How to build community

What does it mean to build community? How can one participate in developing a close-knit community and neighborhood? If you’re reading the Heights Observer, you have taken the first critical step of becoming informed about local goings-on. Now, where do you go from here?

Turn off your television. This doesn't mean that the TV should never be on, but rather that it be kept off by default. This will increase the amount of quality programming that is watched, and decrease exposure to pointless shows and commercials. In his book, "The 4-Hour Work Week," author Tim Ferriss suggests going on a “low information diet,” and urges readers to “ignore or redirect what is irrelevant, unimportant or cannot be acted upon.” Do we really need to watch another Judge Judy show? Ferriss suggests investing that time with family and friends instead, and pursuing more meaningful activities.

Leave the house. There is plenty of world outside our own yards; it just needs to be explored. Do you know all of your neighbors? An unusually warm winter and early spring presents a great opportunity to get out and meet them. When walking outside, look up and greet people, and be aware of your surroundings. (This is also important from a safety perspective.) Talk to the mail carriers—they are some of the friendliest people around, and certainly know the neighborhood.

Attend community forums. Forums and panel discussions are among the best sources of neighborhood information, and provide opportunities to learn from experts and others in the community. Here in the Heights there is always some sort of community event, forum, or presentation happening. You'll find a calendar of events online at, or subscribe to the Observer's free weekly e-news to see a list of upcoming events.

Visit one of the Heights Libraries. Have you ever wanted to know how to create your own website? How to use Open Office, Publisher, or even Photoshop? Then check out the Library (pun intended). In addition to having the latest and greatest books available for free loan, the libraries frequently offer courses on technology and computing. In addition, they regularly offer events of interest to people of all ages.

Recycle. It is easy to forget about the problems caused by trash.  After all, once you throw something away, it is “out of sight, out of mind.” Trash has to go somewhere, though. What if it had to stay within our community? In an interview posted on The Civic Commons, Jenita McGowan, chief of sustainability at Cleveland Public Power, said, "We're OK with exporting our trash to a landfill in another county. But if we were to take responsibility for our own waste, here, in our own community, it's a different way of thinking about it . . . We're all responsible for the things we throw away, and we're all responsible for what happens afterward. It's a new way of thinking about the trash we produce. There is no away." Read more at

Support public schools. Supporting local schools goes beyond voting "yes" for the occasional levy, slapping a tiger bumper sticker on the car, and leaving it at that.  If “it takes a village to raise a child,” it certainly takes two communities—Cleveland Heights and University Heights—to help our kids get into, and graduate from, college. A strong community needs strong schools, and the schools need more community involvement. They need you. Participate in school forums or planning events .They are often held on multiple dates and at convenient times, to enable many to attend.

Looking for more ideas? Stay “tuned in” to the Heights Observer.

Have any ideas that you would like to share? E-mail me:

Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson is a senior in the Urban Studies program at Cleveland State University, a consultant at The Urban Cash Cow, and an intern at FutureHeights.

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Volume 5, Issue 4, Posted 12:20 PM, 03.13.2012