Traditional block clubs are groups of people who have homes and families on any given block in the city and have organized to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. People who form block clubs are concerned and care about their communities and share information, identify concerns and act collectively to address those concerns.
What can one block club do? A block club can help ensure that our seniors have the services they need to lead fulfilling lives. A block club can help our children travel safely to and from school, so that they have every opportunity to learn and succeed. A block club can improve the environment by planting and maintaining new green spaces. And a block club can provide a strong deterrent to gangs, guns and drugs.
This site will not only help you organize your neighbors and get active, but will also give you some practical ideas that you can implement in your community and help you get connected to other block clubs in your area.
Why Start a Block Club?
There are many benefits to organizing a block club. Knowing your neighbors and communicating on a regular basis can help you identify quality of life issues and other trends in your neighborhood and allow you to address those issues. Taking collective action, sharing information, and raising awareness among your neighbors will also help improve the safety of your block. With just a little time and work from you and all your neighbors, you can make a big impact on your community.
What If a Traditional Block Club Isn’t Right for My Neighborhood?
There are many ways that people organize themselves; the important part is organizing around issues that affect you and your neighbors in a way that works for you. Some different, but equally effective ways to organize include:
- Vertical Block Clubs – In many neighborhoods throughout the City, high-rise or multi-unit apartment buildings or condominiums are the predominant form of housing. Organizing within your building will help you recognize who may belong in and around your building as well as identify issues that may only be affecting your building. Once your building is organized, you can connect with other building organizations in your neighborhood to work on issues you may all have in common.
- Walking Clubs – Walking clubs combine the goals of improving your personal health and the overall health of your neighborhood by taking regular community walks. Engaging in low impact physical activity at least once a week and continuing to learn healthy life-style habits through periodic presentations by health care, nutrition and exercise professionals improves your health and your neighbors health. While walking, you can identify conditions, such as graffiti, abandoned vehicles, abandoned buildings, etc., that can be corrected by the City, identify conditions in the neighborhood that could lead to individuals being victims of crime, such as vehicles with personal property visible or multi-unit buildings that are inadequately secured, and improve the green quality of the neighborhood by picking up trash in parkways and on lawns.
- Garden Clubs – Improving the environment also improves your neighborhood. For many communities, organizing a garden club is a great way to keep their block safe. Again, an attractive, well kept neighborhood is a strong deterrent to crime. From flowers on the parkway to working vegetable gardens on vacant lots that everyone can enjoy and that can also help raise funds to implement more programs to help the families on your block, a garden club may be right for you.
- Virtual Block Clubs – For some people with their busy schedules, a club that has no face-to-face meetings is what works. Members meet and have dialog via the Internet.
A good first step in starting a block club is to recruit two or three people on your block who are interested in helping to organize your neighbors. Once you have identified these interested neighbors, pick a date and time for your first meeting. There is no hard and fast rule on where you should hold your meetings. Some people prefer to meet on their block, rotating the location among participating neighbors. Some people prefer to find a neutral location, such as a park, library, church or police station to hold their meetings.
Once you have picked a date and location for your first meeting, create a simple flyer that you can give to or leave for your neighbors. Then you and your helpers are ready to recruit other neighbors. It is always better to have one-on-one conversations with your neighbors so you can introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in forming a block club. Always revisit homes where no-one was available at least twice to try and make that personal connection before merely leaving a flyer.
Keep a list of all the neighbors you contact, indicating those who plan to attend and participate. Also keep a record of what issues they identify during your initial conversation that are of interest or concern to them; this will help you later on to decide what types of projects or activities the majority of your neighbors will be interested in undertaking.
Always remember to be inclusive. Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the country. In some instances, you may need to identify a bilingual neighbor who would be willing to translate for neighbors who do not speak English.