The Bottom-Up Revolution Is…a Neighborhood Person

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If the stats are to be believed, millions of people have packed up their things and relocated during the last two years of the pandemic. Moving during the pandemic was difficult for many reasons: navigating virtual home showings, signing papers remotely, trying to figure out transportation logistics… And it’s not like moving was an easy, relaxing process before the pandemic.

Yet many of us have done it, whether we’re hoping to be closer to family, realizing we have different space needs now that we’re home more often, or relocating for a new job opportunity. Once we got to our new spot, the pandemic also made meeting our neighbors, making new friends, and getting involved in our neighborhoods really challenging. You can’t just walk over with a freshly baked pie or stroll into the upcoming neighborhood association meeting. Maybe the neighbor isn’t comfortable with a stranger in their house right now, or maybe the neighborhood association hasn’t actually been meeting in months.

Gracen Johnson, a founding member and long-time contributor to Strong Towns, recently had that experience of moving mid-pandemic to Ottawa in Canada. Yet she’s found small but powerful ways to get to know neighbors and be a positive part of her neighborhood. Having a dog to walk regularly helps. So does observing what’s going on around her and finding ways to plug into that, rather than showing up with her own agenda. If you’ve heard of our “4-Step Process for Public Investment” at Strong Towns, this is exactly what Gracen is talking about.

Gracen has lived in rural and urban areas, but she says she’s not a city person or a small town person—rather, she’s “a neighborhood person.”  In this episode of The Bottom-Up Revolution podcast, hosted by Rachel Quednau, you’ll hear a lot from Gracen about how to connect with your neighbors and, as she says, “give more than you take” with those around you. Near the end of the interview, we also have an interesting conversation about top-down versus bottom-up advocacy, because the reason Gracen moved to Toronto was to work for a quasi-federal government housing agency. It’s certainly a valuable discussion.

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