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Local Community--Spreading Ideas/Ideals

 
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Location: Tennessee
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Some folks posting here have the opportunity to join or build an intentional community. My opportunity is going to be to somehow help my community shift in small ways towards what's good and right.  I am thankful for so much about where I live: we have two days of farmers' markets, thankfully (although our region hasn't gotten quite into the importance of organics yet).  I'd like to help spread more good ideas and encourage better practices where I live.

In 2020, I tried to start a blog/website for this town, and even put up a professionally-printed sign to advertise it, trying to get some of my favorite social ideas of Distributism, shopping locally, and gardening on the radar of the folks who live around me. Not one person from my area has ever subscribed to my site, as far as I know.  I'm not counting it as a failure, though--in my intorverted way, at least I tried building something small to make my neighborhood better. I love my adopted area very much, and I would love to contribute more helpfully to encourage citizens to embrace Permaculture and the other good stuff that goes with it.

What are some useful things a grateful, idealistic, and introverted citizen can do to help her neighborhood move toward resilience, sustainablility, and all that good stuff?
 
gardener
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Wonderful topic!

I think... there are two sides to this. One is the your interest/motivation/drive side. The other is the business orientation of finding demand or solving a problem and then presenting an attractive permaculture solution. A third and in my opinion probably most difficult is trying to convert existing practices into permaculture ones.

1. The easiest thing to do is what you're most interested in doing. Keep doing it, talk about it, create results, and hope people catch on.

You're making the website already, great! Keep going. It often takes a really long time for websites, blogs, and such to gain traction. And if they continue putting out good stuff, I think the audience will find it eventually. The web is full of links and search engines love links. Maybe link yours here?

2. If an entrepreneur were to approach the situation, they would try to create value for some section of the market. Maybe make it more attractive or lucrative for farmers to bring in organic produce to the market days. Or create an incentive for shopping locally, maybe some rewards program.

With regards to the website from this perspective: What information is on there that people NEED to see? Or what benefit will they get out of it if they do see it? Once that information is there, use it to catch your audience.

---

I'm in a similar situation. I'm trying to understand my community first, observe it, and then when I have the time and ability I hope to create some permaculture opportunities here. I have quite a few ideas, but the two community oriented ones I'm considering are a repair cafe event and a green woodworking or traditional crafts (especially basketmaking) workshop. I will definitely need cooperation and resources that I don't have right now for both of them, but I can start the thought processes rolling now.
 
Rachel Lindsay
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Thank you so much for such an incisive and encouraging reply. Wow--those considerations are really going to help me focus both my thinking and my future efforts!

This bit from the beginning section underscores the fact that to make the kind of difference I hope to, I will have to get out of my comfort zone.

L. Johnson wrote:... The other is the business orientation of finding demand or solving a problem and then presenting an attractive permaculture solution. A third and in my opinion probably most difficult is trying to convert existing practices into permaculture ones.



To know what demands/problems the people have, and then to show them any solutions I may have, I am first going to need to take a deep breath and...go and meet the people!
 
pollinator
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I held a "no sales" yard sale, where I just gave my stuff away for free. I didn't advertise except to my closest friends and family, and then people in my neighborhood stopped by as they saw it. So many were confused when I said, "take what you want! No charge!" Many responded with, "I really need to do this. I have so much stuff to give away," and the next year, a few people did bring items to give away or trade. I'd love to do it as a neighborhood-wide event instead of just mostly my stuff, advertising to bring what you don't want and take what you do want. I imagine it would only work in select neighborhoods, and I don't know that mine is one of those. I haven't met enough of my neighbors yet, so that's my first step.

Best of luck with the blog! That sounds like a great step, too. One of my favorite blogs was a local one that focused on events and attractions. She found so many things nearby that I didn't know existed.
 
Rachel Lindsay
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Nikki Roche wrote:I held a "no sales" yard sale, where I just gave my stuff away for free.



