New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions

Girls spread hope to those in need

Girls spread hope to those in need

Girls Gang, a community action group for teenage girls in a disadvantaged community produced positive posters to be included in food packages being sent to families experiencing poverty and hardship during lockdown. The group wanted to do something to help the community but felt limited in ways they could enact their citizenship during lockdown. Messages in the posters included words of hope, tips for coping with lockdown and also telling residents that they were not alone.

Picture by West Cumbria Community Action Trust

Recipients of the care packages told the coordinators that the posters helped to lift spirits at times when anxieties were high. It also provided the girls with an opportunity to enact their civic citizenship under the civic restrictions imposed under lockdown.

Class based inequalities are being exacerbated during the lockdown but working class and poor communities are finding creative ways to support one another.

Story shared by Suzanne Wilson, United Kingdom.

More info here or at swilson21@uclan.uk

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Music and Culture is Building New Communities

Music and Culture is Building New Communities

It started as a ‘wow’-event for me when in Italy hundreds of people started to sing each day form their balconies during the first days of the lock-down. Then a semi-professional opera choir launched an online version of Verdi’s ‘Va Pensiero’. In the meantime, thousands of musicians and other artists started regular live community and online events all over the globe.

Picture by International Opera Choir

People meet neighbors they never met before, try to encourage and support each other by using one of the ‘general languages’ of our societies – which has always been ‘music’. Music and other cultural events create a special feeling how people can belong to and help each other in a common crisis. At the same time, especially music touches emotions and can ease stress and pain.

It has been amazing how fast people in diverse cultures turn to the common language of art and music to cope with a crisis that is beyond imagination. Perhaps such a crisis can remind us that even minor cultural events can be crucial for building a sense of community and belonging.

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany

More info here.

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Strengthening our sense of connection in the immediate locality

Strengthening our sense of connection in the immediate locality

The street I live on has 36 private houses set back from the road. We don’t see one another come and go, people have lived on this street for twenty or so years and only know their immediate neighbours. When the likelihood of a lock down threatened I made fliers and invited people to join a street support group. It gave everyone the chance to introduce themselves and suddenly the street became a hive of community chat and mutual support.

95% of the residents have joined a WhatsApp group and others use land line contact. We have collected shopping for one another, enjoyed sharing film footage of a fox in a garden one night, worked out whose cats are visiting each others’ gardens and made fabric face masks for neighbours. We are organised a sponsored walk through just giving to raise funds for a local company to provide child friendly visors for NHS staff. On this walk we will all walk the route of the street simultaneously maintaining our social distance.

It is a shame that it has taken something like this to be a valid excuse to cold-call neighbours. Many of our residents are elderly and socially isolated and making contact with people nearby has been a real bonus. It has also been a great reassurance to their family who would normally visit to know they have a whole street ready and willing to connect and support.

Story shared by Jill Simpson, United Kingdom.

More info contact jillsimpson81@hotmail.com

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Do-It-Yourself Lowell

Do-It-Yourself Lowell

Several years ago, a young couple moved to the mid-sized city of Lowell, Massachusetts. They became attracted to the city’s diversity and spirit, and soon wanted to give something back to their new community. But without money or special expertise, what could they do?

Lowell (Mass, USA), City of Lights Parade

After some thought, they hit upon the concept of “Do-It-Yourself Lowell.” Its goals were to generate ideas for community events and projects and work together on them. By so doing, they could also create lasting civic improvements, enhance civic engagement skills, and build diversity.

The concept itself was very simple. Any resident could submit a community idea, and other residents would vote for the best. The winning ideas would receive funding leads and guidance, technical assistance, and publicity for community volunteers to transform the idea into reality.

Do-It-Yourself Lowell soon caught on; it has received hundreds of community-building suggestions, many of which can be found on its website, and some of which have been put into practice. Some examples: a mobile bike repair truck, a traditional medicine festival, a children’s tea party, a Quarantine Café (following the coronavirus outbreak).

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, USA.

To learn more, contact at www.diylowell.org

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Cultural Community Corona Response: Remember Your Old Drive-In Cinema

Cultural Community Corona Response: Remember Your Old Drive-In Cinema

The ‘sixties’ brought something new from the US to Germany. Drive-In Cinemas became the ‘hot-spot’ for couples, lovers and families and they could stay in their car. In the late eighties most Drive-In Cinemas have been abandoned due to new media.

Picture by ErriTollsten

As a corona-response to strengthen communities and families in many cities Drive-In Cinemas re-open; some cities even start new forms of Drive-In Cinemas. For many people and families today Drive-In Cinemas is a break in the lock-down routine while maintaining social distancing. For local cinemas and cultural events which have been shut down during the crisis and are suffering from economic breakdown, the new form of Drive-In Cinemas offers the opportunity to keep their customers and to maintain some income during the crisis.

Traditional forms of events are creatively re-invented and re-designed by going back to the basic social (cultural) needs of people. Lesson: if you focus on the basic needs your business is built upon instead of money and economic growth, you might be able to re-invent your business for a sustainable future. Of course there are barriers and challenges:

  • Drive-In cinemas are car-focussed, hence less ecologically sustainable. New ideas?
  • How can we integrate single people without cars while maintaining physical distancing?
  • How do we develop a sense of community in a Drive-In cinema? Community-building instead of commercials?

