By Sam Moon
So you may not know all your neighbours all that well yet, and it feels odd doing this now. You may be wondering whether what you want to do will work, or whether it’s a bit daft, and you might feel a bit silly. This is totally normal! It’s fine, honestly. The sky won’t fall in even if it doesn’t work out, and you may be amazingly surprised by what great things are triggered by connecting with a few neighbours in your street.
What you need:
- Ideally a PC/Laptop and a printer or means to write a short flyer/letter and get it copied. You could handwrite notes if you wanted.
- A device you can use WhatsApp on such as a smartphone or tablet. There is a version of WhatsApp you can use from a desktop computer or laptop rather than your phone, although you do still need a smartphone.
Step One: Make it easy for yourself!
If you already know 1 or 2 of the people living on your street, ask them if they would like to do this together, or ask them for help. People like opportunities to help with stuff, it gives purpose.
If you don’t know anyone living on your street yet, don’t worry, you are only posting a few letters 🙂
Step Two: Keep it small
Focus on your street or the area you would consider your neighbours. People tend to be more responsive to who they feel connected with and any activity that comes from what you create is easier to do locally. Anything more than 50 or so households may be a bit unwieldy.
Step Three: Keep it simple and safe
Write a simple letter/note inviting your neighbours (if they want) to join a WhatsApp group for the purpose of looking out for each other. There’s a good template here. If you are not comfortable using your mobile number at this stage you can use the WhatsApp link instead, but you will need to have already set up a WhatsApp group in order to share a link with people. (Click here for instructions on how to invite people to a WhatsApp Group via a link)
Starting with a letter or note through people’s doors is a good opportunity to be clear about the purpose of the WhatsApp group so it doesn’t get chaotic and hard to manage. Keeping your neighbourhood small will help with this too. If there are 1 or 2 people helping you it’s good if they can be ‘admins’ of the WhatsApp group as well.
Drop your letter through people’s doors in your chosen area, following government regulations and guidance about keeping safe. Posting a letter is generally fine, and make sure you keep your distance and wash your hands. Some good advice about leafleting safely during the pandemic can be found here.
Step Four: Enjoy the space you have created
Well done! Whatever the take-up, you have created a space for your neighbours to shape and look out for each other.
From time to time you may need remind folk of the purpose of the group, which is where having a few others to check in with can be helpful. However, this is the first step to building relationships with people before you need them and they need you. Enjoy it!
Some Useful Links:
Click on the sentence to take you to the link
Some great tips on moderating a neighbourhood group on WhatsApp are here.
This document has helpful guidance on keeping safe while leafleting.
Download WhatsApp for phone or desktop from here.
Here are some instructions for how to download WhatsApp on a desktop
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