Inviting a bunch of people to something can be intimidating, but it’s easy if you go into it with a plan. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.
The short version: Number all the homes you are going to invite on a map. Try to select a rational group of 60-90 homes. Give this map to everyone.
We encourage you to use the block party to kickstart a rhythm in your community. Hopefully, it will be the first of many fun engagements you will enjoy. If you choose the right borders, the people living there will naturally share an interest in all the public property that everyone shares. This is the natural basis for community – shared interest. Celebration is a part of that.
Of course, this is your party. Make it any size you want. Food and scheduling is easy for small numbers of people.
“Everybody come over for the 4th. I’m grilling sausages.” Done.
Which people, though? The person with the idea for the block party does not have to choose this. It should be well considered.
It’s a little bit of work, and you shouldn’t try it unless you’re going to apply yourself to the task.
If you are up to the challenge, then go for it. If you choose well, you may improve the lives of 150 people.
Get out Google maps and zoom in on your location. Google maps has a view that outlines each house. You can swap between normal and picture view to figure out where everything is. Each home has about 2 adults, so you’re going to pick out the most rational, logical, useful set of about 75 locations.
In most cases, the 75 homes can surround a “common area” that you can cooperatively use. Closing a street is almost trivial if you can get the buy-in of every person that uses it. You can secure an area for children and make huge improvements to an area as a community - if you design the community with common area in mind. This may be the only good reason to move away from a target population of 150. If there is a perfect logical grouping of 120 or 180 people (60 to 90 homes), do it. Try not to stray too far out of this range, however. There are compelling reasons that 150 is a good target.
Print a map and draw on it or take a screenshot and edit it in your favorite paint program. Draw a border around the homes that will be invited and try to follow property lines. Number each home on the map, so you can refer to them by number. 1,2,3,4,5...74,75.
Make a list with some columns:
Write all the home numbers in the house number column, sequentially.
Now, find your number on the map. If your home number on the map is 29 and 2 people are going to the block party from your house, you fill in:
This makes it so the list has no unrequired personal information on it, allowing you to not worry too much about the content getting away from you.
If you’re not making a community map, just keep track by writing down actual addresses, or track it your own way.
The short version: Invite the people you marked on the map.
Inviting people can be done in many ways. The goal is to contact every person and get feedback, buy-in, and volunteers. The best way to contact people is in person.
Door knocking is awkward. Some people look out the window and then decide whether to come to the door. If you look like you’re selling something, they’ll just pretend to not be home. So, the first type of volunteer you should get is people to knock on doors with you.
Practice a small script with any details you already have worked out.
“Hi, my name is Joe, and I live in that white duplex on the corner. We’re setting up a block party for the community. It’s 71 homes, and we’re doing it in the condo parking lot on Sunday the 27th. Would you be willing to help me invite your neighbors? It will only take 10 minutes.”
Be a matchmaker and get help at the same time.
Anyone that goes with you doesn’t need a separate explanation. Bonus. Plus, people go with momentum. The first person will be the hardest to get to join. Once two people are saying, “It’s easy, come with us,” you will have a lot of success. You might have to do 1 to 10 places alone, depending on how stodgy your neighbors are, but once you have 2, you will get a lot of help.
Once you get to 6, split into 2 groups of 3, and split up the map. People might cycle out of the group after 10 or 20 homes. Try to keep all the groups between 3 and 5 people, and they’ll have a good time.
What you need to communicate to each person, and what info you need to collect will be determined by you. If you want, you can make the plan and get support, or you can build the plan as you go.
Do you need a child area, or would baby-sitting volunteers be preferable?
Ask people if they’d be willing to perform at the party. How you handle entertainment will be dependent on who lives in your neighborhood. Scheduled performers? An ad-hoc talent show? Wall to wall karaoke?
Making friends involve doing something with a people you don’t know well. The cool thing about the people going to this party is – if you find someone you like, they live within a five-minute walk of you, and you can actually have a close friend who is actually close. In 150 people, you can probably find three friends. That’s a great thing about block parties.
This whole experience is an opportunity to make friends and socially connect. Inviting people in person is a fantastic excuse to meet the neighborhood.
The party is an excuse to interact with others in a meaningful way before, during, and after the party.
Try to make it big if you want. If you inspire people to reach for something grand, then it will take a lot of work to build, and the connections created during the process will dwarf the party itself.
Or, like… um… do sausages and a stereo. Even if that’s all you got, people will still have fun and connect. If 150 slackers throw a block party, it’s not going to be Burning Man, but they’ll still have a blast. They’ll bite into a sausage on a bun with no condiments and be pleased, amazed that someone actually brought a grill out here.
Figure out who to invite and invite them. Be willing to make mistakes, and go forward, boldly.
Make friends, and if you put forth the effort, you can build a community.
The magic formula for creating community is:
Do step 2 vigorously for one year, and boom! That’s a community.
Block parties are a perfect way to build community. They become one of the greatest expressions of a community. Every time you throw a block party with your neighbors, it will get easier and better – and in five years, it will be an epically on-point expression of your neighborhood.