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany.

More info: here and here

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
6 Feet at 6PM

6 Feet at 6PM

During the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, my own community near Boston, like a great many others, strongly encouraged residents to stay inside their homes. Not surprisingly, community members wanted to find ways to have visible contact with others, even if they couldn’t meet directly with them in person.

Aerial view of Arlington by Juhan Sonin

Some planners in town proposed an idea they called “6 Feet at 6PM.” Neighbors on a street were encouraged to come outside their homes at 6:00 every evening, to wave, greet each other, and talk while maintaining a distance of six feet or more. This would be a safe and healthy way to maintain social contact under new and challenging circumstances.

According to local reports, many streets in town adopted this idea, some of them quite enthusiastically. Residents clearly seemed to have a strong desire for personal social contact.

While it’s too early at this writing to know whether it will persist, the “6 Feet at 6PM” initiative is a good example of a creative response to a crisis situation. It satisfies a basic human need, it’s easy to do, it costs nothing, and it’s very adaptable to other community settings, perhaps including the reader’s own.

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz.

To learn more contact Kelly Lynema, Arlington (Massachusetts) Department of Planning and Community Development, at klynema@town.arlington.ma.us.

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Street art keeps spirits up and connects during lockdown

Street art keeps spirits up and connects during lockdown

One resident bought some chalk for his children to use and started writing messages when it was a birthday or an anniversary; these messages of congratulations and solidarity can be seen from our second story windows.

Children from the area started adding portraits so that it looks like they are all holding hands, something that they cannot not do during lockdown. The idea was first started by children but soon it became a focus of the street, with every resident (including pets) being included in this collective portrait.

Picture by News and Star

The street art was a welcome distraction during these unsettling times, which resulted in increased well-being and community identity on our street.

Creative means of connecting people can emerge when we are separated. Initiatives for children can have spill over effects to grown ups!

Shared by Suzanne Wilson, from the United Kingdom.

More info here or at swilson21@uclan.uk

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Leverett Connects: A community wide list serve becomes the hub for all things related to coronavirus  in a small US town

Leverett Connects: A community wide list serve becomes the hub for all things related to coronavirus in a small US town

Leverett Pond, Picture by Oran Kauffman

Leverett is a small rural town in Western Mass of 1700 people. Our local community building group, the Leverett Alliance, listening to community voices decided to launch a town wide list.serve. Until then the town had no way to connect, exchange info, etc.

In September we started to publicize by posting flyers, sitting at the dump and the Post Office. Within a few months we had 250 members. We then sent a postcard to every household showing how easy it was to sign up for free, and the number climbed. People used the list serve to ask for help offer help, etc.

Then corona virus hit the country and since then the number of folks engaged has grown (now over 425) and the exchanges are very moving. Making masks for each other, shopping for each other, going to the dump for each other, food delivery options, finding out when to shop at the stores, etc.

It has created a true sense of community and has addressed very concrete needs. Some have even started an “coyote howl” across the pond in the center of town to mimic some of the activity in Italy and elsewhere.

As one user observed: “Hi, everyone, I just picked up an absolutely delightful rainbow-striped mask from the Post Office Thank you, seamstresses and seamsters! Thanks, too, to the enlightened techies who set up Leverett Connects. Who could have known that it would become so crucial to so many of us? It is wonderful to live in this town.” (Annie Jones)

We have heard that list serves like this are working in urban neighborhoods as well.

Story shared by Tom Wolff, from Massachusetts, USA.

To learn more: tom@tomwolff.com

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions
Caring and Fast Response in a Small Bavarian Community

Caring and Fast Response in a Small Bavarian Community

PAEHL (Southern Bavaria, Germany) is a small community (2000 inhabitants) in a picturesque location south of Munich and close to the Alps.

Although it is well known for a rich community life (traditional music bands, soccer, clubs maintaining local traditions), the corona-lock-down came as a surprise. However, in a very short time after, the community came together to support the vulnerable groups.

Picture sent by Wolfgang Stark

The young people of the village formed a voluntary corona task force within two days after lock-down. The local mayor immediately started phone-calls to 200 (!) local inhabitants aged over 70, asking if they needed support on food supply or health services. Seniors have also been asked if they would like to receive regular phone-calls if they lived alone.

The local voluntary corona task force provided food supply and shopping services from day three after lock-down. Municipal administration is coordinating orders. The small local public library offered book deliveries on demand. Local administration sent out direct mailers to all households with information emergency phone numbers, health services during shut-down, where to buy local food or where to order hot meals delivered to households.

Based on a rich community life people are amazingly fast and creative to form community support systems. Collaboration of all sectors of everyday life (young and old, local shops and market gardens, libraries, community administration…) is key.

This story was shared by Wolfgang Stark, from Germany.

More info here or at wolfgang.stark@stw.de

Posted by Cinzia Albanesi in New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions