Via Clarksdale Collective
Building community in your small town sounds like a daunting task. It’s easy to get bogged down, thinking there’s too much to do, that you’d need too many permissions or it would take too much money. The reality of building community is it’s a change of mindset to Take Small Steps.
“99% of the best things you can do for your town don’t require anyone’s permission.”
Want to see some real world examples? Deb Brown and I are sharing small steps toward big ideas in our March SaveYour.Town video, Big Ideas? Small Steps!
I’ve seen lists before of things you can do for your city, but none written for small towns. Let’s fix that. Here are 60+ small-town-approved ideas to build community.
- Hold a (music) jam session downtown.
- Eat lunch outside, downtown. Talk and listen.
- Pick up trash. Share a pic of it online, and invite others to do the same.
- Cook extra and share with a neighbor.
- Walk. Park and walk to run errands. Park further from where you want to go.
- Bike. Bike your errands. Bike to work. Bike to the park.
- Make a list of everything in your town you can walk or bike to in 30 minutes. You might be surprised.
- Hang out downtown, in the park, in plazas and pocket parks. Take a book or a snack.
- Go to performances and events. Cheer. Share praise online.
- Eat outside at local cafes and at picnic tables and benches downtown.
- Sit down for a meal with someone not like you. Someone from the community who is from a significantly different background, ethnicity, class, income level, or education. Listen.
- Drop in on the library and ask about what they have besides books. You’re going to be surprised. (I get ebooks for my Kindle, digital magazines for my iPad and workspace for my weekly co-working.)
- Start a hashtag for sharing good news and ideas in your town. Comment, like and share good things.
- Take pictures of things you like in your town and share them online.
- Shop the farmers’ market. Try something. Share pics online of what you cook.
- Walk into a local store. Take 5 friends. Spend $10 each.
- Walk into a local store. Take 2 pictures of something you didn’t know they had for sale. Post online.
- Plant a tree.
- Plant flowers in unexpected places.
- Dig and divide plants and put the new plants in public spaces. Ask neighbors if they have plants you can divide and share.
- Hang string lights.
- Put googly eyes on something. Use non-destructive adhesive like poster tack.
- Talk to your neighbors.
- Lead a photo walk. Invite friends to walk around and take pictures of good things. Notice things you like and share them.
- Host a street dance. Or empty lot dance or parking lot dance or…
- Start a sing-along. Anywhere, anytime.
- Wash the outside windows on an empty building.
- Pull weeds from public flower beds and boxes.
- Shovel snow for a neighbor.
- Dress the font of your house, make your porch inviting. Then use it.
- Find something that needs a simple repair, like wooden flower box or a loose board on an empty building. Repair it.
- Work outdoors. Coworking in the park.
- Return broken paving (like cracked parking lots) to durable drivable grass.
- Borrow an empty building for an activity or event. Leave it cleaner than you found it.
- Make a cardboard playground. All you need is cardboard, scissors, tape, random material and stuff, and kids.
- Paint a temporary mural on parachute cloth, cardboard, coroplast (sign material), or sheet metal. Hang it using magnets, sticky tack, or bungee cords.
- Add benches.
- Create chalk art on sidewalks, bare walls, and retaining walls.
- Display fabric art everywhere.
- Put up directional signs to all kinds of things: parks, murals, art, businesses.
- Use your town waterfront. Mow and clean up a small patch and hold an open picnic to start. Talk about what you’d like to do or see. Can you boat or kayak?
- Hire a young person to help you out.
- Paint something that needs it like a picnic table, bench or pole.
- Barter and trade with each other. Loan each other tools.
- Create a library of things: tools, cake pans, kitchen tools, musical instruments, all free to check out like library books.
- Start an Old Geezers Club, where older folks can bring their tools and share a workspace with anyone who wants to make something.
- Hold a repair cafe: bring together people who can fix things (including sewing) and let anyone bring anything that needs fixed.
- Make a free-stuff wall or space.
- Put out books for free, preferably in a neighborhood far from the library.
- Listen to people’s stories. Document them.
- Hold a potluck in your home.
- Host a block party on your block.
- Host a community dinner, lots of people at one long table. Put conversation starters on the tables.
- Show a movie outdoors.
- Mow an empty lot or a neighbor’s lawn.
- Improvise a public wading pool: kiddie pools, livestock water tanks.
- Improvise a public splash pad: drill holes in plastic pipes or a garden hose.
- Display quilts or fabric arts on a railing, any railing.
- Set up a telescope and show people other planets.
- Share some wifi. Add a public wifi channel to your business or personal router. Post a sign. Find public wifi anywhere in town and post signs so others can use it.
- Find fruit and nut trees in your town. Get permission, then bring friends to harvest and share the crop. Ask the food bank or senior center if they can use it. Give it away at the farmers’ market or a free stuff stand.
If you like these, reply and add your own ideas. I’d love to get to 99!
Join Deb Brown and me at SaveYour.Town for Big Ideas? Small Steps! now through March 15 only.
About Becky McCray
Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.