Created by two friends trying to do better for their cities.

Feeling Connected to Your City
Local engagement doesn’t only happen through voting -- it happens through engaging with your city. That might seem quite obvious, but one survey has shown that over half of millennials feel “estranged from their local community.”1 Throughout our lives, we might move from city to city and end up developing relationships with people across the world. It can feel easy to simply not root ourselves in our local communities when we know we might be in a different city next year. But we believe it’s important to root and continually re-root ourselves in our local contexts -- in the communities that we live in and benefit from in the present moment.

Ways to do it

1. Shop and dine at local businesses instead of chains.

Groceries

Support local farmers markets when possible. It might be a lil pricier, but it’s a way to put money more directly towards the local community. Plus, it’s usually more fresh since the produce doesn’t have to be transported millions of miles!

Restaurants

Sometimes we crave McDonald’s french fries and that’s okay. We’ve all been there. But local restaurants often have better food and can be cornerstones of long-standing communities. The pandemic has hit small restaurants especially hard, so we should do our best to support them! Lest we end up in a chain store hellscape…

Specialty stores

It’s incredibly tempting to buy that-random-thing-you-need from Amazon, but the thing you need might be sold by a local business. Plus, these stores might have bulletin boards where you can check out promos for other services and events in your neighborhood.

  • Bookshop
  • Racial Justice Bookshelf
  • Local thrift stores
  • Flea markets
  • Facebook Marketplace & Buy Nothing groups
  • Etsy (look for stores in your state)
  • Your city's Chamber of Commerce for an exhaustive list of registered small businesses

2. Walk, bike, & take public transit instead of driving or taking rideshares.

A lot of us are privileged and might use Uber/Lyft, own our own cars, or even have tech buses to take us where we need to be (looking at you Silicon Valley 👀). But this can disconnect us from where we live, and give us fewer opportunities to have spontaneous chats with local residents, recognize disparities between different neighborhoods, and discover local gems.

Check out…

3. Reach out to your neighbors - like in the flesh, not on Nextdoor.

Have you lived in your apartment for 2 years and never, not once, had a conversation with your neighbors? No, we’re not calling you out, we’re calling ourselves out. Even if it might seem awkward, it’s never too late to reach out to your neighbors! It can be as simple as exchanging phone numbers in case of emergencies, or if you’re feeling bold, you could initiate a socially distant hangout. Try leaving a handwritten note at their door!

Check out…

  • Our short template for introducing yourself to neighbors:
    Hello! I’m _____, your neighbor at ______. I've been here since _____ and I thought I’d reach out to get to know my neighbors and share my contact info in case anything ever comes up.
  • NC DSA's Tenant Organizing Guide if you’re interested in organizing your neighbors against shitty landlords.

4. Follow local news in addition to national news.

In some communities, people get their local newspaper delivered to them for free (what a concept!). In other communities, especially as print newspapers become more rare, local newspapers might be harder to come by. Subscribing to your local newspaper can be a great way to support local journalism and to stay in your neighborhood loop.

Check out...

  • Local social media accounts
  • NPR local member station
  • Your local coffee shop for copies of the local paper
  • Twitter (search for “[your city] news” to find local news accounts)

5. Attend local events and meetups.

We know Facebook isn’t hip anymore, but it could be a useful resource for finding local meetups, marches, and rallies in your city.

Check out...

  • Facebook groups or Meetups for different interests: house plants, sports, etc.

6. Join local organizing groups.

If you’re feeling ready, join a meeting (probably on Zoom) for your local community organization. Otherwise, subscribe to newsletters of local orgs. Even if you’re not ready to commit to community organizing, joining the newsletter of a local grassroots organization can keep you in-the-know on what people in your community are organizing for.

Check out local chapters of…

7. Know whose land you live on.

Local engagement is also about knowing the history of your local context. It’s important to recognize that all American land is land stolen from indigenous people. Make sure you know which indigenous tribes are in your area, and contribute resources to groups centering indigenous people.

Check out...

  • Native Land Map to learn which indigenous nations you live on.
  • Sogorea Te' Land Trust to learn about an urban land trust in the San Francisco Bay Area and the growing movement to return land to indigenous groups.

References

1 New York Post, "Millennials Don't Know Their Neighbors At All"

Small Victories