How can a community improve a neighborhood

by juan

Visitor Question: What are some ways in which a community can get involved in improving a neighborhood?

Editors' Reply: Juan, you ask a question we just love to answer.

First, we'd encourage you to think small at first. This is because we don't want you to be discouraged, and we want a "quick win" or an "early success." When something is actually accomplished, you attract positive attention from others in the community, who will be more willing to help out next time.

Sometimes a community thinks that their problems are so major that a small step can't possibly make a difference. But experience and research all lead to the conclusion that when a community sets out to improve a neighborhood in a small way, people feel better about themselves and the neighborhood. The U.S. Center for Disease Control has supported research that shows that even health improves when people become active in their community.

You might have heard about former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani's masterful use of the "broken windows" theory. To oversimplify the idea, the theory is that if you fix simple stuff, such as broken windows, as soon as they occur, over time there will be fewer broken windows.

We don't want to tell you that removing graffiti right away, confronting every unwanted behavior every time, and showing nearly zero tolerance for every kind of law or code violation or bad behavior will make everything OK. But these simple steps do increase community pride and embolden others to come forward to make other improvements.

Without knowing about your community's issues and problems, we suggest that you start with a doable Saturday morning project. Cleaning up your neighborhood park is an easy one. If the city keeps your park spotless, find a vacant lot, broken-down fence, neighborhood dumping ground, or even a plot of weeds to clean up. Many times you can make a big difference with just a group working on a Saturday morning.

Can you paint a porch, rake some leaves, pick up stray newspapers, flyers, beer cans, and potato chip bags? Sure you can.

If you don't know enough people yourself to get the project done, try contacting places of worship, scout or other youth groups, or your city's United Way or equivalent organization to find some people for you. At the end of the project, you will have more friends and people to invite to the next project.

It isn't unusual to find that the Saturday morning project group can become a monthly event and that people start to become real friends and look forward to what would be considered just hard work if they had to do it by themselves.

Success leads to more success, and confidence leads to more confidence. As you have successes, try to tell the world. In this day and age, this might mean simply telling Twitter or Facebook, as well as calling the traditional media in advance what you're planning to do.

Help the kids think about starting a business. Start one yourself, if you're so inclined.

You'll find that there are many ways that your community can improve a neighborhood.

There are many pages on this website that may be relevant to your question, so go back to almost any page on our website and do a search for some words that may describe what is concerning you about your community. Or see a convenient list of our pages broadly applicable to neighborhoods. Good luck to you.

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