Building Neighborhood Resiliency

Stronger Neighborhoods

This is a list of items from a post I started in 2016 on Building Neighborhood Resiliency. If you have more resources, please send them along. Thanks.

Building Neighborhood Resiliency

As the snow is here – in Australia it looks warm and sunny 🙂 I just got this newsletter from an Australian group called Good Hoods. (2022 – not sure they still exist)

Here’s what they wrote:

“Dear Albert, During the recent Discovery Tour around Australia we met some great people and heard about amazing initiatives working to build community connection and resilience. We now have a network of passionate resilience experts, including yourself, and together we believe we can create a nation that is ready for anything. Following the tour, we have been thinking through how we can continue to help people connect and come together. We know that resilience is a process and something that grows over time. One of the first steps we all can take is to connect with others so we feel a sense of belonging. That’s why we are launching Good ‘Hoods – a new initiative to help create connections and a sense of pride in where you live. We want to connect people who want to work together to create more resilient communities, and share initiatives so the good continues to grow. We have shared some of the great initiatives from the tour that you may want to replicate in your community, see a sneak peek below:

Street BBQ: there’s nothing like a good BBQ to bring people together. We’re encouraging our people to say that first hello to their neighbors this summer, and we want to share the resources with you too. To help get you to get started we’re giving the first 200 to register their own street BBQ a $50 supermarket voucher. These first resources are based on what we heard would be helpful.

Sincerely, Jacki Johnson
Group Executive People,
Performance and Reputation Insurance Australia Group

SNEAK PEEK One of the great initiatives we heard about. Learn about this and others on the Good ‘Hoods website. In 2010 and 2012, floods devastated Uranquinty. So a local group, Progress Association, worked with the NSW SES to devise a disaster response plan to minimize damage from future floods. Find out more.


Interesting, I just found this collection of recently collated resources on this topic, today.

Related, this just in. Nick Licata was an incredible member of the Seattle City Council.

This comes from Jim Diers, who used to be the head of the Dept. of Neighborhoods in Seattle and who’s gone on to do great work & writing…


Jim Diers Community Builder

A fundamental principle of community organizing is to start where the people are. The closer you engage people to where they live, the more likely they are to get involved. You should be able to get successively larger turnouts for gatherings at the neighborhood, city, state, and national levels, but the percentage of the population engaged will most likely be the highest at the street, block, building, or floor level. Why? Because the farther the action is from where someone lives, the more likely they are to expect others to take responsibility. If it’s on their street, however, who will step up if they don’t? Logistics like transportation and child care are so much easier. And, their participation will generate peer pressure for the rest of the neighbors to join in. Most importantly, neighbors are likely to enjoy immediate and ongoing benefits from their participation due to the small scale and the relationships that are built with people who are so accessible. There’s no need to expend energy on bylaws, minutes, treasurer’s reports, nominating committees, and Roberts Rules of Order; the focus is on community.

The Opzoomeren Movement

I recently witnessed the potential of block organizing in Rotterdam where the Opzoomeren movement has taken hold. It started in 1994 when the residents of Opzoomer Street got fed up waiting for the local government to address problems of crime and blight. They came to realize that there was much that the neighbors themselves could do, and they decided to take action. Today, about 1600 streets are following their example. Neighbors come together to do whatever is most important to them whether that is caring for latchkey children and housebound elders, planting trees and gardens, or organizing street parties. Because half of Rotterdam’s population is immigrants, neighbors are often engaged in teaching one another Dutch. On many of the streets, neighbors have gathered to discuss how they can best support one another. They develop a code of conduct that is prominently displayed on a large sign. No two signs are the same although there are some frequent themes.

A typical sign reads 1. We say hello and welcome new neighbors. 2. We take part in all kinds of street activities. 3. We help each other with childcare. 4. We keep our neighborhood clean and safe.

Each May, all of the streets celebrate Opzoomeren Day. In order to be recognized as part of the movement, a street must undertake at least four events or projects each year. An Opzoomeren bus is available for neighbors to use as a pop-up café, gallery, workshop site, or whatever.