That sounds like a great idea! It is the only way something like that would work where I live. In college I spent two years living in a very very Ritzy part of Maine, where there was a swap shop filled with amazing treasures (microwaves, home decor, Encyclopeida Britannica sets, everything!) that was merely cast-off junk to the super-wealthy. I've always wanted to access something like that swap shop again, but where we live now...I don't think it could work, for many reasons.

We have many great thrift shops, bargain/remaindered-goods stores, and a family-owned "scratch and dent" which I love to shop. These places, all patronized frequently by many in the area, indicate to me that there is fertile ground in my community for spreading more such good ideas. Perhaps when we move I will try this "no sale" yard sale to spread this great idea.
 
master steward
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Rachel said, "What are some useful things a grateful, idealistic, and introverted citizen can do to help her neighborhood move toward resilience, sustainablility, and all that good stuff?



Rachel, I like your idea and what you are trying to do.

If I were in wanting to get my ideas or ideals known to the community I would try to get to know everyone I met just a tiny bit better than I normally would.

I would learn their names so each time I saw them I can at least wave and say Hi, ____.  That way I will impress them that I really care about the community.

After I got to know a few people I would have them over for a tea party or a BBQ.  This way I would be getting to know them better.

Once I found the ones that share my same values then occasionally I would mention something that might help them.

Joining s garden group or a sewing group or even kids activities could open up a whole new world.
 
L. Johnson
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Rachel Lindsay wrote:
To know what demands/problems the people have, and then to show them any solutions I may have, I am first going to need to take a deep breath and...go and meet the people!



As an ambivert I can understand how that might be difficult. I love hosting parties and to a lesser extent hanging out with medium sized groups of people, but I am always exhausted afterwards. Sometimes even in the midst of the event.

I can see one out you have though! Write up a paper survey with a bunch of educated guesses about peoples' needs and plop it down with some good signage in highly trafficed area. Some people love filling out surveys. You might get some good information without having to entertain...
 
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Pies. Squash.  A dozen eggs. Some home-made goat milk soap with a note saying, "There must be some perks to living next to noisy goats!" I leave these things on my neighbors' doorsteps. I love doing this. They may or may not reciprocate, but it does open a line of communication that wasn't there before.

I stopped dreaming of living in an intentional community, and just decoded to be more intentional about community. There is no (repeat, NO) guarantee that I would get along better with people in some other mythical fabled perfect eco-village. As the years go by, I think I am actually better able to connect in a neighborly way with the eclectic bunch of people around me.  My goal is to be a resource to them. I don't want to overwhelm them with gifts, but an occasional token from the farm with a note saying, "If you ever want a tour of our homestead, here are a few good days for it and my phone number!"

I love where I live and I love people. Hopefully people notice that on some level and say, "Give me what she's having."
 
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Rachel, what is your blog address? I am in Brentwood, are you close by?
 
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Alexia Allen wrote:I stopped dreaming of living in an intentional community, and just decoded to be more intentional about community.



Love this Alexia!

As a fellow introvert Rachel, I feel you. And as someone who lives in a city on a block where everyone has jobs and works all day so that I rarely see people, it's hard. But I have found that joining neighborhood groups, associations, and activities, while outside my comfort zone, is helping me get to know people. My backyard chickens have also turned out to be a great neighborhood outreach, especially when I give away eggs :) Be careful though that you don't bring an agenda with you when you join groups or meet people. Do it because you want to know your neighbors and be part of the community not because you have ulterior motives. People will pick up on your hidden agenda and keep their distance. Also, know that it takes time. Good luck!
 
steward
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Neat topic!  I'm also starting to work on things to make my community more resilient and permie.  My vague goal is to make my area a permaculture hub in the world.

Here are some things I'm doing that you may want to consider.  Or adopt to your own style.  Or just steal a little bit from...

First I joined the local master gardener club to start to meet other folks who grow stuff.

Then I started a Homesteading club.  Shameless plug - read all about it here: Starting a Homesteading Club

That got me in touch with 100+ people in my area.  The club doesn't charge dues so the email list is pretty big.  It's a network so if anyone wants to find someone who has draft horses, it's an email away.  

