Last night I attended the city sponsored “Strategic Plan Focus Group Meeting” at the University of Maryland. Typically, in theses meetings, the City asks the residents a bunch of questions on various neighborhood issues such as traffic, neighborhood, environment, economic development etc. The City wants to know what the residents want to see happening in the city in these areas in the next 3 years or so.
I personally like this kind of civic engagements from the city,even though I know some may feel skeptical about the ultimate implementation of such wish lists from our residents. At the minimum such community meetings can do, is to keep our citizens’ ‘hope’ alive – this is at least better than doing nothing at all.
There seem to be some renewed interests among the residents on this topic of “energizing the community” thing. In the past NCPCA candidate’s forum, candidates were asked the same question on how to energize residents in community activities. Kudos to John, our NCPCA VP / moderator for crafting such a smart question.
In my opinion, there are a few things we can do to get residents more involved and energized in community activities.
(1) The first first idea that comes to my mind is to make our neighborhood association stronger. It’s a pity that we have some 5000 residents living in our district, yet we only have some 100 paid members. Being the Secretary of NCPCA, I tried to get many involved in the asociation, and from that I know personal contacts do help. The key thing is to make the residents understand the benefits of getting involved in such activities. Members at the monthly meeting not only get a chance to meet each other, but also they get chances to voice their opinions in various important matters.
(2) Neighborhood watch program can be another vehicle that can keep the residents stay connected and energized. Programs such as these make residents feel safer and comfortable about their neighborhood and the fellow residents.
(3) Neighborhood events such as neighborhood cleanup, snow shoveling program, traffic awareness program, tree planting event can also be great ways to energize the residents. For the past several years, I’ve been intimately involved in such activities and I know the residents find such activities rewarding and uplifting.
(4) The city and the neighborhood associations can probably introduce recognition program for the residents to get them energized. I know many work selfishly to make the neighborhood a better place to live, at the end it’s the responsibility of the community at large to recognize their efforts.