How to Create a Neighborhood Network | Rebecca Stone | Skillshare

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How to Create a Neighborhood Network

teacher avatar Rebecca Stone, Creative Placemaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project: Create a Neighborhood Network

    • 3. So, What's a Neighborhood Network?

    • 4. Setting Goals & Defining Geography

    • 5. Choosing a Platform

    • 6. Happy Neighboring!

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About This Class

Do you want to make your neighborhood a better place? Do you wish you knew your neighbors' names? Do you just need to borrow a cup of sugar?

Knowing your neighbors matters for many reasons. Research shows that strong neighborhood ties can reduce crime, increase happiness, and even save your life. The COVID-19 pandemic shows that knowing your neighbors is more important than ever. Luckily, it's also easier than ever to get started.

Hi. I'm Rebecca. I'm a community builder, speaker, trainer, and consultant. At Community Workshop, we help people create great places to live, work, thrive and play. And I'm a neighbor.

This class is for anyone who wants to connect with their neighbors and create a stronger community. Together, we'll learn how to create a simple, online neighborhood network for you and your neighbors. In less than an hour, you can set up a platform that will help you find lost pets, share baking tips, help in emergencies, organize block parties, and much more. You don't need high-tech skills -- just a computer, internet connection, and a willingness to help out.

You'll learn:

‚ÄĘ Why neighborhood connections matter

‚Äʬ†What neighborhood networks are and how to start one

‚ÄĘ How to¬†choose and set up an online platform

‚Äʬ†How to publicize your network and help neighbors sign up

‚ÄĘ How to handle challenges and pitfalls and make your network thrive

‚Äʬ†Fun ways to take the connections offline


Start a class project, and I'll send you a link to download your free Neighboring Kit from Community Workshop. It's full of fun, customizable templates and printables like posters, invitations, and street stencils. They will make it easy to help publicize your network, meet neighbors, and start connecting. As a student, you'll also get occasional invites to ask me anything sessions, videos, tools and more.

Let's connect. I can't wait to share lots of creative ideas about how to build community and launch neighborhood networks. And I can't wait to see what you create. You can also find me and Community Workshop at: 

Community Workshop website




Meet Your Teacher

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Rebecca Stone

Creative Placemaker


Hello, I'm Rebecca. 

I'm a creative placemaker, community instigator, professional planner and public speaker. I live in rural Vermont and help build stronger communities across the globe with Community Workshop LLC. I love helping people cook up great ideas to make their neighborhoods, towns and cities better places. I'm the author of the DIY Community Cookbook, downloadable for free at

