One of the largest facets of our organization is the cultivation of locally aware consumerism. We strive to help local communities understand some basic principles that will allow them to not only develop products and services that will help benefit their respective communities but also provide an incentive to consumers to spend money locally.
One of the many ways we do this is to help local citizens understand not only the means but also the value, of organizing a community garden. Such endeavors by local citizenry not only works to bond together communities with their leaders but also to help spread the awareness and reliance of a community among itself rather than outside sources. This type of inward dependence can help to strengthen ties among communities and better fortify them against exterior economic circumstances. While there are certainly many means to conduct such a strengthening of community, the construction and active upkeep of a community garden are one of the best places to start; many people understand the concept and are excited to begin learning how they can get involved. We are going to outline a simple, yet basic, approach for helping your community get set up with a shared garden that can help boost ties and community resilience.
Don’t be the group that everyone has to wonder who they are—make sure you are actively talking with other members of your community regarding your groups’ projects and goals. There is no resistance stronger to community outreach than a non-receptive community. We’ve found that the most influential factor of this equation that works against most groups is that people are simply leery of the unfamiliar. Your group may be doing something truly great and magnanimous but if no one is aware of what’s going on you will receive little support and, more often than not, rude remarks from people that notice your group in action yet are unaware of what is going on.
The best way to counter these types of issues is to simply talk to members of the community that is closest to the location of your project. For instance, if your group is planning on building a community garden near a city park, you may want to spend one Saturday afternoon at that park meeting some of the residents and asking them how they would like to see the project evolve. Through our years of outreach, we noticed that while many people are silent regarding community projects, most are very willing to share their input if asked. There is an almost predictable majority of those that respond to such questions that will also offer to lend their services in the cultivation of projects.
Respond to Feedback
Don’t just ask questions of the community without regard for their responses; it is important to address the content of these responses as valuable contributions to the direction of your organization’s goals. Many groups can often get caught up in the details of their projects to a degree that they forget the end goal is always to serve the community. While it may be hard to do if for instance, the majority of the community members say they wouldn’t want a community garden, be prepared to drastically alter your project goals and logistics. If a community doesn’t want a community garden, then don’t press them for a community garden—it’d end up being solely your group’s garden anyway…
Sometimes, the response of communities can be underwhelming to say the least and doesn’t provide much motivation to those seeking to impact it. While a positive response from members of your project’s community is great, we’ve found it functionally-beneficial to approach each new project with the understanding that we may be the only ones that ever get involved with it. Not only does this help one’s group focus on their own motivations for doing positive actions for a community, but it also helps shape the planning stages which can help increase the longevity of projects. For instance, if you assume no one will be watering your new community garden on a regular basis, you may account for solar-powered water pump systems to help automate the gardens ability to survive a bit of negligence from the community. This is just a simple example but illustrates the principle of hedging your groups’ goals to help achieve the greatest overall impact across the board.