The Limitation of Block/Neighborhood Watch Programs

Of course, street-level organizing is not a new idea. Practically everywhere I go, there are long-standing crime prevention groups known as block or neighborhood watch. Seattle has had one of the most successful block-watch programs. First organized in 1972, the Police Department now claims that approximately 3000 blocks, or 30% of the city, are participating. In August of each year, about 1400 block parties are held in observance of National Night Out Against Crime. The shortcoming of the program, however, is its singular focus on crime. Neighbors typically get engaged when it is too late – after there have been house break-ins or other safety issues. They call the Police Department for support and are taught how to install security systems and watch out for strangers. After that initial meeting, the group often becomes dormant until there is another crime wave. Police departments typically fail to understand that the safest blocks are the ones that focus not on safety but on building community. Rather than simply teach people how to be secure in their homes and watch for strangers, residents should be encouraged to get out of their homes and connect with neighbors on a regular basis. It is much more sustainable for people to engage with one another around their wide range of interests rather than the police department’s narrow public safety agenda. That’s another key aspect of starting where the people are.

In recognition of this, New Zealand’s program has morphed from neighborhood watch to Neighborhood Support. Neighbors Provide Mutual Support There is so much that neighbors can do to connect with one another and provide mutual support. Emergency planning is one such activity. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel told me that one of the most important lessons from their devastating earthquakes was the importance of neighbors knowing one another. With limited emergency workers and many impassable roads, most Christchurch residents were totally dependent on the skills, resources, and care of their neighbors in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes. I now live on Vashon Island, Washington which is highly susceptible to earthquakes. Over 200 groups of five to fifteen households each have self-organized in this rural community in order to develop and implement emergency plans. Frequent power outages and other winter storm damage provide ample opportunity to practice mutual support. On our street, for example, some neighbors used their chainsaws to remove downed trees while others prepared a kind of stone soup; the ingredients came from everyone’s thawing freezers and the stew was prepared and served in a warm house equipped with a generator.

Fortunately, we didn’t need the skills and knowledge of the physician who is also part of our group. There are so many other ways in which neighbors can support one another on a daily basis. On some streets, elders have buddies who check on them each day and provide the transportation and maintenance that enables them to stay in their homes. And, for young parents, there are babysitting cooperatives. Neighbors share their expertise with one another whether that involves technology, recycling, gardening, auto mechanics, or whatever. I visited a street in Garland, Texas where many of the neighbors worked in the construction trades – there was at least one carpenter, plumber, electrician, bricklayer, and roofer. They conducted regular work parties to help one another with their house projects. Those who lacked the skills to help with construction prepared lunch or supervised the children. A couple of the neighbors had built bars in their back yards so that everyone could socialize after a day of work.

The Value of Bumping Places

Gathering spaces are essential to building community. I like to call them bumping places because the best way to build relationships is to have places where neighbors can bump into one another on a regular basis. The closer those bumping places are to where you live, the more likely it is that you will continually bump into the same people. There are many opportunities to create bumping places on a street. A vacant lot or underutilized yard can be converted into a community garden or pocket park. A little free library combined with a bench becomes an instant bumping place.

In the Taiwan village of Tugo, residents have turned their front yards into small parks with tables that are shared with their neighbors. I met a man in Matsudo, Japan who had given up his valuable private parking place in order to redevelop it as a community gathering place complete with seating, fountain, and artwork created by the children of the neighborhood. In the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, neighbors converted their intersection into what they call Share-It Square, a most unusual bumping place. They painted a large mural in the intersection in order to slow traffic and provide a sense of place. Then, at each corner, they built a cob structure including a bench, a community bulletin board, a children’s playhouse, and a place where people can deposit and retrieve all sorts of free items. There is also a stand for a thermos of hot tea that entices neighbors to sip and talk together.

The Share-It Square neighbors didn’t seek the city’s permission before they painted the intersection, because they knew they wouldn’t get it. The project has been so successful, though, that the City of Portland now permits similar projects in other neighborhoods. And, the idea of painting intersections has spread around the world from the Cathedral neighborhood in Sioux Falls to the Riccarton neighborhood of Christchurch.

Connecting Neighbors through Events

Events are another way to connect neighbors at the street level. On the Fourth of July in Tacoma, Washington, residents are encouraged to barbeque in their front yards as a way of welcoming neighbors to join them. In other places, neighbors are invited to watch movies projected onto the side of someone’s house. Several rural communities in Australia have festivals in which all of the households along the road are encouraged to create unique scarecrows out of straw; neighbors walk the road together enjoying one another’s creativity. In Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario, there are several neighborhoods in which the houses have large front porches. They hold annual concerts featuring a band on each porch. Neighbors are invited to sit on the lawn and enjoy the music. I attended one such event that featured 44 bands with very different styles of music playing on 22 porches over the course of an afternoon.