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1. Introduction: how to create a neighborhood network and make your neighborhood a happier, healthier, safer place. Be honest. How many neighbors could you ask for a cup of sugar? Do you know who needs help in your neighborhood or who would help you? Do you know how to get in touch with neighbors? You might help. Do you even know their names? Would you like to? All of this may seem trivial, but it comes down to this. Would you rather live in a neighborhood that looks and feels like this or this? It turns out it really makes a difference. Research shows the connected neighbors and neighborhoods have a host of benefits. Neighbors are healthier, happier. They even have longer lives. Property values go up, crime rates go down. But it's not so easy to just knock on the door and introduce yourself these days. That's why online neighborhood networks are helping neighborhoods everywhere to connect and get closer together in an easier way. When neighbours set up an online forum, they can meet easily, trade recipes, find lost pets, help each other out, organizing disasters and even settled block parties. And once you meet online, it's easier to say Hi in person. Hi, I'm Rebecca's inborn stone coming to you from Bethel, Vermont. I'm a consultant and planner with Community Workshop, where we help communities across North America build thriving, connected, livable places. This class is for you. If you're interested in making your neighborhood more connected, fun and engaging, no matter whether your neighborhood looks like this or this or this or anything, really, you can set up a thriving online network that will help you and your neighbors connect. You don't need experience organizing. You don't need fancy tech skills. All you need is a computer and Internet connection and a willingness to start helping your neighbors connect. This class will walk you through four easy steps to plan and launch your own neighborhood network. And if you follow along with a class project by the end, you'll have your network set up and ready to go. You'll learn how to define and plan a network and set clear goals. How to choose and set up a platform that will work for your neighbors. How to invite your neighbors and publicize the network. And how to make sure your network turns into a thriving, civil friendly online for? Do you like freebies? Me, too. I'll make it easy for you. Once you post your class project, I'll send you a free tool kit with printable downloadable publicity's materials forms, even street stencils and doorknob hangers to make it easy and fun tow. Launch your network ready to go. Let's get started Before you dio, I'd encourage you to find a few friends or neighbors to watch with you. Networks and neighborhoods are stronger when we do it together. Besides, someone might just loan you a cup of sugar. 2. Class Project: Create a Neighborhood Network: before we dive into the content, let's get started and set up for your class project. Let's create a really great neighborhood network. If you follow along and complete the class project as you go, then by the end of the class you'll have your own neighborhood network ready to go or it may turn out. You don't need to set up a new one. We'll walk through a number of really important planning questions. Why do you want a neighborhood network? How do you want to and dropped with your neighbors? Is there already one for your neighborhood that you could join? How do you set one up and what are the best platforms? And most importantly, how do you really make it succeed? I've created a free neighborhood network planner Template toe. Walk you through these important decisions and help you take notes as you go. To get the template, go to the Class Project section and click the link. You can also find it linked in the course description. That link will open up the template in Google docks. If you'd like to use Google Dr Self, you can make a copy of this template and adjust it as much as you like. Click file. Make a copy, give your document a new name and get started. You will need a Google account if you'd rather work offline, you can also click, file, download and save this template as a PdF, which you can print, or a word document that you can head it. Then you ready to actually start a class project. Go to the class Project section on Skills Year and create a new one. Give your project the name. Tell us where your neighborhood is and who you are and what you're looking forward to connecting with your neighbors. If you're using a Google doc, you can share a link to your neighborhood planning template. If you're not, you can upload a file or just write a couple senators to tell us about your neighborhood. Once you dio will be ready to dive in and start creating the content, and I'll send you a link to a free neighboring kit with some great free principles, tools and resources to help make it easier and more fun. So go ahead, take a minute, get your class project started and then join me again when you're ready to find out why neighbors matter 3. So, What's a Neighborhood Network?: So what's the neighborhood network? Let's actually start with a simpler question. What's a network? That's easy. It's all about connections connecting people, places. Those who live nearby work together. And what's a neighborhood that turns out to be a little bit harder? You might picture neighborhood looking something like this, but it turns out that many neighborhoods across the world look really different, so it comes down to sense of place. What's the place you identify with? Who are the people you want to connect with? It might be a single building with hundreds of residents. It might be an entire town or rural region. It might be something that does look like this with three line streets. So a neighborhood network, then is you guessed it a way of connecting the people who live in a particular place. That includes people who feel comfortable with each other, who feel safe, who want to identify and connect. And it means finding ways that those people can connect to share information, get to know each other, work together and build that sense of place. In the old days, that was a lot easier. We hung out on street corners. We worked together. We grew up together. Today it's a little bit harder. So that's why we turned to online community networks is a way to build those relationships , share information and help build connections that can actually lead to more offline relationships in the long run. So that's why today we turn to online platforms for neighborhood networks. When we can meet people from the comfort of our living rooms for the safety of our smartphones, it actually turns out to be easier to then get to know them. Offline Neighborhood networks Thes days are usually simple online platforms that let us connect with people who do live in our neighborhood or building. Or however we define it. Neighborhood networks let people exchange messages, ask questions, share ideas, sell items and get to know each