I also participate in any Earth Day or Sustainability things that start up in my community.  That further increases my web of connection.

Now I'm collaborating with the other spiders who have their own webs.  We're all talking and pulling in the same(ish) direction.  

Oh, and I helped get a permaculture community garden going.  That's yet another thing that will bring more people into permaculture in our area.

Most of this stuff wasn't here when I moved to town 6 years ago.  Just keep putting ideas out there and networking and it will happen for you.

 
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I am so happy to see this post!! I think so many are going through this, especially Permie folks.

I can only speak of my own experience. I live in Greenwood Lake NY and was compulsively driven to find a solution!(whatever that means). My solution was and is to create a local food system. I had no idea how to create this so I just decided to contact people I feel would be like minded and called a meeting, a few of my friends showed up.

To make a long story short 3 years later and dozens of empty meetings and events where 2 people showed up here I am. I was driven by a compulsion and strong belief.

Now we have a non profit with a board, Facebook page, Zoom Garden Plot, and a community garden. I’m just saying start with a vision and belief, really study your neighborhood, listen and talk with as many people as you could and stick with it.
 
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I love this post. I've only been here a couple years and honestly haven't connected with anyone else that is on the same 'vibe'. (BTW, if there are any permies here in and around Victoria BC, would love to chat).

I have been fostering a nice little community with people in my neighborhood in a similar way to some of y'all. Lots of loaves of sourdough and garden goodies. I think that it is a big thing to break down 'the way things are' and try and encourage people to share freely and start talking about big ideas. Little steps!
 
gardener
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As a fellow introvert this is something I've been struggling with too for far to long.  

One thing no one else has mentioned yet that I've done was to start going to my local library's book discussion group.  It has allowed me to get to know a few more people in my community.  Over time I've been able to insert permaculture ideas into our discussions through the natural sharing of my thoughts and perspectives on topics that come up with the books we read.  In the past I even suggested the Building a Better World in Your Backyard book by Paul and Shawn would make an excellent book discussion book.  The group saw my enthusiasm and agreed it sounded good.  A discussion member who was part of the Friends of the Library group got the Friends to donate money to purchase enough copies for a book club bag which we got first, but is now available and hopefully circulating to other book discussion groups within the 20 or so library system.  As part of this I also agreed to write up some discussion questions that could be used as starting points to get a discussion going and guide it along.  I've made these available publicly on my blog too.

To my dismay Covid then hit right around the time everything was coming together and that devastated our book discussion group.  For months there was nothing with the library all but shut down.  Personal changes within the library moved our discussion leader away to be replaced by someone new further damaging the community of the group.  They started some zoom discussions and did do the book, but at this point only 4 of us were "there".  

In person discussion had started up again, but attendance has been very very sparse.  Sadly just today I got a call telling me they were stopping all in person activities again and moving our scheduled discussion next week to zoom.  I am hoping that things will stabilize at some point and this little community can revive.  I just started reading Braiding Sweetgrass after learning about it here on Permies and though I haven't finished it yet I believe it would be another excellent book discussion book, in fact there is a thread here in our forums for an ongoing discussion of it.

Something I was thinking recently that I really should do, esp. since I live in a small rural township, is to just attend and listen in to some township meetings.  Hopefully that would let me get the sense of who my local leaders are and what issues they are dealing with for our regional community.  Maybe I can see areas I could help with to improve my township and steer things into more sustainable permaculture ideals.
 
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I'm also a frothing introvert, but I've found ways to work with communities I've lived in to share knowledge (and eggs!) with others around me. I spent quite a bit of time living in places where there were language barriers between neighbours, but we found ways around that!

One great idea was akin to the "little free libraries" that are popping up everywhere. We created little seed banks that people could draw from or deposit into. Some were solitary heirloom varieties, while others were starter packs. For example, we had a "three sisters" starter pack with local heirloom corn, bean, and squash varieties. There were also medicinal herb kits, culinary herb kits, etc. Some people generously donated amendments and treatments like bone meal or diatomaceous earth!

