We learned a lot about what to do and what to do differently as we worked through this project with our neighbors and friends. Take a look at our nine tips to consider when planning for future community or street story projects.
1. What is your goal? What impact do you want to create? Do you want the most signs you can possible have?
The goal of our project was community engagement. What impact did we make on the people in our neighborhood, on our street and the visitors? What stories did we invoke that we could not learn in another way or involve extensive research. The day of the event we had enough signs for people to enjoy. Many houses in our selected neighborhood chose not to participate.
2. Regardless of your efforts, some people will say no.
They will say they don’t have a story, don’t want to take the time to research or if you want a sign, then you have to do it for them.
3. Consider the total length of your project from launch to culminating event.
We held our launch party in the spring and the event did not happen until Sept. There was too much between the launch party and the walking tour event to keep interest alive. Consider the launch and workshop activity to occur within 6-week time frame to stay focused and keep people interested.
4. Decide early on the size of your neighborhood and stay with it.
Do you want to focus on one street at a time or open the project up to an entire neighborhood, district or larger part of town. That decision will influence your ability to create partnerships, secure funding, need for promotion and where and when to you’re your workshops.
5. You will discover fabulous and unexpected stories when longtime residents you may have never met read the signs.
When people stroll the neighborhood and read signs, it automatically prompted memories of their own. That is when people get excited about the project. We discovered unexpected stories that would otherwise have been impossible or require extensive research to uncover.
One of many examples was meeting the owner of a house where the Gunther family once lived. They established a chain of ice cream stories in Sacramento and returned to their former home for a family reunion by invitation of the current owner.
6. Blend your walking tour with a home tour or other existing and popular neighborhood event.
In our case, holding our walking tour in combination with the Sacramento Old City Association home tour was the best way to draw attention to our signs because close to 2,000 people walked through the neighborhood.
7. Be visible in other neighborhood events – with identity for your project.
We had a booth in other neighborhoods and talked about our project. We had a booth during the Old City home tour. Staffing the booths was when we met neighbors with great stories. And that is how we excited other streets and neighborhoods to create their own project.
8. Link your blog other neighborhood events and put your information on it.
Get a lot of visibility for the blog and post a lot of home anecdotes and longer stories. People visit the site as their platform for information. Blog stats help you see when people are looking and the most popular topic and give you ideas for additional workshops.
9. Make it as easy as possible to create signs.
Hold workshops at someone’s home or the library. Give them free materials. Ask their kids to help. Do students in class want to do stories as an art project for class?