other. There are many reasons you might want a neighborhood network. Here are a few Most neighborhood networks allow people to exchange a wide variety of messages and connect for different purposes like no, any good plumbers. What do you think about new school policy or the zoning regulations? Who's up for planting flowers today, improving the neighborhood? Did anybody see that accident on the corner. Can you help me find my dog? These may seem like simple questions, but they have deep benefits for neighborhoods and communities. It's really about exchanging tips and information that help us get where we need to go and find out what we need to find out. It's about offering help, sharing things and being able to ask for help when we need it. It's about a forum for discussion and civility, things that we don't have so many opportunities to do in real life anymore. Neighborhood networks help with Safety in Crime Prevention When we know our neighbors, we have safer neighborhoods. The bottom line is it's about relationships in giving us a way to organize whether about the block party cleanup, a protest or just ways to make our neighborhoods better places. So you think you want a neighborhood network? Not so fast. Very first step before you start building anything is to find out whether your neighborhood already has one. Chances are there may be something already set up, and Google is a great place to start. The very first step is to scan, take a look around and see what's there. You can start by searching common platforms. Places where people often do organized neighborhood networks. A site called Next Door is one of the most common. Facebook is home to many neighborhood network groups. Meet up dot com is a way to organize groups around specific topics. Chances are there's something in your area. Many neighborhoods organized on Google groups or Yahoo groups. Front Porch Forum is a list sir form available in certain states. Some neighborhoods organized on plain old email. You can also ask around, Stop in and have a child with a neighbor or a shop owner and see whether they know of a way that neighbors are already connecting. Give a call to your city or town government to a local nonprofit. Ask a landlord or a Realtor. And as you're doing, you're searching. Ask some important questions when you find a group. Which the focus Is it all about selling items? Or is it just a place for debates? What are the boundaries? Does it actually focus on the neighborhood you live in or want to connect with? Is it too broad? Is it too narrow? Is it active? Does it have any members? And they actually participate and Who are they, by the way, is it just one or two people, or is it a broad cross section of your neighborhood? So time to pull up your planning template and get to work on the first step of your class project. Scroll down until you get to the purpose in Scan section. Before you do any searching or Googling, get clear on what it is you're actually looking for. How do you define your neighborhood? What's the name of it? What's the scale and what kind of neighborhood network were you hoping for? Make a couple of notes about what it is you hope to see a discussion for him. Yard sale listings, group, chat all of the above. Then, once you start scanning, take some notes on what you find. Chances are you'll find a few different ways that neighbors in your community are connecting. It might be a website. An email list go up Message board might be on Facebook or what's up. As you find a few different places, take some notes. What's the actual geography? What kind of posts do you see? How active is it that will help you make the next really important decision. So decision time. When you do your search and find some neighborhood networks, or maybe not at all, it's time to decide. Is there something out there worth joining? Are you not finding exactly what you're looking for? Is there nothing at all? Walk through these decision points. If you find an existing neighborhood network a group, it's much easier to join that one thing to try to start your own. But there's still a lot you can do to be a really active, effective member, so don't give up on the course yet. Keep on listening. Maybe you'll find a network, but it's quiet. Many people start networks, but they don't actually understand the hard work that goes into building it and making it active. If you find one that exists but isn't great, think about restarting it. Maybe you'll find one, but it's not quite the neighborhood of the focus you want. In that case, you'll need to make a tough call. Is it close enough to live with for too far off from what you want? You might just decide to give it a try and see if there's nothing out there in time to get to work. Let's get started planning 4. Setting Goals & Defining Geography: So it's time to get started. You've done a scan, and if you found a neighborhood network that's already great, maybe you've joined it. But if not, you've landed here. Lots of people are ready to start diving in. Say, what platform should I choose? But seriously, let's plan first. There are also lots of different priorities. Some of these might stand out to you. Others might stand out to your neighbors. It's really important to get clear on that before you start setting up anything. So let's ask a few big questions. First of all, why are you here? What are your hopes for the network? What made you click on this class? What needs are out there in the neighborhood and what types of content to people want to share? What reasons might you have for connecting with your neighbors and what's missing in terms of platforms and communication channels that already exist? But if you just design a network that works for you, it's gonna be an awfully lonely place. So make sure you're also thinking about your neighbors. Why will they join what would make them participate in come back day after day? I think a lot about who your neighbors are, not just the ones you see walking down the street or, you know, but the ones who might be a little bit less visible. What did they need? What do they care about? How do they interact with each other already? How might they like to interact? What goals would they have for a new neighborhood network? Once you have some goals set, you really need to think about the place. Remember, this is harder than it looks. There's a lot that goes into defining the place your neighborhood network will be based on . Part of it's about geography, the actual boundaries on a map and part of it's about identity. What place to people connect with so more questions? When you're thinking about where to draw the lines on a map for your neighborhood network, how to name it and define it? Start by thinking about culture. What's the history of your area? Is there a neighborhood that's historically felt like a single place? Could you draw a line around an area that feels like a close, tight neighborhood where people would say they live in the same place? Do you live in a planned neighborhood. It might be a gated neighborhood. It might be a single building. In some cases, it will feel very clear. When in doubt. If you really don't know, go for a walk. Pay really close attention toe wear on your walk. It stops feeling like home. Finally, you can think about the geographic boundaries of your neighborhood. In really practical ways. People have studied what size makes the most sense, especially for online neighborhood networks. They found that somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 to 5000 households make sense. Really, there's a narrower window that works the best. