For most, the work-life balancing act leaves little time to build community. Top that off with a ‘reality-based’ pop culture that is obsessed with outrageous behavior (Real Housewives, etc.) and you get an environment that actually makes building community more of a challenge. That said, community associations, with common elements and amenities, have a built in infrastructure to help promote socializing beyond the board meeting.
With the advent of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, we now live in a time where personal interaction is no longer necessary to stay connected. This makes it harder to build the personal connections needed to effectively govern a community when everyone is hidden behind laptops or smart phone screens.
Personal interaction is critical to a well-run community. When neighbors get to know each other, they are less likely to project their community frustrations onto neighbors or board members. So, a more connected community will have a better understanding of governance decisions and the personalities engaged in community leadership.
The best way to bring folks together in your community is to set a schedule of periodic and enjoyable social events for residents. Residents can use social media to spread the word which cuts down on the time and expense of marketing materials. It even allows for the collection of RSVPs. With such tools it is easier than ever to set up a social event, while reaching people on the platforms they use the most.
The best way to work toward engaging residents is to consider establishing a neighborhood social committee. Such a committee can be charged with identifying and setting up periodic social events for the community. Such events do not have to be a major production, just an opportunity to share some time with neighbors. Some great examples are Friday BYOB or wine get-togethers hosted by a neighbor. In this case, folks bring a lawn chair and a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of the week. Grilling cook outs, dog parades and other creative ideas also help encourage residents to get out into the community.
When neighbors get to know each other, it has a tremendous impact on governance. Understanding each people’s various perspectives, needs and challenges can serve to make the board more empathic in its decision making process. From a homeowner standpoint, it personalizes the association leadership, helping to remove uncertainty from decisions to enforce rules in the community. In the end, familiarity is the best tool to ensure civil community engagement and familiarity comes with social engagement.
By: Andrew S. Fortin
Associa Senior Vice President, External Affairs