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“I’ll have my people call your people.” Have you ever known someone who could get anything done because he had all the right contacts? The wheelers and dealers of the business world know all about this. They build networks of people to get results and solve problems. They are good at what they do for their companies, but the art of networking is not something exclusive to commerce – it is useful for neighborhoods too. Finding allies for our tracts who will help foster community and reinforce the change we are working toward is critical for success.
Thankfully there are a plethora of potential partners for neighborhood growth and it’s just a matter of tapping into relationship with some of these people. Below is a list of suggested groups to begin networking with. Remember that the best relationships are authentic and mutual.
The City: First off, make sure that the city knows what you are attempting so that they can support you with resources and ideas (or maybe even funds). Go ahead and introduce yourself by phone and email to certain departments – start with Neighborhood Services and Housing. It’s okay to ask the city for help, rely upon their expertise, and let them know what your subdivision needs. Keep the city up to date with your efforts and especially success stories – maybe a first BBQ, the beginning of a neighborhood blog, or a community painting project. Hearing of your accomplishments may encourage and fuel city workers to work harder for neighborhoods – and maybe even your area. Remember that many people try to get results by complaining, and there is a place for that, but a positive attitude, listening, persistence and saying thank you sometimes gets the job done more quickly.
City Council: Invite Council Members to BBQs, neighborhood walks, or whatever you are planning, and ask them for advice and ideas on community building.
Neighborhood Watch: This organization began as a national campaign in 1972 and is a strategy to bring residents and police together to “take a bite out of crime.” See www.usaonwatch.org
Police Department: Find out who your neighborhood patrol officers are and invite them to events and to talk with residents about crime prevention. Let them know right away by phone or email when there are problems in your area.
Neighborhood Associations: Contact local neighborhood associations who have experienced success. Ask for advice and learn from their victories and challenges.
Local Nonprofits: Which local nonprofits in your area are relevant for residents? Ask around about organizations, grants, churches, and groups that could assist your efforts.
Business: Ask local businesses to sponsor an event. They will gain publicity and you won’t have to pay out of pocket.
Local Media: Let the local newspaper know about your efforts and events. Maybe they could write a story or at least publicize your gatherings in the community calendar section.
Maybe your rolodex is much thinner than some of the savvy entrepreneurs in town, but building a network of people over time who are experienced in community building will profoundly affect your neighborhood. You will be able to connect residents to resources and help bring some of the change needed in your tract. This makes you even more valuable to your community.
Which of the above suggested resources resonate with you? Why?
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