Finding the Catalyst: Part 1
If you do a search on community building you’ll find cities across the country that are looking for people, ideas and programs to build social connections among residents in local communities. Wouldn’t it make sense those cities would come to the apartment industry for information about how to build strong communities on the local level? After all, ours is an industry built on providing homes for families across the country. But what does it take to build a strong community?
Successful community engagement models around the world are built on the work and passion of a community catalyst. Regardless of the type of apartment community you’re in, engagement begins with a person who lives in the community and has the passion and vision to bring neighbors together. If your onsite team is looking to start something new this year then you have to find the catalyst!
If you work in the leasing office and want to see what happens when a few people make an effort to grow social connections among neighbors then your first goal is to attract the initial group of residents to make it their own. Let it be their own. Ask them what they would like to see get going in the community. It may be a running group, a book club, a welcoming committee, after school program, etc. It is all possible when the residents are empowered to think and do.
But how to find the first few people to get it started?
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you put together your plan:
Keep Realistic Expectations: Remember you’re not trying to convince the entire community to get involved. Not everyone is going to see the value in creating social connections among residents. In fact, most people will say they are too busy and do not have time. Go ahead and factor the “no’s” into your plan-remember it will only take one or two to spark something new at your community.
It’s a Numbers Game: The more people you talk to about getting involved the more likely you will find someone. Time is a number-you’ll need to allow yourself time to introduce the idea then follow up with those who are interested. Four to six weeks is a good expectation.
Create the Story: Your community has been there for years so why is something new starting now? You’ll need to answer this question in the over-arching story of what is coming together. Its all about community and why humans need it; there’s lots of research about why social connections are important. The Village Effect is a good place to start.
Ask your Onsite Staff Which Resident Would Make a Good Catalyst: More than likely your on-site staff has already met the catalyst. At one point they were touring the community. Take time to talk among the leasing office and maintenance staff of who in the community could be the start of something new.
For more tips and ways to find the catalyst in your community, look for Part 2 of this blog coming soon.