4 Steps To Building Better Community

You undoubtedly want to take your passion for urban farming to the streets—but first, you need to gather a crowd of supporters.

by Aliza Sollins

Further your urban-farming dream by getting people in your community on board with what you're doing.

Summer in the City

If you’re planning on growing a school garden, promoting a biking or carpool club at your work, encouraging rain barrel use by your neighbors, or promoting any other sustainability issue that requires a lifestyle change by those around you, you might try reading Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers. Rogers’ theoretical model has been applied to marketing, public health, agriculture and many other fields to encourage users to adopt new ideas or technologies.

Changing our lifestyle behaviors is hard. Encouraging those around us to change can be even more difficult. These ideas may help you spread the word and build a more sustainable community.

1. Communication Must Be Two-Way

To spread ideas and promote change, it will benefit you to ask people what they think. You may find potential barriers or creative ideas that surprise you. Practically, this may mean going to neighborhood association meetings or town hall meetings to discuss the creation of a community garden or conducting a door-to-door survey in your neighborhood to find out what they think of you setting up a chicken coop in your backyard.

2. Find Your Agents Of Change

Connect with local community members who are respected and trusted. This might mean a local teacher, blogger, club member, or that woman who sits on her porch every day and knows many people in the neighborhood. It will be easier and more effective to connect with leaders in the community than to try to change all members of your community at once. When people see someone similar to themselves adopting a new behavior, they’re more likely to accept the new idea.

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3. List The Advantages

Make the advantages of adopting new behaviors very clear. People are more likely to pick up trash, eat locally, bike more, use rain barrels or engage in other sustainable behaviors if they know how it will benefit them and find it easy to integrate into their current lifestyle.

4. Start Small

Start with a small-scale trial project for your sustainability issue. For example, before building community gardens across the city, start with one in your own neighborhood and recruit some friends and neighbors to participate. The trial will teach valuable lessons about successes and failures before you scale up. Community members may be more likely to adopt larger and more sweeping changes once they see success on a smaller level.

About the Author: Aliza Sollins spent five years working in urban agriculture as a co-founder of Boone Street Farm in the beautiful, gritty heart of Baltimore City, teaching canning classes, learning how to raise backyard poultry, and gardening with refugees from Iraq, Bhutan, Sudan, Burma and more. She is now the assistant manager of the Lexington Farmers’ Market in Kentucky. 


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