People started to leave notes for each other in these little libraries, and eventually we managed to coordinate some sit-down meetings, like picnics or tea in a nearby park. In one area, we were given permission to create a community garden in an unused lot that was never going to sell. In another locale, an elderly land owner allowed us to create a food forest garden for the surrounding neighbors in exchange for prepared foods that we harvested (cooked meals, canned/pickled preserves, and the like).

I see these kinds of endeavours like expanding spirals, in which we take tiny steps at first, and they in turn lead to larger happenings (and pick up both people and momentum along the way!).

Some things I've learned:

- People love free stuff: seeds, eggs and preserves (as mentioned by others here), meals, coffee... you want to draw people in? Offer them free swag.
- They also love giveaways: you can load up a tote bag with an organic/permaculture starter kit as a giveaway—all they need to do is sign up for your newsletter, and you'll do a draw on X date.
- Getting together towards a common charitable goal: Is there an elder care residence in the area? Post that you're asking everyone to plant an extra row of whatever they're growing so you can donate that to the care home. Many residences have small budgets and they're delighted to get fresh produce like spring peas, strawberries, etc. Just talk to the admins first to make sure all is okay in that regard. If you get the go-ahead, you may be pleasantly surprised to see how many people mobilize to do good for the vulnerable in their communities.

Where you go from there will depend a lot on the people around you. Some might be really interested in a weekly organic produce box created by local farmers and delivered to their door. Others might be more interested in an annual harvest festival where they can buy preserves, dry goods, and frozen items to stock their pantries.

Extraverts might be great at schmoozing, but introverts are usually awesome planners and coordinators. As others have said here, use your own skill set in the best way you can, and don't get discouraged! Like perennial vegetables, root systems need to establish (sleep and creep) before the plants can leap into action. <3

 
pollinator
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Interesting topic! I did not yet read all of it, but want to start my answer(s) here.
First: how to do this depends very much on your region, town, neighbourhood, etc. I could tell you how we started here, in this small town in the Netherlands ...

No, I won't give you many details. But I can tell you there was one person who wanted to start a Permaculture group (and garden). She then told a friend. That friend knew how to contact town council and ask for permission. The two of them organised an evening in a cultural centre, to tell about Permaculture ... This all was the start, now over 5 years ago. Now there is this Permaculture (educational) garden, an active group of volunteers, a mailing list with about 40 (e-mail) addresses, and a foundation with plans for the future.
In fact I am only one of the volunteers, working at the garden and doing some of the PR (and the secretary of the foundation).

I think Nikki's example shows it too: you only need to organise an activity. What activity that is, that depends on you and on the local situation.
 
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Hi,  Everyone here has many good ideas.  What works for one may or may not work for another. But the ideas are good nevertheless. I appreciate reading them and applying things I never would have thought on my own. Keep em coming.

One thing I did and it took a few people to help me.  We developed a curriculum for my business, put it in the language of government educators, and presented it to the local school.  What happened was that I was able to receive interns from jr high, high school, and the community college.   By having people work with me we were able to assist 1 homeless family every month to get a good home, transportation, and job. Later, others in different communities found out what we did and they started the same thing.  This was before the days of the internet.

This same approach can be used to educate young people in the ways of your ideals, as they work with you on various projects on your property. Be it woodworking, cooking, growing, medicine..... Taylor the curriculum to your specific situation.  

And remember -- always encourage your intern.  If possible give them a small pice of land to create their own permie paradise. Let them make their own chair, create their own dish, quilt their own lap quilt, etc........

If anyone has a curriculum available please share it with us. It takes time and effort to taylor something, but that effort could otherwise be worth it.

Oh, I forgot. Class field day trips.  Have you ever seen  little children feed goats from their hands? Children bring their parents along as they talk about what they did that day, and some become interested, and some of those take actions.
 
gardener
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This is my very favorite video about this topic, actually one of my favorite videos of all time...  Shani Graham and her husband used Holmgren-inspired techniques to build a community, intentionally on their own street.  It's a super-positive and moving talk.

