As the lockdowns continue (atleast here in Ontario) I’ve been thinking about how involvement in our communities is so important. Not only to the community, but to our own wellbeing too.
Community is important - we know that. But how does one person begin the journey of contributing to it? Every person you ask this question to will give you a different answer. There’s a lot of great options out there - and that’s part of the challenge. Where do you start?
Most “civic engagement” advice out there focuses solely on topics like voting or attending town halls. Those are important. But, I want to shrink this all down a bit and focus on the little things you (as an individual) can do to start connecting with your community.
So, here are 3 simple and practical ideas for getting involved civically. None of these are revolutionary in any way - and that’s the point. They’re small ideas that you can start doing now. Over time, they’ll inevitably help you connect to your community.
Go For A Walk
This one is the simplest, and the easiest to do (pending accessibility issues). Going for a walk is cheap (well, free, unless you’re like me during my University years and kept buying stuff randomly), healthy (cardio!) and an easy way to experience your community more.
Walks are when you meet neighbours and learn more about your local area: be it a town, city, or neighbourhood. It’s a way of deepening your connection to your place, wherever that is.
So, go for a stroll. Do it once a week. Explore the roads and paths you haven’t been to. You’ll be surprised about how much you learn.
You know the phrase “vote with your wallet” right? That phrase inspired this idea. Supporting local is a phenomenal way to get connected to your community, and it’s a great way to contribute to your town or city directly.
Now, I know that we don’t all have the ability to shift our spending immediately. With certain businesses offering cheaper options, sometimes spending elsewhere is a necessity.
But, if you have the ability to do so, supporting local is a phenomenal way to contribute to your community and learn about it at the same time. If you aren’t in a position to do so, consider this option for down the road.
You don’t have to spend more than you currently are - you can make some small changes to reduce spending elsewhere and relocate that money to a local business. Maybe this means cutting down on fast-food for lunch, and going to a local restaurant once a week. Maybe it means ending that membership to the large branch gym in order to go to a small private yoga studio. Maybe it means scheduling 2 times a month to go skating at your local rink (do they charge for that?).
Your town will have different options. See what’s out there, and find something to contribute to!
Saying hello is an act that is as simple as it is effective. Communities are built on people interacting with each other, and the best way to interact with people is to simply say hello.
If you apply the first two strategies, you’ll inevitably find yourself in scenarios where you can (and sometimes have to) say hello. Crossing paths with your neighbours on your walk, stopping by your local café, or any of the multiple experiences you’re going to have will give you the chance to say hi to other people.
You don’t even need to do much! A simple hello and “how’s it going” will be more than enough. When it comes to building up a community, it’s one of the best places to start.
And Now, To Start
Those are 3 ideas for developing civic engagement in your life. There’s a lot of great advice about civic engagement out there, but there’s very little that’s accessible to the average person. I hope these 3 ideas help you get started on your journey into civic engagement. The more of us there are, the better.