The Pursuit of Neighborly Love: Part 1

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Whether you live in an apartment, dorm or cul-de-sac, you’ve probably got a few neighbors. We all do, which is why it was surprising to learn from a recent Harris Interactive Survey that 59% American’s don’t even know their neighbors’ first name.

This lack of neighborly love is a trend from coast-to-coast, but luckily some Americans take it upon themselves to break down the barriers that keep us apart. These people are neighborhood organizers, and they are champions of neighborhood communication. To better inform our Neighbors product, I set out to learn more about neighborhood organizers and the tactics they use to get people talking. In this four part series I’ll reveal the highlights of what I’ve learned and the lessons they can teach us all about being better neighbors.

Who are neighborhood organizers?

Depending on where you live, you might or might not have encountered a neighborhood organizer in your lifetime. Luckily for me, I used to live on a block in Ballard (a neighborhood in Seattle) where we claimed to be the “Best Block in Ballard”, mainly due to the heroic efforts of our Block Watch Captain. She brought a very unlikely crew of people together for all types of events: National Night Out, progressive dinners and emergency preparedness meetings. Over time, our relationships morphed from neighbors to friends. Even though I moved 3 years ago, I still have long lasting friendships from my experience living on the “Best block in Ballard.” I have our Block Watch Captain, aka “Power Neighborhood Organizer” to thank for these friendships.

Throughout the greater Seattle area there is a plethora of Power Neighborhood Organizers (PNOs), and it was my great fortune to meet and observe them in order to learn more about neighborhood communication.

What did we learn?

All told, there are many common threads that tie the passions and behaviors of Power Neighborhood Organizers together. But the main threads that really stood out were that PNO’s care deeply about several key areas:

  • Safety
  • Building community
  • Control over their hyper-local environment
  • Being the go-to person in their neighborhood

In the end, PNOs are just like you and me. They work, they stay home; they are married, they are single, etc. But in addition to their day-to-day lives, they create and assume this role of being a neighborhood organizer, because of these key passions that drive them to get involved.

But typically, there always seemed to be an event that spurred PNOs to step up and take action. These events fell into one of these categories:

  • New to the neighborhood
  • Birth of a child
  • Criminal activity on their block or neighborhood
  • Natural disaster, such as the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake or even the 2011 Japan Earthquake

These events push the PNOs to reach out to their neighbors, and ignite communication in a multitude of ways, such as:

  • A neighborhood block party to build a community within their block
  • A formal block watch program to increase safety in their neighborhood
  • An emergency preparedness meetings for their block to mobilize and plan together for a potential natural disaster

So PNOs have big ideas to get their blocks socializing and gathering, but how do they get in touch with their neighbors in order to notify them about an upcoming event?

Up next…Gathering neighbors contact information & the challenges PNOs face.

Photo Credit

mgotschall@whitepages.com'

by Mary Pat Gotschall

One thought on “The Pursuit of Neighborly Love: Part 1

  1. bart2d@aol.com'
    David B. says:

    Having seen, experienced and now living with the actions that one of these neighborhood action groups are able to accomplish, I have mixed feelings. Albeit I would hope, the initial start of anything generally begins with good intentions, however as each person in life and society all come from different backgrounds, care should be given by those that would begin any type of endeavor. So as to avoid thrusting one’s own personal beliefs into any type of organized action when dealing with the diversities of a community, measures and steps must be established and adhered to, to ensure that the rights and liberties of all persons are respected, understood and enforced… in short, there needs to be a “Checker” of the checker to the checker checking the checkers. I realize this may sound a little redundant, however in today’s societies all around the world not all persons in any process or government agrees completely and wholly with the individuals making final and absolute decisions for all parties in whatever situation or circumstance may be happening. This isn’t to say that everyone everywhere should simply be 100% behind leaders decisions, however the beliefs of everyone everywhere should be taken into account if at all possible before those in control take advantage of the power provided…. how does this get so big so quickly when the original topic was simply an organized neighborhood “Effort” topic. Like I said earlier, I have seen, experienced and now live with current results of one such neighborhood effort with more to come I’m sure. For any and or all of it as it may apply to me, I simply wish I could turn back the hands of time and correct anything that I may have contributed to having such an affect on my own neighborhood, but as was stated in the article, “less than 59% of Americans know their neighbors first name” and each year life gets more complicated with efforts to “Make a Buck” surviving the rat race instead of “Making Friends” and accepting that life isn’t a race and certainly not being “Run by all in it as ‘Rats’..”

    And to my neighbors that I do and do not know by their first name… should they or I ever receive an opportunity to rectify such and “Meet and Greet” and share in quality neighborly conversation, I would absolutely jump at the chance as Life is too short… all have enough problems in our lives to deal and contend with that we certainly do not need to complicate things for ourselves or our neighbors given that the scales with which life is measured can’t hold the weight on earth or in the heavens that friendships can truly weigh.

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