With social distancing restrictions easing up, many of us are excited about getting out in the world again. But it can feel awkward to reconnect with our friends and neighbors after months and months of Zoom. Here are ten ideas to help you re-establish and reinvigorate your sense of local community.
Book clubs are fairly easy to organize. All you need is a small group of people who are interested in reading the same book. You might take turns meeting at one another’s homes, or use public spaces like parks and libraries. You can prepare discussion questions or just have an open conversation about what you read. Get started by throwing the idea around to your neighbors and friends, and ask everyone to suggest a book!
To organize a public film screening, you generally need permission from the studio. However, there’s a way to get around this requirement: you’re allowed to screen a film for a group of people if they are “your friends” rather than “the public.” This would mean inviting people directly rather than promoting the screening to anyone who is interested. Consider choosing documentaries that spark critical discussion. Or, pick something light and fun to ensure that everyone has a great time!
Art show featuring local artists
Are there artistic people living in your community? Consider organizing a small art exhibition showcasing the work of your friends and neighbors. They don’t have to be professional artists or have a huge catalog of work—one piece per participant should be enough. To create a greater sense of unity, you could announce a “themed” art show and encourage community members to create something relevant. Try one of these ideas: nature, the future, family, technology, justice, equality, happiness, or anything you think would capture the attention of your neighbors!
Are you thinking, “I don’t know any poets!”? Although we probably don’t have many published poets as neighbors, we may be surprised at how many of our friends write their own poetry for fun. Poetry readings could be organized as a way for community members to express themselves in a unique way. Local coffee shops are great locations for this kind of event.
Kids’ open mic
Kids love to perform! If you live in a community with lots of families, a Kids’ Open Mic could be a great idea to bring everyone together. Young performers could act out skits, sing songs, play instruments, or read some of their original writing. Open mics are easier than planned productions (like plays and recitals) because they take much less organization and management by adults.
Potluck dinners are a longstanding tradition in many communities. Organizing one is an easy way to not only connect with neighbors but also reduce our work in the kitchen—and give us a chance to taste some of our friends’ awesome cooking! Consider organizing potlucks around different themes, such as a region (Thai food) or concept (veganism).
Are you great at fixing cars? Knitting? Canning food? Share your skills with others! Invite a few neighbors to learn something new. Then, recruit other workshop facilitators by highlighting the talents and strengths of your community members. Skill-sharing workshops help communities become more self-sufficient and sustainable.
What are the needs of your local community? Is there a population that is underserved? Is there a significant environmental problem? You and your neighbors probably have excellent ideas for improving things locally. Talk to them, and decide what’s most important. Then, get to work! Whether it’s a litter cleanup, rideshare program, or support for elderly neighbors, you can make a real difference on a small scale.
Local history-inspired event
What interesting historical events happened in your community? What famous figures lived or worked there? How have things changed locally over the years? Dive into the unique history of your community, and share what you find. You may also be able to co-organize a history-inspired event with a local library, historical society, or similar organization.
“Free stuff” swap
We all have stuff we don’t use, but many of us hesitate to simply trash items that could be useful to someone else. Organizing a day when all of your neighbors can offer up their unwanted stuff is a concrete way to redistribute goods to those who need them. Call it a “free swap,” “stuff exchange,” or “freecycling event.” Your neighbors will love the chance to clear out some clutter without bulking up the landfill—and they might pick up some amazing stuff at the same time!
It can be hard to get back into the full swing of socializing after such a weird time. But if we make a conscious effort to organize small, local events, we can heal strained connections and truly nurture the community. You know your community best! What will you help organize?