In 1977, the day after his inauguration, Harvey Milk gave a stunning speech outlining his vision for San Francisco's future, including this call to arms: "Let's make no mistake about this: The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods. If we wish to rebuild our cities, we must first rebuild our neighborhoods." Twenty-five years after that speech, inspired by his words, the GOOD community is coming together to revive and celebrate the spirit of neighboring.
I'm a member of GOOD, the worldwide community of people who give a damn. We are pragmatic idealists working towards individual and collective progress. And today, I am excited to share the first holiday of the GOOD community: on April 27, we celebrate Neighborday all around the world.
Full disclosure: I'm not only a member of GOOD, I also work as CEO at GOOD HQ, the organizing body for the GOOD community. We started thinking about Neighborday a few years ago as we prepared our Neighborhoods issue of GOOD magazine. Years before that, Robert Putnam put society on notice with Bowling Alone, drawing attention to the potential impacts of an increasingly digitized (and atomized) society. We echoed his questions: might the increase in online connectivity lead to a commensurate decline in offline connectedness, and will that directly impact our neighborhoods? Studies indicate that it does: a recent Pew survey found that roughly 60 percent of Americans don't know all of their neighbors. And, according to Nextdoor, a neighborhood community social network, just 16 percent of us trust all of our neighbors and a quarter of us barely speak to our neighbors.
Six years ago I moved to Benedict Canyon where I knew only a handful of people who lived on the block. The folks at the other end were just other cars to get by on the way to work. Many of us probably moved there for the serenity and privacy, but we didn't bargain for a reality where we wouldn't know the names of the people we'd pass by each day, let alone the numbers to call when our dogs are lost. As an experiment, I set out to organize a get-together. I dropped off flyers. Neighbors came. We barbequed. We drank beers. We made friends. It was awesome. People had been living on my street for decades without knowing each other. Neighbors were working on similar projects without knowing each other. But most importantly, the reality was that my neighbors were cool people, and taking the short amount of time to meet them was well worth the effort.
Can we take this concept global and leverage technology to build stronger offline connections? At GOOD, we think so. On April 27, we will do just that, with thousands of Neighborday events happening in nearly 200 cities all around the world.
If you can't participate in Neighborday on April 27, don't sweat it: this holiday, like any good holiday, is about celebrating values we aspire to the other 364 days of the year. Every day is good day to meet your neighbor. Join us at www.good.is/neighboring.