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 to 2000 households in the United States, there's an average of about 2.6 people per household. So we're talking somewhere between about 252 15,000 people. Again, remember the ideal. It's really somewhere in the middle. Another way to think about size is geographic size. Sometimes people think of neighborhoods is about the distance. You could walk comfortably. So if there's a key landmark like a school or park that forms the center of your neighborhood in people's minds, you could draw a circle around it. You can also think about daily travel patterns, especially if you don't live in a dense urban area. If you're in a rural place like me here in Vermont, walking distance doesn't mean much of anything when defining a neighborhood. It's a lot more about where we drive. And in our case, 2000 households is more than a single town. Once you figured out what the place is when you start a neighborhood network, you also have to give it a name. Your job might be done for you if your neighborhood has an official name or a local one that might not appear on any maps, but it's what everyone calls it. In the absence of that, I think about street names or one of those landmarks. If there's a landmark or street that everyone knows and talks about is the center of your neighborhood that might make a great name. So time to pull up your planning template again. Pull up your class project and let's specify some goals and geography for your neighborhood . Take a minute and think about the main purpose is why are you here, and why would your neighbors come right down a specific goal on purpose you have for the neighborhood network. It might be very specific, like you need a place to post your online yard sale listings or it might be a little bit broader. You really want to meet new neighbors or have connections so that you can host a block party. Then take a minute and think big. What would it look like? If your neighborhood network is a smashing success? What would you see? What would feel different? What would change for you? Then get really specific about defining your geography and identity? What are you going to call your neighborhood network if your neighborhood itself doesn't have a name about how big is it? If you don't know, take a look at census dot gov, where you can pretty easily look up information like how maney households or people are in the area you've chosen. And what are the geographic boundaries or the area? Can you define it? Is it a set of blocks or streets? Is it about five miles out from the center point? Once you've identified that, we're ready to move on to the fun part, choosing a platform getting it set up and connecting with your neighbors? - Oh , there's a lot that goes into setting up a neighborhood network to make sure it's the right fit for the people who live there first up. Time to take another look at goals. Remember this. There are lots of different reasons why people might want to join a neighborhood network and participate in one. 5. Choosing a Platform: Now that you clear on why you wanna have a neighborhood network, what you hope it will do for your neighborhood and where your neighborhood is actually based. It's time to choose a platform and get set up before you can choose a platform. There's one last step. Let's think for a minute about criteria. What do you actually need in a platform? And maybe more importantly, what the other people in your neighborhood need? It's not enough to just pick a platform that you like in use regularly. If you want your neighborhood network to be used broadly, you need to pick one that will work for the greatest number of people here. A few questions to think about potential criteria that might help you choose one platform over another. Do you need something that's free for you? Organizer's in for all the members? Or do you have a budget to choose a paid flat form? Are you looking to go with something really simple? Maybe just text in the ability to send a message? Or do you want fancy features The ability to upload video photos tag people. How do you want to communicate via email on a website over social media or a special app. Do you want members to be able to share a profile or bio? Have a photo? Do you need people designated as add? Men's would have special rules on the page. What is it that you actually want a post in share for sale items? Discussion a map? Do you need an archive and think back to that geography? Are you looking for a platform focused on just a building on a whole street or neighborhood town or even a region, or does it not matter to you? Getting clear on these criteria will help you make a decision about which platform is right for you. So let's take a look at some options there. Dozens of platforms out there today that could be used to organize the neighborhood network . There's a great deal of variation among them from what they're intended to do to what they cost and what features they have. Here's a snapshot of some of the most common platforms used for neighborhood networks. It includes things like plain old email or even text messages, platforms like Facebook or Google groups that are used for many different types of organizing and some that a geared specifically toward organizing at the neighborhood level , like next door, front porch forum or my co op. Let's take a closer look. Many people use email chats, just a website standard communication platforms, especially when they're starting out. And there's some good reasons you might want to take that approach. These air free or cheap platforms, you really just need an Internet connection or a mobile device there really widely used their easy and familiar to many people. There's some downsides, too, though thes air a bit hard to manage. It's not easy to add or take someone off of a long string of emails. It's not easy to search back through messages and find old posts. These could be hard to discover. There's nowhere there usually listed, so you have to know about them in order to join. Then there set of platforms that have specialty purposes. Many of these are designed to work at the neighborhood level, but for specific reason. Something like meet up dot com is designed to help you meet up with groups of people who share similar interests for a particular event or meeting like a book club neighbor Land is a really comprehensive platform that is designed to help people in neighborhoods or communities have deep conversations and