Skip to main content

Creating active neighbourhoods contributes to enhancing social connections and enhancing social connections can provide opportunities to increase physical activity. Both are essential for your physical and mental health. Beyond these benefits, activating your neighbourhood also creates neighbourhood spirit, increases safety and trust, helps build a support system, supports local businesses, beautifies spaces, welcomes new neighbours, and more. Knowing and believing these benefits is key when you start promoting your ideas to your neighbours.

Meet Your Neighbours

Here are some ways you can reach out and meet your neighbours from simple ideas to those requiring a bit more effort:

  • When you see your neighbours, acknowledge their presence. It may be a simple smile or wave, offering a greeting (hello), or a comment about the weather. You may, if you’re comfortable, offer a comment or ask a question about something they may be doing. For example, if they are outside gardening, ask about their success in planting certain flowers. If someone is leaving on their bike, ask about routes or trails worth exploring. If you’re taking the elevator with someone, simply ask what number you can press for them and maybe mention something you love about the apartment building or condo.
  • Tell them your name and ask for theirs so that you can greet them by name in the future.
  • Sit out on your front porch, in the lobby or front steps of your building or on the balcony. You can wave, say hello as they walk by, or start a conversation.
  • Wave or greet your neighbours when picking up the mail.
  • Introduce yourself to new neighbours by dropping off a plant or flowers from your garden.
  • Ask for (small) favours and then return one at a later date. Bring your neighbour’s garbage bin up their driveway so it doesn’t blow away when empty, particularly if they aren’t home.
  • Start or join a neighbourhood book club.
  • Ask your neighbour for advice – about where to shop, local activities, restaurants they recommend.
  • Host an open house
  • Do volunteer work in the neighbourhood
  • Implement one of the simple ideas from the Tactical Guide
  • Use your pets to make friends
  • Start a walking club
  • Take meals to neighbours in need

Encourage Your Neighbours to Meet You!

It isn’t always up to you to initiate a conversation or meeting but you can make space for your neighbours to come to you!

  • Spend time in your front yard or your apartment/condo property working in the garden, reading, etc. Anything that puts you in full view and makes it easy for someone to say hello.
  • Set up a firepit in your driveway and a few extra chairs
  • Take walks around the neighbourhood
  • Put a turquoise table (paint a picnic table turquoise, or any other bright colour) in your front yard or common space that entices people to come over and gather
  • Have a garage/yard sale
  • Go to neighbourhood events – garage sales, street parties, business openings to name a few. Shop locally and check store bulletin boards for community happenings to attend.

A couple of things to consider:

  • Some days you won’t feel like saying “hi” and your neighbours may not respond as you might want them to. Everyone has ups and downs. Don’t take it personally.
  • Neighbours may have different customs, speak different languages or have different life experiences. A warm nod or smile goes a long way.
  • Strike the right balance between friendly and enthusiastic and over-the-top nosey!

Promoting your ideas

You will not likely have met all your neighbours before you activate your neighbourhood so you may have to get their attention in a few different ways. Consider the following ways to gather neighbours together to discuss an idea or to participate in activities:

  • Use one (or all) of the infographics on the Activate Your Neighbourhood website and distribute them to your neighbours. This is a great way to introduce the concept of activating your neighbourhood and garner support and volunteers.
  • Create a pamphlet, flyer, or poster to promote your activity (ies), including your contact information. Deliver it to people’s mailboxes, put it on local business bulletin boards, distribute through your child’s school, in the mail room at an apartment building or condo, at the local coffee shop, the library, local newspaper, or through older adult residences. You can use these promotion ideas to invite people to use the hockey rink or basketball net you just put up, help themselves to veggies in the front yard or attend a big event. Print materials are important in communities that do not have reliable internet or for people whose online literacy is low.
  • Use social media If you are tech savvy and creative. Post on social media (including Facebook that often hosts neighbourhood groups), create social media tiles (graphics that provide content on social media), produce a short video to tell a story (youtube, other social media) or create your own podcast.
  • Work with local influential / well-known people in the community who will promote the event on your behalf. This could be a business leader, local politician, media personality, musician, or artist, engaged volunteer, Facebook neighbourhood site leader, or well-known neighbour!
  • Many of the ideas in the Tactical Guide require some sort of invitation to or encouragement of neighbours to enjoy the activities provided. For example, neighbours need to know that they are welcome to take vegetables from the garden on your front yard or the apartment building’s raised gardens. They should know when they can skate on your front lawn rink or play a game of cornhole and not consider it trespassing. They should be invited to use the race track chalked on your driveway or the bucket of chalk to draw their own hopscotch on the street. By the same token, signs provide some parameters of when installations can be used. Small/large yard games can be taken inside but the ice rink stays in place so it’s good for people to know when they are welcome to be on your property. Signs can cost some money or be homemade. Whatever does the trick is what is best. Creativity and placement of signage is key!
  • Do what you have the time and capacity to do! Remember, this should be fun, not … not fun!