One of the most straightforward and important ways to uphold the democratic value of the common good is to get to know your neighbors. This guide gives you the information you need to host an event bringing together residents within a particular apartment community or neighborhood.

This is meant to be part of a weekly program where neighbors are encouraged to develop deeper relationships. Each week's event is free and lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour. This design is for 10 - 15 participants.

Please modify this event so that it fits your unique community and its needs. For example, if you have a larger group, you can have multiple facilitators at the tables to lead the activity.

Materials to Prepare:

  • Music source and speaker for upbeat, lively music
  • Tables and chairs
  • Blank sheets of paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Light finger food that is diet inclusive (vegan options are usually inclusive for all diets)
  • Beverage options

Event Flow:

7:00 p.m. – Background music on / Greet residents / Invite them to grab a drink and find a seat.

7:10 p.m. – Turn off the music / Begin opening ritual by reading a quote and gratitude practice.

  • Read quotation by Joan Duncan Oliver:

“When happiness seems elusive, remember the power of 'please' and 'thank you.' A simple gesture of appreciation or generosity can turn someone's day around. Even our enemies deserve our gratitude: they teach us patience. We owe our lives to the kindness of others. Contentment comes from returning the favor.”
— Joan Duncan Oliverin Happiness: How to Find It and Keep It

  • Begin Icebreaker:

“To begin we will participate in a Gratitude Practice. We will go around and have each of you introduce yourself and then share one thought or emotion, relationship, or object that you are grateful for today.”

For example: “Hi, I’m ____ and I’m grateful for the opportunity to come to this event today.”

7:20 p.m. – Reflect as a group on how practicing gratitude changes our state. The leader can share a reflection and invite one or two more people to share with the group.

7:25 p.m. – Begin Web of Connections Drawing Activity:

“In the spirit of gratitude, we want to invite each of you to be more grateful for our apartment community as a whole. In this activity, you will draw your favorite place to be here (the pool, the dining table, your room, etc). You don’t have to share your drawing with others if you choose not to.”

Give participants 5 - 10 minutes to draw their favorite place.

7:35 p.m. – Give the next instructions for the drawing activity:

“Now draw around your favorite place everything that makes it possible for our residents to enjoy this place: the management, the maintenance team, the materials, the natural resources, the systems that support it, even the sources of the money that pay for it."

7:45 p.m. – End drawing time:

“Share with the person next to you what connections you identified with your favorite place.”

7:50 p.m. – Group debriefs on understanding interconnectedness and possible actions for the common good.

“Now that we have better understood the ways we are all connected to one another, let's talk for a few minutes about what you have learned from this exercise about the common good in our own community. How can we can continue to live in ways that promote the common good for all of us?”

“What action can you take to demonstrate your commitment to the common good on a daily basis?”

Leader's example if needed: Greet the maintenance team with a smile whenever you see them.

7:55 p.m. - Closing:

“Our hope for this practice was to create in us more respect and gratitude for our property and help promote the common good of our community as well as the common good in the larger community and our nation.”

8:00 p.m. - Invite residents to grab dessert. Be sure to thank them on their way out!

Read an example of how to put this program plan into action.