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The word “community” gets thrown around strata these days, almost as much as the word “sharing” … only with less dire consequences.
All cynicism aside, it’s possible to build strata communities into something that means more than just a bunch of disparate people sharing the same car park, lift and entrance lobby.
If that sounds a little idealistic, it’s already happening. Large apartment blocks may seem like soulless ant farms from the outside, but many of them are already thriving social hubs.
Think about it. The chances of you NOT finding several people in a large block with whom you share interests are pretty slim.
You have similar lifestyle preferences, roughly the same ability to pay rent or a mortgage, and probably concur on pets and parties (if you did any research before you moved in).
This should start with your committee, but if its members are uncommunicative nay-sayers and ‘don’t fix it even if it is broke’ levies squeezers, what can you do to distill some community spirit,?
This might once have been done via a notice board but these days we are all about social media. So and easy way to create a focus for communication is to create your own website or Facebook page. However, remember, someone will have to run it and that takes time and effort.
Also bear in mind that people say things on the internet that they would never say in person – so be prepared to create rules of engagement and enforce them.
OK, trolls and flamers duly discouraged, the Facebook page can be used to discuss issues relating to the building and the neighbourhood – or just to alert each other to a new coffee shop in the area.
Once you have opened up the lines of communication, organise some in-house events. Get your local bottle shop to put on a wine or whisky tasting at which they can take orders to be delivered later.
Start a book or movie club or have a weekend collective binge-watch of favourite cult TV show. Set up an old bookshelf where people can leave books they’ve read and take others they haven’t.
Organise a fashion show with a local store or boutique designer, or get a local restaurant to have a residents’ night with a special menu for locals who dine at a shared table.
Put together a discounted holiday – all you have to do is get a travel company to give you a price contingent on a minimum number of people signing up. One building I know organised a cycling holiday in Vietnam a few years ago.
Connect retirees – or anyone else who needs to get out more – with dogs that need another daily walk or cats that just need company. Get a community garden going or bring in long-term locals to give you a talk about the history of the area.
The main thing is, if your committee isn’t interested, it’s very easy to sidestep them and use the social media tools you have to connect directly with your neighbours.
Building communities doesn’t happen overnight – but it doesn’t happen at all if you don’t even try.
Yep. We are preparing a community garden proposal for this year’s AGM, mindful of all the objections we heard 7 years ago when we tried something similar.
Our two biggest success for getting people mingling has been 1) having children’s playgrounds with adult seating adjacent, and 2) over the past few years, adding a generously paved area where we previously had just a basic wood BBQ and a dusty patch of worn grass, adding two large picnic tables where previously we had one small one, adding a pizza oven which is much more of a novelty than the BBQ, adding a picnic shelter roof over the oven and about half of the paved area. Now we can organise events without worrying about a risk of rain and there is a choice of shade or sun when using the BBQ, supervising kids at the adjacent playground or cooking pizza.
It helps that our site is self-sufficient for wood for the BBQ and oven.
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