 
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Thank you all. I nearly drove my pick up into a tree when I saw our very own hair salon, in the middle of orchards.
Well, why not? So, I have an old fridge, some little blackboards, coloured chalk sticks, cd's and books and guess what that makes? Yes, a book exchange on a country road, at the bottom of my path. The blackboards + pencil and paper are for leaving messages. Inform neighbours that you welcome a hand with your woodpile on a date with shared tea to follow or drop in for a drink, it's your birthday or whatever. A little awning to protect the fridge, notice and blackboards and the person checking the amenity is also a building activity to which people have been invited. Blessings from Marie-Helene, the nearly bionic Mermaid
 
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An idea I've had for building community in my rural area is to advertise in the local newspaper and bulletin boards about saving and exchanging seeds (I love the idea of the mini seedbank exchange given in an earlier post and may see if I can get permission to do that in our small town). A personal goal of our family is to get to the point where we're growing all our own food and I believe that the locals are the best sources of information about what varieties thrive or fail here with our particular soil and climate. That gives the local farmers and backyard gardeners a teaching or helping role which is often a great segway into deeper relationships and opens the door to share the things I know that they may be less knowledgeable about. People like to be the expert and if there's something they know about why not let them teach? They might not grow their veggies in the way I think best, but they still know a thing or two about gardening and if I can do well non-conventionally, they might get curious.

This concept holds true in all areas of life. If I know something about a topic, I like to be helpful and share that information with others who want to know about it and sometimes my interest in the things others can teach me has led to beautiful friendships. I'm pretty shy so I don't easily start conversations, but I listen when other people talk and if I can answer a question they have or I discover that they can answer a question I have, I can overcome my shyness because of my interest in the topic.
 
pollinator
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Nikki Roche wrote:I held a "no sales" yard sale, where I just gave my stuff away for free. I didn't advertise except to my closest friends and family, and then people in my neighborhood stopped by as they saw it. So many were confused when I said, "take what you want! No charge!" Many responded with, "I really need to do this. I have so much stuff to give away," and the next year, a few people did bring items to give away or trade. I'd love to do it as a neighborhood-wide event instead of just mostly my stuff, advertising to bring what you don't want and take what you do want. I imagine it would only work in select neighborhoods, and I don't know that mine is one of those. I haven't met enough of my neighbors yet, so that's my first step.



Pre-pandemic, our alderman used to organize a neighborhood swap where everyone could drop off "garage sale" type stuff on a Saturday, and then on Sunday come back and browse what everyone else brought. It was combined with electronics recycling also. Great event, but a lot if work, I think.
 
Arthur Angaran
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Hi, Lot of cool ideas here from everyone.  One thing if I understand it right is reach locally to people by communicating with a kind of friendship, short term acquaintance, just interacting with people and finding the things they are interested in. When those interests, jobs, etc... intersect our ideals people are more willing to talk further. Hope this is correct from reading this thread.

One thing I have learned is that if I speak Permies to them they think I am nuts.  Hugelkultur instead of  a garden where I don't have to water so much giving me more time having fun with the kids. Rocket Mass Heater =( "Whoa I don't need jet engines in my house.") instead I found this neat wood heater that lets me use 1/2 or less the amount of wood I used. Now I only need 6 cords instead of 12. Less chopping and splitting and a lot less money.  I found this great pizza crust recipe instead of I only cook gluten free.

I try to use the language of everyday "normal" people, and explain the benefits. I don't immediately jump into sustainability, ecoscience, the etc... whatever is the perfect ideal.  I start small and expand.  I also know people are people. Different types, and a lot will shrug and say I like it the way it is. Some will look, and some will get involved.  I introduce ideas to people. Then guide to the next step if interest is there.  
 
Can you really tell me that we aren't dealing with suspicious baked goods? And then there is this tiny ad:
Fermentation Intensive, San Diego, CA | Feb. 15-19, 2022
https://permies.com/t/173381/kitchen/Winter-Fermentation-Intensive-San-Diego
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