Neighbourhood festivals are an important method of reaching out to individuals and involving them. Genuine neighbourhood festivals are an addition to the predetermined initiatives of the stakeholders, as an externally added programme contributing to local intentions. Such an occasion provides an opportunity for meeting each other, gathering information and finding points of connection at the same time. A series of spontaneous discussions may yield a good amount of information, but when supplemented with a community map or a survey, etc., the individuals, their groups, their diversity and similarities will be seen all at once.
Purpose of the activity
- to create occasions to meet;
- to show the diversity of the individuals – symbolically as well as physically;
- to collect information about individuals – to create a joint database;
- to find similarities, common points and factors;
- to create further connection opportunities.
individual, common factor, dialogue, interest areas, missing items, activity, volunteering, neighbourhood, activities with the neighbours
- personal: community developer, community cultural organizer, local community volunteers
- material: room or a tent for outdoor locations, benches, tables, felt pens, paper, standing board if there is no wall, folding screens
- financial: printing, room rental fee (if needed)
Expression of the self: answering the question
Who am I?, what sorts of roles appear in the life of the individual (mother, wife, teacher, neighbour, etc.), what groups and communities they belong to, what they are proud of.
When meeting another person, the similarity of any factor or feature may give rise to trust, which is a starting point for dialogue. People feel good when they find similarities in others; it makes them feel safe and enables them to open up more easily. Dialogues starting along similarities will bring up other sentiments, e.g.
I am proud of this…, ‘I’d like to have this or that in our street, or a film club in the village’, etc. All of this information will show the community’s common interest areas. Such missing items may prompt activities involving two, three or even more people.
Such activities and regular meetings enable the
we belong together feeling to grow, and thus people may proceed towards defining a shared identity.
Everyone draws comfort from knowing that they are part of a whole and their individual knowledge and actions will contribute to shared results, making them a useful member of the community. A prerequisite for all this is that people get to know each other and that dialogues evolve.
Applied tools and methods
People can be summoned via an invitation in the letterbox or through friends and acquaintances. The community map may be connected to an existing event where a lot of people turn up, e.g. a village festival or a show, or even the corner of the market place.
At neighbourhood festivals
pot luck (food and drinks offered by the participants,
a taste of home) is an important feature, and it is indicated in the invitation.
Community map: identifies the individual members of a community yet to be established. It is a map of the given street, village or city district, marking the houses. All participants will pin a tiny flag on it, with their names on the flags. The essence of the community map is to indicate (inner) resources.
Questionnaire/data sheet: these collect personal information with the help of simple questions: gender, age, how long have they lived there, any children (in which institution), occupation, any hobbies etc., availability, readiness to volunteer, any skills, readiness to help, anything they are willing to take part in, anything they want to learn. In practice it means a query along a given set of questions. A data sheet will not always be complete, as it contains questions that the participants may initially be reluctant to answer for lack of trust and commitment.
It is always important to make them aware that the data and answers will be fed into the community’s database. The interviewer can make a point about its usefulness, e.g. by saying this way we’ll know who the electrician is in the village and who can give advice when creating a vegetable garden.
Such practical examples may often help the informants in expressing themselves and offering their contribution.
Graffiti: anything may become the topic of the question circle, in the search for shared points and factors. Large circles to write in, e.g. How many children do you have? What is your favourite film? Do you have a pet? Anything, the simpler the better. One person should write in several places, and room should be available for making new circles.
Spontaneous discussions may often start at the question circles. Ideas are born along shared interests and items that the people find lacking, etc. After each visit to the neighbours, we must express our gratitude for their active involvement. Once ideas and suggestions are expressed, we should formulate them in general terms and put them on the wall of ideas (not in a box!). Upon departure the participants are asked to mark the ones they like, and the ones they are likely to be involved in.
Going through the data, shared areas of interest, missing items and suggestions will give us an idea about the activities that may be planned. The data sheets will offer information about the people that can be requested to volunteer activities in a certain area. They will also outline those members of society that can easily be involved: the elderly and families with small children.
We may be lucky and find a couple of masterminds among the participants who can talk people into joining them in implementing a plan. They may need help and encouragement initially, but it is very important that the neighbourhood visits are soon followed by activity, no matter how small scale. For instance, we may want to assign a day of the weekend next month for a joint cleaning of the ditches or painting fences.
Scheduling: it is worth repeating this exercise every six months and preparing a new community map, as new citizens may want to join in, new suggestions may be made and old participants may make new offers for their community.
Between any two occasions we need to
document the ideas that have been implemented. These can be activities of any kind:
Our Christmas tree outdoor event, joint pruning of trees in the spring, cleaning the playground, women’s breakfast, preparing a calendar, exchange of clothes, a bike trip, or a film club.
Feedback: all activities should appear in the paper or on the website (if any), and emails are to be sent to the participants of the first community map. The new activities and interesting initiatives may raise the interest of those not yet in our database or, in other words, those who are not part of the community map just yet.
Results, expected outcome
- People get to know each other better;
- People, their skills, their shared areas of interest, and the items they miss, etc., will become visible;
- A group of initiators comes into being – becoming the first volunteers;
- Several activities take place every six months;
- The word is spread, extending the group of participants and volunteers;
- The community will have regular occasions to meet, and a calendar of activities is prepared.
- Wekerle Estate website: http://www.wekerletelep.hu
This article based on the following document: Community development methodological guide