Community engagement is often pushed to the side by the demands of a high consumption life. A society or individual might be booming economically, but dedicating too much attention to consumption and the acquisition of wealth, to the detriment of family and community life, can lead to an individualistic society of frantic, agitated, and alienated egos. Many affluent societies today would be better off choosing less stuff, and more community. Furthermore, community is the driving force of social change. By living simply, there is more time to cultivate community and enjoy our civic responsibilities.
- Sharing your stuff: Which community is richer – the one in which everyone has their own? Or the one in which there is less but people share? By sharing our resources, our communities get richer, without increasing overall consumption. For example, not everyone in the street needs a lawn mower, since it sits idle almost everyday. Why not have one lawn mower for several houses? Lend when ask and borrow when necessary.
- Sharing your skills: Sharing our stuff promotes community, and so does sharing our skills. Chances are there is a wealth of expertise of various forms in your community. Sharing skills is a great way to help us escape reliance on the formal economy, and it’s also a great way to meet new people and interact with different generations.
- The Sharehood: There is a great website that is designed to make sharing easy. The Sharehood aims to build joyful, sustainable, and resilient communities by encouraging people to get to know their neighbours and share with them. This website is helping create vibrant communities where people share locally and meet their needs and help others do the same. Check it out and sign up! It may be worthwhile doing a maildrop around your neighbourhood too, letting people know about this amazing resource and encouraging them to sign up.
- Film nights: One great way to cultivate community and promote good causes is to organise film nights / afternoons in your community. Who doesn’t love a good film? Most communities have a venue that will allow free access to a room (e.g. a library, community organisation, etc.). Print out some posters and stick them up around your neighbourhood inviting people to attend. There are many great films freely available on you-tube or vimeo (e.g. “Home,” “The Power of Community,” “The End of Suburbia,” “Life after Growth,” etc.). After the film, have a cup of tea and a discussion.
- Transition towns: The Transition Town Movement is taking hold across the world, and it is a source of great hope. This movement is a community-based response to the dual crises of peak oil and climate change, and its participants are not waiting for governments to fix our problems. Instead, they are just getting work, building a new society from the grassroots up. Do some reading on Transition Towns. Then get a few like-minded people together, and start your own. From little things big things grow.