It is not enough to say or to think that we want things to change. We all have to act to drive change forward in real and tangible ways. Living by the mantra – act local, think global – we can all work to make our world a better place. First step? Host a local community event.
Strengthening community is key to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is crucial in enabling the transition to a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste future. But to create the strong and resilient communities we need for a better society, we need to work collaboratively, cooperatively and from within. We need to truly be an integral part of a community to play a role in driving it towards a better future.
Sustainability begins at home. But moving beyond the confines of our own homes and gardens means that we can go even further, and make even more of a positive difference. Host a local community event and you could achieve some truly remarkable things.
First things first, it is important to look at your community closely and carefully. By observing your neighbourhood and its people, you can begin to identify areas where resilience falls short.
Where are there fragilities in the systems? What is unacceptable? Which elements are unsustainable? What can and can’t endure?
Think about what makes a community, and what makes a community that can stand the test of time. Ask yourself who makes up your community. And consider what the community needs.
Why Host a Local Community Event?
When it comes to working out why you might host a local community event, it is important not to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. No two communities are the same. So the aims and goals of an event will be different for different communities.
However, here are just some of the reasons why you might be able to change things for the better by hosting a community event. You might aim to:
- Bring members of a community closer together, and heal rifts between those with disparate norms and values. Close-knit communities who keep talking despite differences, and listen to diverse voices, will be better able to weather whatever changes and challenges may come.
- Allow community members to meet with local authorities/ local council/ decision-makers and make sure they hear their voices on key issues that affect them.
- Discuss and explore options for community growing/ food production/ community gardens.
- Make sure everyone knows about the right to food, and promote sustainable food systems by setting up food hubs or eating together.
- Talk about the potential to make your community into a ‘transition community’ or ‘transition town’.
- Have ‘carbon conversations’ to raise awareness of environmental issues and help members of the community reduce their carbon footprints.
- Come together to tackle waste issues, for community litter-picking and cleanups. And for local conservation/ ecosystem restoration schemes.
- Set up community reuse schemes, ‘swap shops’ or similar to reduce consumption and reduce waste.
- Encourage people to buy local
- Establish networks for skill-sharing, knowledge building and sharing resources. (Such as through tool share schemes, car share schemes, or ‘time banking’ for example.)
- Help to combat poverty, mental ill-health, loneliness and isolation in your area – helping people feel less alone by finding solutions to different problems together.
Building a Local Community With Shared Goals
The first and most important thing to remember when planning a local community event is that not everyone will have the same goals as you. Local communities will often consist of a wide range of different people, with a wide range of different perspectives. Unfortunately, over time, a lot of the old bonds that formerly tied strong communities together have been lost. Often, our neighbourhoods are full of people we do not know, and there may be little sense of traditional community at all.
Geographical proximity won’t necessarily immediately give people the same perspective on life. But one of the key goals for a sustainable, resilient community is building bonds back in. Your goal should be to work towards a local community that does have a range of shared goals and ideals and a strong plan for how things should look moving forwards.
Building a local community with shared goals involves knowing that community inside out. Before hosting a community event, you really should do your research. Try to talk with as many different local people as possible – over fences, in shops, in the street, or online forums. You need to know what you are starting from to begin to steer things the way you feel they should go.
Mix it Up
Try to get the perspectives of people you might not ordinarily hear from. Try to speak to people of all ages, backgrounds etc.. Everyone has something to offer – even if they don’t yet know how to be a force for good in this world.
Divergent values are an increasingly prevalent issue in today’s world. And finding shared goals will not always be easy. But by taking a slow and steady, considerate and respectful approach, we can often find common ground.
It will often take time to create communities with shared goals. But community events can help to increase the chances that you can do so effectively and fairly.
Planning to Host a Local Community Event
A successful community event is not something that you can just throw together overnight. You should consider following these stages as you set about planning your event:
- Have a clear idea of your own aims/ goals upfront. (For example, is this to be a one-off event or a regular occurrence? Where will it be held?)
- Create a ‘steering group’ of like-minded individuals so you don’t have to do it all alone.
- Start the event planning and assign tasks to each member of the steering group/ committee. (You may wish to ‘organise‘ and set up a charity or organisation if you plan to host more than one community event or have an ongoing scheme.)
- Get local leaders/ change-makers/ influencers on board. (This might include local government officials, counsellors, leaders of big local businesses, respected community group leaders etc..)
- Establish a budget and resource needs for the event you would like to hold. (For example, if you are holding a planting event in a community garden space, you will need seeds, tools etc..)
- Raising money is a primary goal when planning and running public events like these. Find sources of funding, or seek out donations from the local business community etc..
- Create community interest in your ideas. Publicise your plans, making sure that in your community outreach, you reach all sections of the local community. There is a range of ways to create a ‘buzz’ about the event. Options include flyers, posters, letter drops, or the local media.
You might email, or use social media or other local online forums. Be sure not to neglect word of mouth as a tool to spread ideas and information. Think about places such as coffee shops, grocery stores, religious buildings, and the school gates, where members of a community often come together.
Make sure you get the word out, as enthusing people about your ideas and the particular event in question is essential for a good turn-out.
Tips for a Successful Local Community Event on the Day
Good planning and preparation before the day itself will go a long way towards ensuring that it is a success. But here are some more tips to help you make sure the day itself goes as well as possible:
- Time and location are key! Make sure you and other members of the steering committee turn up early, to make sure the event location is ready.
- Ensure that the site is accessible to as many members of the community as possible. It should also be public transportation friendly.
- Be on hand to welcome and orientate guests as they arrive.
- Make sure, where appropriate and required, that adequate, clear signage is in place.
- Remember your risk assessment. For outdoors events, consider an alternate venue or a place to retreat to if the weather turns bad.
- Consider creating documentation so people fully understand the purpose of the event, what people should expect, the aims, and schedule for the day.
- Keep things as fun and inclusive as much as possible. Make sure everyone leaves feeling that they have an equal stake in the future of your community.
- Give people a ‘take away’ – so they have a clear idea of what this event could lead on to, or how they might take ideas from the event away to implement themselves at home.
- Take names and contact details of attendees so you can stay in touch with them and build community togetherness by keeping everyone involved with milestones, breakthroughs, or future events.
- Capitalise and build on a successful local community event by making plans to build on the progress that you have made.
These are just a few things to think about. Planning a community event is not rocket science. It is something anyone can do with a little time and effort. So if you want to make a difference, contribute to a green recovery, and build a resilient, sustainable, ethical community where you live, then you should consider hosting an event in your area.