People often ask at our globe-trotting lectures how to go about building community, after we've emphasized the importance of doing exactly that. I wanted to share the best example we've come across so far – Hulbert Street in Fremantle, Western Australia. Its success is a tribute to the two people who made it happen in the ultimate grass-roots experiment – Tim Darby and Shani Graham.
The point is that you can be the change you want to see in the world, and in doing so, you can bring many others along with you. Enthusiasm (like all emotional responses) is infectious, and fostering it can achieve a great deal without the need for large amounts of resources.
Here are Tim and Shani in their own words:
Sustainability isn't based merely on practical initiatives. It begins with community, in other words social capital and relationships of trust. During our stay on Hulbert Street we participated in a movie night and a pizza night, neither of which sound like they have anything to do with sustainability.
Movie night involves people from the street bringing a cushion and a picnic to the end of the cul-de-sac and sharing dinner together before watching a film. When we were there it was The Power of Community. Pizza night involves everyone bringing pizza fixings to the house with the largest veranda, then cooking and eating together using the communal pizza-oven-on-wheels. Lively discussions naturally follow.
Bringing people together like this allows ideas to spread and a common vision to develop. Before you know it there is food growing in peoples' front gardens and on the road verges, and people are thinking about solar panels or rain-water catchment systems. People with a common vision don't complain about the fruit trees on the verge, the guerilla garden or the bike shed on the road (the same size as a van and with a licence plate to indicate vehicle parking).
We're very much hoping to attend this year's festival in September, where thousands of people come to a small suburban street to enjoy the themselves while learning about how to gain and maintain local control over the essentials of our own existence. Communal buy-in is an essential part of the model, and understanding people is the means to achieving that.