Building Blocks for Larger Civic Action

Street-level organizing can produce the building blocks needed for larger civic action. Some neighborhood associations develop a broad base of participation by having their board members elected from each street. The street representative’s job is to ensure good two-way communication and to mobilize their constituency as needed. The City of Redmond, Washington used this decentralized approach to maximize public input into policy decisions. Rather than rely solely on the testimony of the “usual suspects” who attend public hearings, they produced videos on key issues under consideration. Those videos were made available for house meetings at the block level and the ensuing discussions engaged people who would never think of speaking in the city council chambers. Feedback from the house meetings helped inform decision-making by elected officials.

Oftentimes, the best way to build a campaign is house by house and block by block. For example, on the issue of climate change, neighbors can be given a menu of actions for reducing their family’s carbon footprint. Each action is worth a certain number of points. If the family can demonstrate sufficient points, they are given a yard sign identifying them as a green household. When green signs start spreading up and down the street, everyone is more likely to want to get on board. Similar approaches have been utilized in creating drug-free, nuclear-free, and hate-free zones. One of the best things about block organizing and one of the greatest challenges is that the neighbors often have more differences (e.g. race, culture, age, religion, politics, career) than are likely to be found in other types of communities that are organized around a common identity or interest. Some local places celebrate the unity of their diversity through common signage.

The residents of the Croft Place apartments in Seattle’s Delridge neighborhood did that as each family painted a placard hung above their door featuring their name and representing their culture. Similarly, on a street in Taiwan’s Taoyuan City, each household has a placard depicting the kind of work that their family does. In Roombeek, a suburb of Enschede in the Netherlands, houses on one street each have a display case showcasing what is special about the family that lives there. Agencies as Facilitators of Local Connections Street organizing works best when it starts with the interests of the residents themselves, but there is a role that outside agencies can play in helping to foster connections. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, for example, a community development corporation trained interested residents on how to build a block organization. Upon completion of the training, the participants were given vouchers to acquire the ingredients for three dinners that they hosted for their neighbors. Over dinner, they discussed their dreams, challenges and gifts and developed plans for supporting one another. The resulting block organizations also proved to be a good vehicle for voter registration and turnout.

In Portland, Oregon, a non-profit called City Repair provides a mobile bumping place known as the T-Horse. When the converted van arrives on a street, gigantic wings are installed on either side of the T-Horse to provide protection from sun or rain. Inside the van, they make tea and serve it to the neighbors who sit on cushions under the wings and get to know one another.

Many cities make it very difficult to organize street parties due to the time and expense involved in acquiring the required food handling and street closure permits. But some local governments, like Airdrie and Grande Prairie, Alberta and Burlington, Ontario, realize that they have an interest in building community. They make the regulatory process as simple as possible and even supply block party toolkits that include equipment and/or money to help with the event. The City of Seattle has a Small Sparks fund which facilitates residents who feel isolated to connect with their neighbors. For example, one mother and her child with disabilities used the money to purchase a wagon that they pulled door to door as a magazine exchange. Another individual noticed that all of the falling apples on her street were attracting rats, so she purchased a press and invited her neighbors to help make cider. A lonely senior in a high-rise apartment invited the neighbors in the surrounding houses to the community room on the top floor where they had a great time folding paper airplanes and tossing them out the window.

Many cities throughout the world sponsor a Neighbor Day as a way to encourage and celebrate caring neighbors. Among other things, the City of Seattle organizes a contest for students to depict pictures of caring neighbors. The winning entry gets printed on the cover of a greeting card and the inside message simply says, “Thank you, neighbor!” Thousands of people utilize these cards as an excuse to visit their neighbors and let them know that they are appreciated.

Building community in dense, high-rise housing can be challenging, but again, agencies can play a role in facilitating connections. Over 80 percent of Singapore’s population lives in multi-story buildings constructed and managed by the Housing Development Board (HDB). HDB has made community building a priority. They include community gathering spaces in their developments and make funds available to support community-driven place-making projects. An annual Buildathon trains practitioners on how to work in ways that are community-led, and a Community Week recognizes good neighbors and exemplary community projects.

A promising, relatively new tool for block organizing is the Abundant Community Initiative being implemented by the City of Edmonton and other municipalities. Utilizing a strengths-based approach, Block Connectors are recruited and trained to have conversations that uncover the gifts, needs, passions, and dreams of their neighbors. The information and relationships that emerge through this process lead to the formation of interest and activity groups, skills exchanges, and a vision for the neighborhood. The work is done under the auspices of the local community leagues and helps them to be more deeply rooted in each of their neighborhoods. Thus, neighborhood associations and agencies alike are learning that a top-down approach to citizen engagement doesn’t work. If you really want to get broad and inclusive participation, you need to start where people are – as close to their home and their heart as possible. Of course, starting where people are, also entails starting with their language and culture and with their pre-existing networks, but those are topics for future blogs.

