Many of the challenges that we have being urban folk revolve around creating community. Add to it that some of us chose to forego public school (or any school) which becomes a key "community" for most parents in any city or town. I've spent much of the past few years really thinking about community and trying to understand how we find our tribe, how we connect to more folks in our city and how I can help others leverage that network.
One success I've had personally was started back in 2012 when I wanted suggestions from other moms about piano teachers in my town. I knew I could ask my friends, but I also knew that many of my friends were far more "strict" or "rigid" about what they'd expect from a teacher, so I wanted to throw a wider net and see if I could find someone who might fit our family's needs better. I chose to start a Facebook Group called NewtonMoms. I added all my local mom friends and I told folks to invite their friends to the page. Fast forward 3 yrs and we now have nearly 1,200 members with about 25 or more new members requesting access each week. Many members are very happy to have such a resource available to them and we share not only recommendations for local service offerings, we sell gently used items, discuss topics relevant to raising kids and help inform some people who are looking to move to Newton of the local flavor, neighborhoods and schools.
As administrator of the group, I have been sure to allow only parents who live in or around Newton to join. I personally vet each member request and make sure that we keep the solicitations to a minimum and I actively keep an eye on conversations that might be a little wonky so as to ensure no one gets their feelings hurt. So what started as a way to network some local moms has resulted in a wonderful community of members who rely on the group as a valuable resource. Some staunchly defend the goals of the group and support decisions that have had to be made regarding what's allowed or disallowed on the page. But what's interesting is that the group has taken on its own personality that I could never have envisioned back when I started the page. I love that. I have been pulled aside in the grocery store by strangers who recognize me from the group to thank me for setting this up and I get lots of positive feedback when I post out announcements.
Yesterday I added a page called Newton Babysitting to leverage the Newton Moms network and local babysitting resources. With all the college kids coming back into town, it seemed an appropriate step to take to connect sitters and parents. In less than 24 hours we already have over 150 members on that group. Folks are very excited to have a grassroots, free way to connect with local sitters who can help them out. It just makes sense.
I decided to write about this because even though I tend to socialize with other home or unschoolers locally, there is a huge benefit to having connections with the local moms in my area. There are so many things we have in common outside of the choice of how to school our kids. And on occasion, I post links to some approachable and informative articles that show how our schools are failing our kids. In the end, I love that this small idea I had back in 2012 is now a staple forum in our community. The barrier to entry is small and the payback is big.
Any person out there can create a similar page in their own community. And in the end, isn't it this that our world needs more of? If parents feel more connected to their towns and more connected to the other parents there, won't we have more compassion and empathy when we are faced with those folks in the real world? Changing the world does not happen by launching BIG ideas with BIG launch plans -- it happens one day at a time with one small step toward bringing people together and over time, the seeds of change begin to happen.
Here's to one small step in changing the world!!