Why do you bother to do this?

Submitted by Nastinia Bailey on November 30, 2011 - 6:33pm
The beginning of a neighbourhood association in Uptown Waterloo, ON


Hi fellow neighbourhood organizers and animators. I’m part of a brand new neighbourhood association that just formed in October. We call ourselves Uptown West Neighbourhood Association. We are a section of Waterloo Ontario that is about 2 k long and 1k wide with about 1,500 mostly brick houses, two schools, four churches, a few apartment buildings, LOTS of mature maple trees, one tiny park with a playground, and a little mattress factory.  At our East edge we have a commercial street with many thriving businesses that we walk to regularly: grocery store, barbers (2), pizzeria, hardware, oodles of restaurants, pharmacy, and more. 

This summer some of us were talking about how great it would be to have a neighbourhood centre of some sort. Two other cities right next door to us have many community centres so we see what is possible and were saying: “Hey, let’s make that happen here!” I sent out a few emails and suddenly we had 50 people in our backyard for a potluck.  At the potluck we had a little meeting and everyone seemed eager to get more organized and active and create a neighbourhood centre. Here we are five months later with a board of 16 eager volunteers (this is your president speaking) a potluck with 120 folks in October and tonight we just had our first spaghetti supper and games night hosted by the local Mennonite church (my church).  A friend and I planned the supper, I sent out a few invites and we had 65 people eating and playing games together.  When I walked in at 7pm my kids were having a great time playing table games and my husband was sitting and talking with a group of neighbours he’d never met before.

At one of the back-yard picnics this summer, a new neighbor asked me “Why do you do this?” Meaning: why do you bother inviting people over you don’t know. I was surprised by the question and wished I had answered better. I said something like: “It’s just what I do. Community is important to me.” That question keeps nagging at me. Why do I go to the trouble of getting to know new neighbours and hosting events so neighbours get to know each other? Why do we do this?





Hi Nastinia, what a profound question. Why?

THis ted talk has changed how I think about it:


I believe...

Oh that 's a good one! Thank you Derek. So what is my "why" of neighbourhood organizing. How about: I believe that when we know and trust our neighbours we spark a power strong enough to change ourselves, our cities, and even the world.

Or: I take time to get to know my neighbours because when I do good things happen. To be specific, after that one potluck where I was asked the question of why I do this, I then was invited to use a neighbours swimming pool "whenever you want" and another neighbour offered trailers-full of walnut logs FOR FREE for our wood stove.


How about you?

So, Derek, Paul and Donna Jean, why do you do bother to put your energy into community organizing? Don't think too hard. Just tell me your first answer in a few words.


Why Not

Because I feel it is where I can make the greatest difference.  And also because I learn sooo much.  People are awesome and I am trying to be better at listening to those around me. 

Welcome, Nina

Thanks Nina not only for a great first blog, but also for all the great organizing in your community. There are alot of homes but a great team. I have also blogged a bit earlier on about this process in a work called neighbours.

I look forward to reading many more thoughts and ideas.