition, what does that say about us? Photographs by Kevin Larkin for Associated Press. 

Women-led movements in both the US and Canada changed how the developed world treats workers. Policies, building codes, fair wages, and employee benefits exit because workers lobbied for regulations and the right to collective bargaining. Women worked together to form trade unions, guilds, and advocacy groups even uniting housewives into unions to lobby for access to childcare and affordable rent. Yet the very concept of the working class, of worker’s/women’s rights, or unions have become dirty words so it is little wonder that International Working Women’s Day was replaced by the less polarizing International Women’s Day. Yes, all women’s lives matter, just like all lives matter but the lives of specific communities experience pressures that others with more resources do not. This is one reason why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important to the Black community, by speaking with a collective voice, intolerable conditions can change.

Despite the romance that surrounds it, entrepreneurship has led to less security for workers with many micro-business owners working well over 10 hours a day. Many also juggle parenting or second jobs to get by. Many small business owners are uninsured and injuries, pregnancies, or illness in the family can leave them reeling financially and without proper support, so it is understandable that many feel they don’t have time to work together. Despite economic instability for increasing numbers of workers, unions in North America have seen a steady decline and lack of interest from young people since general working conditions improved and the right to unionize was protected. The Freelancer’s Union and Maker’s Row in the US are working to close that gap but very little exists for handmakers globally or locally.  At the same time manufacturing is a dirty word in the handmade community with so much rage directed towards any company or person who looks to grow. It can’t be chance that the main headquarters for Etsy is located just a short ride across the bridge from where the Triangle Factory fire happened, from their location in the Lower East Side where many of the Jewish immigrants lived during the time of the fire it is possible they can change commerce for the better – with our help. Of all the companies that have been built based on handmade values Etsy is leading the way in initiating many discussions around policy change, responsible manufacturing, democratic access to entrepreneurship and ethics but it is unfair to expect them to be the ‘creativity police’, makers own that role. But are we doing a good job?

Who is Responsible?  

Some makers truly believe reselling or manufacturing can hurt handmade and that until we stop overseas factories all artisans will suffer, then there are articles like this from Lucky Break Consulting on why “handmade alone isn’t enough” and is “becoming more vanilla with each passing day” justifying makers believing the only way to succeed is to pour money into hustling to keep up. This is in stark contrast to the stories in this article. The woman featured in this video who had to give up her baby to not lose her job. Or the stories featured in this Norwegian reality series where young fashion bloggers spend time living and working with Cambodian garment workers. Even though we might struggle to pay the bills from month to month, the average North American creative entrepreneur is not living or working in intolerable conditions, employers are not taking food out of our children’s mouths, and our sales usually come from niche markets who can purchase higher price points. By working together we could improve our products, photography, marketing, and values but as individual business owners we are little more than mini-corporations without any code of ethics at all.

So while we argue or debate the value of handmade, fellow makers around the world struggle just to make it through the day.

#FellowMakers Who is Responsible?

No, the blame for the division of the maker movement can’t be laid on factories, platforms, or policies – the problem is the consumer – us. Many makers are incredibly privileged as Betsy Greer of Craftivism so brilliantly explains, that we have the luxury to debate what is handmade and shame other workers who don’t meet our arbitrary standards is a perfect example of this wealth and power. That the new meme for maker culture has become spoofs like this instead of knitting as a form of resistance isn’t the fault of any one company. History has proven that handmade values and the profit system don’t go well together, as Utah Phillips explains in Natural Resources on the album The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,

“the profit system always follows the path of least resistance and following the path of least resistance is what made the river crooked.” 

We choose to be elitist instead of organizing supports like unions or trade organization with our fellow makers. We complain about companies like Etsy instead of working with them to improve policies and support the women, who at least in Canada, represent  91% of it’s seller base according to the most recent seller survey. We shame dissenting voices when we could build an inclusive movement with a solid foundation for makers at home and around the world.  Self-interest makes us mean, small-minded, and bigoted as a community leaving people more worried about sales than the people making the things we consume. If we truly care about handmade values it is time to put aside divisive arguments and work as a community to make sure that the  “better world with a more just society, a world free from exploitation, in which equal rights for all will be respected” Mary wrote of after surviving the Triangle Fire finally becomes a reality and no more sisters or brothers die from “neglect of the human factor”.

Learning from History

We keep telling ourselves now that handmade won’t save the world, and it sure won’t if we keep treating it like a commodity instead of a belief system. Just buying handmade won’t change the world, but handmade values can, the belief that people, places, and process always matter more than profits and that together our hands can make a better world.  These are the same values that propelled the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 1800s to 1920s when artists and craftspeople rebelled against the increased industrialization of life, the mechanization of art, the rise of factory work, and monotony of assembly line jobs. The movement gave women the chance to move crafts out of the domestic sphere and into the world of art and business where they united around creativity, making money from traditional industries and employing other women.

The Arts and Crafts movement in Europe and the Craftsman movement in the US led to a revival of traditional craft, the establishment of woman-owned potteries like Rookwood, and influenced the future of design. Then, as now, what started out as a woman driven movement built on handmade values became a marketing niche and the same conflicts divided the movement. Some took the side of democratic, affordable art made possible through ethical manufacturing and the other for purity of process and artisanal pretention, slowly it all fell apart leaving us some lovely antiques.  What is happening now in the maker movement isn’t new, these politics have divided us before. Is it handmade or homemade? Is it art or craft? We reduce handmade values to bourgeois elitism when primarily white moneyed educated folks bicker about what isn’t allowed while the rest of the makers and workers try to make do. Divide and Conquer is one of the oldest tricks in the Capitalist Handbook.

The trouble with thinking handmade can be hurt by factory made is that as makers in the developed world with access to means, technology, and supplies we have an incredible opportunity to create ethical economies. It is our responsibility to extend the hand of fellowship to makers globally who also want to improve working conditions and wages so we can lift each other up. Factories are not our competition, the profit system is. Handmade isn’t fragile, it was here in the beginning of time when our ancestors painted pictographs and will be here to tell our stories long after all of us are dust. Handmade might not be enough to build you an empire on the backs of others but it will always enough for those who want a simple life of handmade, homemade goodness. We don’t create a culture that values craft, artistry, beauty and value by shaming or arguing in little cliques – we do it by educating, investing in opportunities, and working together in solidarity within our community, trade, and political structures to meet our needs collectively and hold our systems accountable. To want for each other what we want for ourselves was the foundation of the union movement and one we might want to rebuild if we care about handmade, women, workers, or the hands that make the world.

Makers today can learn many lessons from the Triangle Factory Fire: Factories are not the enemy, they are our responsibility; Governments and companies don’t make policies or improve standards unless moved by regular people; The factory worker/immigrant/fellow maker are not competition, they are family; and so many more…but maybe the most important one for us to remember is the moral attributed to Aesop in the sixth century:

United we stand, divided we fall.

 

FellowMakers5

A Lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

Sources: 

Jess_Headshot2015_sm

Jessika Hepburn is a community organizer who started developing OMHG as a gathering place for her fellow makers in 2010. A veteran entrepreneur Jessika has been running a handmade business for over a decade and working with communities across North America for longer. Whether it is consulting with Etsy to develop diverse programming, pioneering new models of cooperation locally with Maritime Makers, or organizing community events, Jessika’s work and life revolve around the belief that when we value handmade and human goodness, anything is possible. You can find her making a life with her love of 12 years and two beautiful daughters in a 200 year old pink house in rural Atlantic Canada where few things are kept that she does not “know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.

Learn more about her work with communities here.

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?