Albert: “I love this paragraph: “Police departments typically fail to understand that the safest blocks are the ones that focus not on safety but on building community. Rather than simply teach people how to be secure in their homes and watch for strangers, residents should be encouraged to get out of their homes and connect with neighbors on a regular basis. It is much more sustainable for people to engage with one another around their wide range of interests rather than the police department’s narrow public safety agenda. That’s another key aspect of starting where the people are. In recognition of this, New Zealand’s program has morphed from neighborhood watch to Neighborhood Support.”
This fellow from Eugene passed away last April 2016. It’s good to read about people who spent their lives making a difference in their communities. “Wilde says, “Most of his background and activism centered around community resilience. How can our communities be as strong and resilient as possible? How are we operating within our communities to make it accessible and equitable for all its members?”
this one just in from the UK. Good to know there is good change happening in the world. “Across the country, community-owned pubs are hosting activities like massage, lullabies for babies and financial advice. Could this model save Britain’s locals?”
This looks like an interesting conference in this vein. I’m glad to know things like this are happening. I am curious if anything like it is happening closer to home. And, if not…. hmmmm
I’ve been thinking about ways we can recover from Eagle Creek and other wildfires. One way to do that and make some friends at the same time is to plant trees. Here’s the latest news from Friends of Trees.
Here’s a new Permaculture resource: Andrew Millison: I am sharing a free open-source textbook I wrote for my Advanced Permaculture Design for Climate Resilience course. This book is essentially about climate classification systems, climate change projections, finding analogous climates to your own around the world, and how to design for resilience from extreme climate and weather events. Please feel free to check it out and I hope it can be helpful to you! Here’s the table of contents: Part 1: Climate Assessment Climate Climate Classification Systems The Climate Analogue Tool Climate Analogue Examples Climate Change Projections Climate Change Analogue Examples Part 2: Design Strategies for Climate Resilience Drought, Heat, and Erratic Rainfall Wildfire Tropical Cyclone Effects Sea Level Rise and Flooding
Introducing the Eco-School Network We’re thrilled to launch the Eco-School Network as a nonprofit that equips parents and students in Northwest Oregon to lead the change toward sustainability. After incubation through the Center for Earth Leadership, our stellar parent leaders now engage 25,000 students/per year in preserving a healthy environment for all through school gardens, waste reduction, and walk and bike-to-school programs.
We Need Each Other: Building Gift Community: Our book is part of an emerging “gift culture” worldview. It is a manual for designing a personal community based on the gifts that each person brings. Focusing on non-residential, place-based, and committed community, we present tools to support and fortify the longing of the human heart for intimate, conscious connection. Indiegogo happening till end of today!–2#/
I’m not exactly sure where to file this. And, what we as a neighborhood could collectively do to stem the impact of climate change. Drive smaller cars? Stop driving altogether? Leave trees standing? Stop using gas-powered leaf blowers? Walk more. Bike more. Take the bus more. Stop ordering from Amazon. Buy local. Buy nothing. Anyway, this article got me thinking.
Here’s an article on why kids playing outside is a good thing.
A new world record was set by India planting millions of trees in one day. I wonder if Oregon could beat this record? “1.5 Million Volunteers Plant 66 Million Trees in 12 Hours, Breaking Guinness World Record”
—————- – thanks to my neighbor, Jamie, for this reference. There is no one coming to save us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Our lives and our cities are shaped by the forces of global capital, which can only produce social oppression and ecological destruction. To address these persistent issues, we’re building resilient networks of cooperation – block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood – to determine the conditions of our existence together.
an interesting documentary. Added to my watchlist.
This seems a good place for this. Improving our emotional health will build our community. And lead to better health for ourselves, too.
———————– The 100 things challenge | Dave Bruno | TEDxClaremontColleges Dave is the author of The 100 Thing Challenge, a book that documents his challenge to live with less than 100 personal items for a year. Dave challenges our conceptualization of The American Dream and asks us what is truly necessary to live a fulfilled and happy life. – I found this after reading The Art of Non-Conformity (great book!)
Thanks, Greta!

I’m not sure exactly where this one goes, but it’s such a sweet way to connect with your neighbors.

Here’s something that’s happening on this topic in SF.

This article just got shared on LinkedIn. Seems relevant today and going forward. HOW TO BE EXPERIENTIAL DURING A TIME OF ISOLATION

This looks very useful right now.

