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Useful Community Plus--Face to Face Restart Edition
June 24, 2021

How Your Neighborhood Can Start Up Again After Pandemic Slowdown

June, 2021

Visit us at the Useful Community Development Website

Many of you are asking on your social media or emailing us directly about how to get your neighborhood association or other community group back into gear after the pandemic shut down your operations entirely or forced all meetings and conversations onto less satisfying digital platforms.

We sense most of you community types are super-busy, so our answer will be short and to the point.

Our direct experience is that although people say they are eager to "get back to normal," many folks are still a bit reluctant. Some are fearful, but others are just in their rut and they are sticking to it. In our own very unscientific survey of the groups we are involved in, about two-thirds of board members will come back to the first in-person meeting. The others are more comfortable at home for a variety of reasons, and will stay away as long as a Zoom option is available.

The first in-person meeting has been a little awkward. People are unsure about masks, hugs, and how much to say or ask about the pandemic experience. Some social psychologists have been saying we lose some of our social skills if we stay isolated for that long. We hardly believe that, but the sense of weirdness is undeniable.

Here's our conclusion. Like the website, we're opinionated. But in this case there is no research to back up our opinion. So how about we frame this as a hunch.

We are in favor of going "cold turkey" by insisting that every board member come back in person unless there is truly a medical reason. You can't allow asymmetrical communication where some people are exposed and vulnerable in a good way in "face-to-face" meetings, while others are able to hide by stepping away from their computer, muting, or stopping the video. We actually suggest not providing a Zoom option.

Now we get to the matter of general membership meetings or gatherings. How you approach this highly depends on pandemic and vaccination conditions in your area, and regardless of our general advice, pay close attention to that.

You may ease the transition by having outdoor events all summer before asking people to gather in a confined space.

In all cases, plan a compelling program for your first few in person gatherings. Seize the opportunity to book some popular or busy speakers before their calendars are full. Shake up your meeting format. Update your social media use, get on a new social media platform, or fire one that isn't performing for you or where the communication has become troublesome. (We're looking at you, Facebook and Nextdoor.)

Plan a great new social event or fund raiser that doubles as fun. If you treat the restart as a new beginning, you can get rid of stale customs and create new habits that don't seem like such a rebuke to the previous leadership. You can attract new members at a time when many are hungry for socializing and others are reassessing what is really important in life.

If you feel like you need to start from scratch because you have new leaders or your neighborhood group ground to a halt during coronavirus, you can read more on our website about starting a neighborhood association or block clubs. Pick up some tips about neighborhood associations in general here.

Next month we will resume our usual practice of trying to provide some discussion-provoking topical information. Enjoy summer, or your heat reprieve if you are in a tropical climate in the southern hemisphere.

The next newsletter will arrive on a Thursday in July. Feel free to reply to this newsletter with comments. If you are asking a question you would like answered, please use the public-facing community development questions page on the website.

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