14 inspiring stories that will make you eager to engage with your community

People often feel that they can’t make a difference on their own. These stories show how people defied these doubts and taken a leap of faith to make a difference in their own community.

Here are 14 examples of people who took it upon themselves to make a difference in their community.

Engaging with your community can…

1. Bring a diverse community together

The City of Akron, Ohio embraced it’s diversity by opening a multi-cultural gathering space and air bnb called The Exchange House. The house is close to many cultural and ethnic businesses and restaurants which gives locals and visiting guests a chance to experience everything North Hill has to offer. With a location so close to downtown, it gives guests a great experience of that area as well. Many community hands were involved with the successful implementation of this project. They have found a great way to bring a diverse community together to embrace the different cultural experiences they have to offer.


Image Source: Strong Towns

2. Make residents feel safer

A few years ago, the Eastside community of Olympia, Washington became concerned about recent increasing crime rates in their neighborhood. The crime and safety committee conducted a survey and found that 80% of respondents said that getting to know their neighbors would help to reduce crime in the area. The community began hosting free neighborhood events which led to them feeling much safer. The community realized that its members had great ideas and in order to prepare for a better future they needed to get more of their neighbors involved in the planning and engagement process. Here is an invitation that was used to invite residents to a Variety Show they hosted.


Image Source: Strong Towns

3. Put residents needs and hopes for the future in front of town planners

With a growing population, towns in Australia are constantly planning for a better future. Economists are saying that its most important for communities that are expecting to grow to focus on creating a more holistic well-being to create a strong sense of community. The council in Port Headland held an extensive engagement plan. Residents and stakeholders were encouraged to ‘Live It, Tell It’  by participating in surveys and pop-up exercises, planning workshops and meetings to review the goals and strategy for the community plan.


Image Source: Creating Communities 

4. Unite people with similar interests

Residents asked for a pet-friendly community and they got it.  Peet’s The Avenue Estate accommodates many dog lovers. When a resident suggested an event that included dogs, they saw an opportunity to bring residents and local businesses together with ‘An Avenue for Dog Lovers’. From ‘A Dog’s Breakfast’ to discounted microchipping, these events have brought their community closer than ever before.


Image Source: Creating Communities

5. Enable local council to create plans based off of community desires

The city of Maplewood, Minnesota has grown steadily over the last 60 years to more than 38,000 residents and 27,000 employees. The city is expected to continue to grow to be the second largest in Ramsey County. To Keep up with a growing population, Maplewood had to create a comprehensive plan for redevelopment of the community. They used three phases of community consultation for this project – Understand what is desired, Consult and Collaborate, and Seek Approval and Distribute. Local council knew that if they wanted a successful plan that would make current residents happy, they had to involve them in the process as much as they could. Residents were greatly impressed with the final plan as it addressed many issues that they identified.


Image Source: Social Pinpoint

6. Save local places and wildlife that you care about

Angus Council in the UK recognize that the River South Esk catchment is a very important place to residents as it’s a hot spot for wildlife watching. Their goal was to understand how residents and visitors in the catchment enjoy wildlife and how sustainable travel can be made easier in the area with their ‘Wildlife Watching on the River’ project. Council used an online community engagement strategy to encourage residents to easily note the types of wildlife they enjoy in the catchment, and how they travel to these areas whether it be by walking, cycling or driving.


Image Source: Social Pinpoint

7. Bring light to issues that are close to your heart

13-year-old Aiden Horwits has taken a school project to a whole new level. She came up with a website to pair adopters with compatible shelter dogs. Students were asked to create a project that addresses an issue that they care about. Aiden’s website asks adopters to fill out a survey that collects information on what kind of home they can provide for a shelter pet. Based at Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, TX, the shelter is receiving adoptions through this site and Aiden hopes to expand the service to other shelters and states.


8. Demand changes that are needed for residents but aren’t considered important by those with authority to make changes

A neighborhood in Portland has a total of 11 interchanges from just one highway. This is a major road for commuters who live outside of the city, so the danger and interference of this highway has persisted. Many residents in this neighborhood  frequently walk or cycle through the area and are forced to deal with the busy traffic. The City of Portland conducted a study of the area and came up with some solutions to make it safer. The department of transportation quickly shot down the idea and put proposed changes on hold. Local council and the community have teamed up to re-study the area with hopes to prove that the changes are necessary.


Image Source: Strong Towns

9. Encourage other community members

This couple moved to Rockford, Illinois because they loved the historic homes, amenities and sense of community in the area. They soon realized that although they loved the town, it also had a great opportunity for growth. Over time, they have recognized many areas that are in need of improvement. With their help initiating a movement, the town council has recognized that changes can be made and will begin working on plans for a better Rockford.


Image Source: Strong Towns 

10. Highlight differing community opinions

A large urban redevelopment plan is causing a fued between neighbors in St. Paul, Minnesota. On one side, those in favor look forward to land use with affordable housing and access to public transport. The other side says that the redevelopment would cause a radical population density increase that will burden city infrastructure and public services. In a diverse community like St. Paul, both ‘sides of the neighborhood’ make good points and have strong opinions but in a community plan, they have to find a way to work together. In a community where residents are invested in their town’s planning, council is able to embrace community input to create a plan to best meets the needs of the community.

Former site of St. Paul Ford Plant on Ford Parkway, 2016

Image Source: Strong Towns

11. Bring people together to make changes for the greater good of the community

An organization called “Re-Form Shreveport” spent a year working in a local park. Shreveport decided to embrace what they already have and spend time making what they have better. The community started in a neighborhood park and worked together to clean trash and make the grounds look healthier. The project showed the community that changing your city doesn’t have to be expensive, itt just takes a community working together to make a difference for a better future.


Image Source: Reform Shreveport 

12. Embrace cultural differences

Harmony day is held every year on March 21st in Australia to celebrate cultural diversity. With such large diversity in the country, dedicating a day to celebrate any and all cultures has greatly bettered a sense of belonging across Australia.


Image Source: Creating Communities

13. Make people enthusiastic about community plans and events

With the community undergoing many changes, Beaconsfield City council implemented an extensive consultation process with stakeholders and residents. When the project team ran the first of two conversation meet-ups, they received lively and varied responses which shows that residents are interested and enthusiastic to improve their local area. Community engagement with the project will enable local council to plan the future of Beaconsfield to tend to the needs of the community.


Image Source: Creating Communities 

14. Address important issues

Low income families are those who are most in need of affordable transportation options such as light rail. Unfortunately, where light rail systems are put in place, housing prices sky rocket and many people who can’t afford it are forced out of the area. Seattle understands the community’s need for affordable transportation but also wants to avoid driving out low income residents, so they have taken steps to make sure that their light rail systems will serve people with low incomes. The state of Washington has put a mandate in place that requires that 80%  of suitable surplus property owned by the transit agency must be offered to affordable housing developers and 80% of the units must be affordable to those making up to 80% of the area median income.


Image Source: TOD Resources

We hope we have inspired you to participate and engage with your community! Drop a comment below to let us know your favorite story in this post!


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