Capital Area Neighborhoods - CAN - SMC's COVID Response

Capital Area Neighborhoods (CAN) is a decentralized opportunity for neighborhoods to develop groups as they see fit. CAN is intended to grow relationships in neighborhoods, help with emergency & neighbor-to-neighbor communications and also general communications between the City & neighborhoods.

SMC began intensively organizing the project at the end of March 2020 in response to the growing Covid crisis. Mayor Anne Watson was hoping the CAN network could be re-engaged and was delighted that SMC stepped up to manage the effort by recruiting and organizing neighborhood coordinators.

CAN originated in 2008/2009 as a response to the financial crisis and rapidly rising fuel costs. CAN was formed to promote emergency management, community building, and civic engagement. Additionally, many CAN groups organize activities, such as potlucks and yard sales, in order to build community within their neighborhoods.

CAN coordinators can participate by:

-Being a point-person for sharing resources/information with neighbors (i.e. emergency communications);

-Organizing social events;

-Creating a neighborhood directory and/or social media account and/or newsletter;

-Acting as a block captain (participating in phone tree);

-There are other ideas too!

Interested in being a part of Capital Area Neighborhoods or want to learn more?

Please contact MontpelierCAN@gmail.com or call (802) 828-7375

The Importance of Neighborhood Groups

Social

Getting to know your neighbors as people is an important concept in creating a resilient community. Even though we are practicing social distancing we can still have fun! Ideas might be to: throw a Netflix Party, start a neighborhood book club, pair-up with a virtual or real pen pal, hold an online cooking competition (Chopped-style for example choose 4 ingredients and cook on Zoom), create a garden with your neighbors or go to Montpelier Alive for other great ideas!

Spending time outside is a great way to meet people. Some neighborhoods organize block parties and close off a street for a period of time. This requires working with the City of Montpelier and filling out a Street Closure Permit ahead of time. Please review more information here.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor Communications

There are a number of ways neighborhoods can set up neighbor-to-neighbor communications:

1) Neighborhood directory - akin to our (RIP) beloved White Pages, this can be as simple as a shared spreadsheet where neighbors voluntarily add-in their contact information and connect directly with each other or the group

2) A closed Facebook group where neighbors can reach out one-on-one and/or discuss things with one another

3) A neighborhood listserv - where one or a few people are responsible for maintaing it and sending out emails as desired

4) Neighborhood sandwich board where postings can be physically displayed

5) Resource sharing (such as through a free library)

6) Phone tree - a system for contacting neighbors to deliver the same message to a neighborhood group. A few people start by calling neighbors and then asking their neighbors to call neighbors, etc.

Since some neighbors are internet-free and some may have recently moved in, it's ideal to have more than 1 communication network set up, with 1 of them being internet-free.

Emergency Response

At the onset of COVID-19 and the "stay-at-home" order, in partnership with the City, CAN Coordinators spearheaded a near City-wide flyering effort in order to socially distance check-in with neighbors and to share resources with anyone who may be in need. Flyering is a way to ensure that everyone gets a notice, in case anyone is not connected to the internet and/or may be overwhelmed by the amount of information circulating on the internet.

Neighbors Creating Solutions

Neighborhood Governance

Neighborhood groups are a way for neighbors to come together to talk about neighborhood needs and to discuss possible solutions. In the past, this has led to neighbors showing up at City Council to present ideas to the City on an important neighborhood topic and/or reaching out to City representatives to ask questions.

Examples of Neighborhood Groups Creating Resilient Communities

One of the main reasons SMC sought to reinvigorate the CAN network was to create and cultivate resilient communities. Resilience (transformative) refers to the ability of something - an individual, a community - to respond positively to adversity. Resilience evolves from people working cooperatively to make positive changes in their lives and their communities. Neighborhood groups are the conduit for people to connect to one another, share positive actions of mutual aid and make the changes that they want to see.

Resources/Examples:

1) "How We Come Together When We Can't Go Very Far"

2) "Creating Resilient Communities"