Toolkit: First steps for your neighborhood association

First steps for your neighborhood association

Decide how you’re going to define your neighborhood. For most people, that means setting physical boundaries for what it means to live in River Park, or North Shore Triangle, or in Rum Village. The Neighborhood Resources Corporation website has a helpful map of South Bend neighborhoods.

Neighbors walk in the annual River Park Day parade on Mishawaka Avenue.

From there, you can see if your neighborhood already has – or once had – an association, and roughly what the boundaries look like.  You can also see if nearby neighborhoods are organized, and if any of them may be a helpful resource, sharing their strengths and lessons learned as you begin to shape your own.

Choose streets and addresses that help you define your sense of place. For example, if you use Neighborhood Watch grids, often used by the police department to collect data and define beats or sectors, they may include one side of the street but not the other. That’s fine, but in real life neighbors wave to the family across the street – so you’d want to include both sides. On the other hand, if a river and bridge run through your community, they create both natural and manmade barriers. You may wish to create a boundary there, or where a railroad track or college campus shapes the neighborhood space.

You may also wish to consider including residents who otherwise have no “neighborhood.” If there’s a nearby apartment building surrounded by businesses, people there may be pleased to connect with you.

Once you’ve decided on what the neighborhood boundaries look like, it’s time to think about who you hope to connect with. There are several ways to reach out to neighborhood residents, and South Bend neighborhood associations use them all: delivering flyers door-to-door, creating a Facebook group, and building an email listserv database are all communication strategies. The best way to start out, though?Talk to people.

Knock on doors, meet your neighbors, learn their names and briefly share with them why you want to start a neighborhood association. Invite them to share their concerns too – and listen.

Go ahead and knock on neighbors’ doors! That’s still the best way to meet people, learn their names and invite them to join you.

Ask them to come be a part of what you’re doing in the neighborhood, and help you build an association. Even a half-dozen people who want to build community with you can serve as your starting core group.

What the core group can do