engaged around what they want for the future. Neighbor Land is designed specifically for planning projects or major efforts. It is more likely to be set up by a local government. I. O. B is geared toward helping neighbors work together on specific projects like starting a community garden, not just having a conversation. Many of these air free to use and set up that you might see some advertisements. They have a lot of support available and a lot of features. But remember, those features are designed to do specific things. They are really good at the specific purposes, but they're also be much less familiar to most of your neighbors. Thes aren't platforms we use every day. They have narrow purposes, So if you're looking to do more than what they offer, you'll need to find a different place and they can be pricey. One of the most common options for neighborhood networks is platforms that many people use every day. Facebook, Google groups, the's air flexible platforms. They weren't designed for neighborhoods, but they work really well for organizing people, in part because so many people are already comfortable with um, thes thought forms are usually free. They're widely used. So many of the people in your neighborhoods probably already have accounts. They're also extremely flexible. You decide what the neighborhood boundaries are. You decide with. The focus is you can add and delete your groups out. Well, the downsides are there, not universal. There are people who don't use Facebook and don't use Google sometimes very intentionally. They need riel moderation, and there's not likely to be anyone to help you with that. You'll have to create your own group guidelines, monitor them and probably enlist some other people to help you. And they're not neighborhood specific. So you'll need to define the geography, describe it really well and specifically invite people. Here's an example of one in my region set up for the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. Many of the platforms we've talked about already wouldn't work at all, since this group includes a number of towns across to state boundaries, and they have goals of discussing any number of things from interesting events or people to postings, yard sales and great finds in the upper Valley. Something like Facebook works best for this group because it's really flexible. Anyone conjoined and moderators can change the discussion and the guidelines as needed. Last, let's take a look of platforms designed specifically four neighborhood networks. Front Porch Forum is really email. No fancy photos, no fancy profiles. It's really accessible and easy to use. The downside is it's not available everywhere. Yet. Next door is one of the most popular, and it is available nationwide. Next door has all the features he'd come to expect on another social network but designed specifically for neighborhoods. And my co up is similar but designed for specific building. If you live in a building with a lot of other neighbors, my co op might be for you a quick look at benefits and drawbacks. Most of these platforms air free to users, but that does mean you'll probably see a lot of advertisements. My co op has paid subscription rates. They are designed four neighborhoods, so you'll find features and guidelines and support that fit. The support typically is pretty good. The people running these platforms understand what it takes to run an offer. Good neighborhood network, and they're here to help. Another downside an is many people in your community or neighbourhood have probably not heard of them before and might not know toe look there. The features will vary. Something like front Porch Forum is extremely simple. Next door offers a lot that can be less flexible. Since these air designed four neighborhoods, most of thes special neighborhood platforms have certain limits in place, like a minimum number of households or a maximum or specific geographic area, you won't be able to go far out of bounds. Many have also already specified what's OK to post or how to post or what format. Some have guidelines. Many have restrictions on who is allowed to be a member. If that fits, your purpose is great. You may have an easier time getting set up and ready to go. If it doesn't, you'll need to try something more flexible unless thes do need riel moderation and publicity as well. Because people aren't aware of them, you'll need to do some work to get the word out and invite people to join so back to planning. You may well want to take a little while to scan around and check out some of these sites before you go much further. But pull up that planning document in your class project. Before you do, that's can take a minute and think about those criteria. What are the top attributes or features that your neighborhood network platform needs? Is it really about a specific geography, like a building or a town? Do you absolutely need to have a mobile app? Does it need to be free? Do you need to have profiles? Figure out which features are most important to you in your neighborhood. And remember, I think a lot about your neighbors here, even if you're comfortable with one platform. Asked whether your neighbors would be a swell I to just picking three platforms to really explore. The ones I've listed here aren't the only ones, but they are the most common. So take a look around before you make a decision, log in, create an account, do a demo and, if it's helpful to you, used the planning document to take some notes about what works and what doesn't for you and your neighborhood. Finally make a call. What's the best choice for your neighborhood if you're not sure you can always start with something informal like that email list, or start by heading out on the street and having a chat with some of your neighbors. One of the simplest ways to find out what will work is to ask people. How would they like to connect? Good luck Scanning post questions in your class project. If you're not sure which direction to go one to find your decision will be ready to start setting up. 6. Happy Neighboring!: I hope you had a great time creating your first neighborhood network. If you've been following along, you've probably completed your class project by now and launched your network, so show us how you did update your project. Include a link to your network if it's available online. If it's not, maybe it could take some screenshots or at least give us an update with some photos and some text. We'd love to see how your networks doing. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions. I'm glad to answer questions about networks, whether it's what platform makes sense for you or how to handle a troublesome situation. You've run into stick around in the class All post announcements and Alan men, including more free tool kits or the occasional Ask me anything session and I'll be posting more great skill share classes coming up about building community launching mutual aid networks. How to help transform your block. So happy neighboring. Thanks for watching take care