Recent posting (and commenting) on thoughts of Community got me to pondering what, if anything, can/should be done as far as building your local community. I know that there are “sustainable community” movements out there–the Transition Network leaps immediately to mind–but what can we do individually, at a smaller level?
As with so many things, a little pondering, combined with a little online searching, has yielded some fruit. Much of what I found that didn’t deal with the Transition Network was about creating work cooperatives in one variation or another. While I’ve always been fascinated by them–I believe that any of their iterations has a place in the “business” ecosystem–there are a few that strike me as rather optimistic, if not completely pie-eyed (the WSDE concept, for instance, has what I believe are gaping holes; I’m open to further education, however). Cooperatives, however, will have to be another post; I’m looking at even smaller-scale.
I’d like to take a look at an article I found from Yes! Magazine‘s online edition (and also state what an interesting find the magazine as a whole is), entitled “31 Ways to Jump Start the Local Economy.” (Direct link to the article here.) It breaks its titular 31 Ways into three sections: At Home, Together With Friends, and In Your Community. Overall, it’s a nice, quick read, and I don’t have any real quibbles with any of the suggestions. Some of them might not be as workable as others: the very first one suggests renting out a room in your house. Granted, in the larger context (reading the rest of that bullet), they’re discussing labor swapping, which we’ve talked about here before; I think overall we’re in favor.
Reading down the “At Home” list actually looks like the beginnings of a “How to Be a Prepper” list; at the very least, they’re almost all things that I believe any good Prepper should be doing. (While I personally agree with points #3, 7, and 9, your mileage may vary, depending on your exact political leanings.) Be willing to pay more for higher quality–you need to buy fewer of them, and they last longer/work better. Pay off your mortgage and credit cards as quickly as possible. Shorten the supply chain by growing your own food and/or utilizing local “wild” foods. Turn off the TV, get out and talk to your neighbors. Fix and mend things, rather than discarding them. Brilliant!
The “Together With Friends” category likewise has some nuggets. My wife and I have tried to implement #12 (Potluck Nights) a couple of times in the past, with varying degrees of success; we’ll probably be giving it a go again here before terribly long. (While we haven’t hit on a formula for long-term success, they’ve been fun while they lasted!) When I posted about expanding the use of barter, I had completely forgotten that Craigslist has a “Barter” section. I’m also quite fond of #18, the “Home Work Party,” where everyone converges on someone’s house and pitches in to do some sort of maintenance or upgrade. (Given the state of the new house, we’ll likely be hosts of such parties for a while to come–but I’m not in the least shy about returning the favor!)
The final section (In Your Community) is quite a bit broader in scope. I think that all of the things listed are certainly good for the local community and economy, I certainly don’t (at present) have the know-how to implement the majority of them. (I’m still doing research on lots of them–I need to do more reading-up on the BALLE group, among other things.) Still, if they’re already going in your area, or if you *do* know how to get any of them rolling, more power to you.
I’m sure there are things that can be done that aren’t listed. Anyone have any ideas? What are you doing to help build your community?