Staying Safe and Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Friends of the UCLA Longevity Center, I hope that all of you are safe and healthy during the challenging coronavirus pandemic. The Longevity Center has transitioned the Senior Scholars program to online learning, while all other educational programs have been temporarily suspended as we look to the feasibility of moving to offer our programs online using video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom). With the uncertainty and evolving impact of COVID-19, it is natural to experience anxiety, and like any emotion, anxiety can spread from person to person. Moreover, many of us are following current recommendations for social distancing, which will limit the community’s spread of the virus but also presents its own challenges with isolation and loneliness. You may wish to keep in mind some of the following tips to reduce the mental health risks during this incredibly challenging time:

Be cautious about unreliable sources of misinformation in the media. Rumors and distortions increase stress and anxiety levels. Turn to trusted sources of information so you can remain up-to-date on emerging situations. Anyone overwhelmed with emotions should contact a mental health professional for assistance. Our UCLA clinics have rapidly shifted to telepsychiatry to respect social distancing efforts and continue to deliver mental health care. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be unnecessarily upsetting so taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, especially on social media, will help to reduce illness worries.

For those who are sheltering in place, keep in mind that it can lead to isolation and loneliness, which increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. To overcome isolation, stay in touch with friends and family by phone, or even better, use social media and videoconferencing platforms (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Facetime). Keep to your daily routine as much as possible. If you are telecommuting for work, be sure to take your usual lunch break and maintain your daily habits. Try to remain positive. Just as anxiety can spread from person to person, so can optimism and a positive outlook. Rather than focus on worse-case scenarios, keep in mind what you are grateful about during these trying times. If you are feeling anxious, take deep breaths, stretch, do some yoga, or meditate. Try to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid excessive alcohol use. Staying physically active is important. Below are some resources you may find helpful, but be sure to check with your doctor before starting new exercises, which may need to be modified if too difficult.

Chair Exercises:
Gentle Chair Exercises: Sitting Only
Gentle Chair Exercises: Sitting and Standing:

For the latest information on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) please check the following resources. Talk about your concerns with people you trust: sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the true risk to yourself and people you care about will reduce your anxiety. Follow CDC recommendations to help prevent the spread of symptoms through social distancing; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces, and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. With our Longevity Center memory and healthy lifestyle classes temporarily suspended, check out some of the computer programs and websites for improving memory and other cognitive abilities, including Dakim Brain Fitness ( or 310-566-1350), Posit Science and Brain HQ ( or 866-599-6463), and Lumosity ( If you haven’t already, consider reading about how to keep your brain and body healthy as you age. I have written several books (e.g., 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain, The Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Program, The Small Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease) and there are many other excellent books on these topics (e.g., Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being by Andrew Weil).

You may benefit from relaxation practices that could help reduce levels of stress. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center ( provides education and support for people interested in learning methods to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness. Several apps that provide meditation can be downloaded to a smartphone as well (e.g., UCLA Mindful, Insight Timer, Calm, Insight LA).

To keep your mind stimulated, take a virtual field trip by visiting zoos, museums, mars, and more online and check out some of these webcams for an adventure from home: National Park Service: Hawai’i volcanoes Iceland: Hekla: Borcay Beach, Philippines: Philippine coral reef cam: Venice Italy: Northern Lights: Nagasaki Harbor: Audubon Society Animal/wildlife cams and Zen cams Africa: Puffin cam: Bald Eagle: Zen: NASA Space Station Cam: Zen: Tropical Reef Cam For more information from trusted resources visit: UCLA Health COVID-19 updates Los Angeles County Department of Public Health California Department of Public Health The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention World Health Organization Sincerely, Gary W. Small, M.D. Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging Professor of Psychiatry & BioBehavioral Sciences Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry Director, UCLA Longevity Center

5.18.2020 Albert: Something that keeps occurring to me – perhaps it’s occurring to you, too – is that just about everyone who you see right now is probably a nearby neighbor. We don’t have a lot of people from out of the area – Airbnb, out-of-town guests. Yet people hardly take a moment to say hello. I think there might be some value in slowing down a bit and noticing who is passing you by. I understand that it’s not the easiest time to meet your neighbors, but it’s not impossible. One value to know who lives around you is that they might end up becoming a friend. I haven’t thought this all the way through, but I have a feeling that if we were all to take a little more time to notice who is around us it could be a good way to strengthen the neighborhood. Perhaps this idea deserves its own thread. For now, I’ll leave it here.