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A more sustainable future will only come about through the dedication of an informed and active citizenry. Those listed on this year’s Top 30 under 30 are excellent examples of this, pushing for changes in the private sector, from governments and through civil society alike.

But the wholesale reimagining of society requires a common civic bond, described by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone as social capital – referring to “connections among individuals, social networks and norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.”

This capital is built up through hundreds of little and big actions we take every day. Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government created a list of nearly 150 ideas, drawn from suggestions made by many people and groups, to get the ball rolling.

Some of these ideas may appear trite or obvious, but when multiplied across a community they can make a real difference.


Try out some of these or come up with your own:

❏ 1. Organize a social gathering to welcome a new neighbour
❏ 2. Attend town meetings
❏ 3. Register to vote and then vote

❏ 4. Support local merchants
❏ 5. Volunteer your special skills to an organization
❏ 6. Donate blood (with a friend!)
❏ 7. Start a front-yard/community garden
❏ 8. Mentor someone of a different ethnic or religious group
❏ 9. Surprise a new neighbour by making a favourite dinner – and include the recipe
❏ 10. Tape record your parents’ earliest recollections and share them with your children
❏ 11. Plan a vacation with friends or family
❏ 12. Avoid gossip
❏ 13. Help fix someone’s flat tire
❏ 14. Organize or participate in a sports league
❏ 15. Join a gardening club
❏ 16. Attend home parties when invite
❏ 17. Become an organ donor or blood marrow donor
❏ 18. Attend your children’s athletic contests, plays and recitals
❏ 19. Get to know your children’s teachers
❏ 20. Join the local Elks, Kiwanis, or Knights of Columbus
❏ 21. Get involved with Brownies or Cub/Boy/Girl Scouts
❏ 22. Start a monthly tea group
❏ 23. Speak at or host a monthly brown bag lunch series at your local library
❏ 24. Sing in a choir
❏ 25. Get to know the clerks and salespeople at your local stores
❏ 26. Attend PTA meetings
❏ 27. Audition for community theatre or volunteer to usher
❏ 28. Give your park a weatherproof chess/checkers board
❏ 29. Play cards with friends or neighbours
❏ 30. Give to your local food bank
❏ 31. Walk or bike to support a cause and meet others
❏ 32. Employers: encourage volunteer/community groups to hold meetings on your site
❏ 33. Volunteer in your child’s classroom or chaperone a field trip
❏ 34. Join or start a babysitting cooperative
❏ 35. Attend school plays
❏ 36. Answer surveys when asked
❏ 37. Businesses: invite local government officials to speak at your workplace
❏ 38. Attend Memorial Day parades and express appreciation for others
❏ 39. Form a local outdoor activity group
❏ 40. Participate in political campaigns
❏ 41. Attend a local budget committee meeting
❏ 42. Form a computer group for local senior citizens
❏ 43. Help coach Little League or other youth sports – even if you don’t have a kid playing
❏ 44. Help run the snack bar at the Little League field
❏ 45. Form a tool lending library with neighbours and share ladders, snow blowers, etc.
❏ 46. Start a lunch gathering or a discussion group with co-workers
❏ 47. Offer to rake a neighbour’s yard or shovel his/her walk
❏ 48. Start or join a carpool
❏ 49. Employers: give employees time (e.g., 3 days per year) to work on civic projects
❏ 50. Plan a walking tour of a local historic area
❏ 51. Eat breakfast at a local gathering spot on Saturdays
❏ 52. Have family dinners and read to your children
❏ 53. Run for public office
❏ 54. Stop and make sure the person on the side of the highway is OK
❏ 55. Host a block party or a holiday open house
❏ 56. Start a fix-it group – friends willing to help each other clean, paint, garden, etc.
❏ 57. Offer to serve on a town committee
❏ 58. Join the volunteer fire department
❏ 59. Go to church…or temple…or walk outside with your children – talk to them about why it’s important
❏ 60. If you grow tomatoes, plant extra for a lonely eldery neighbour – better yet, ask him/her to teach you and others how to can the extras
❏ 61. Ask a single diner to share your table for lunch
❏ 62. Stand at a major intersection holding a sign for your favourite candidate
❏ 63. Persuade a local restaurant to have a designated “meet people” table
❏ 64. Host a potluck supper before your Town Meeting
❏ 65. Take dance lessons with a friend
❏ 66. Say “thanks” to public servants – police, firefighters, town clerk…
❏ 67. Fight to keep essential local services in the downtown area – your post office, police station, school, etc.
❏ 68. Join a non-profit board of directors
❏ 69. Gather a group to clean up a local park or cemetery
❏ 70. When somebody says “government stinks,” suggest they help fix it
❏ 71. Turn off the TV and talk with friends or family
❏ 72. Hold a neighbourhood barbecue
❏ 73. Bake cookies for new neighbours or work colleagues
❏ 74. Plant tree seedlings along your street with neighbours and rotate care for them
❏ 75. Volunteer at the library
❏ 76. Form or join a bowling team
❏ 77. Return a lost wallet or appointment book
❏ 78. Use public transportation and start talking with those you regularly see
❏ 79. Ask neighbours for help and reciprocate
❏ 80. Go to a local folk or crafts festival
❏ 81. Call an old friend
❏ 82. Sign up for a class and meet your classmates
❏ 83. Accept or extend an invitation
❏ 84. Talk to your kids or parents about their day
❏ 85. Say hello to strangers

❏ 86. Log off and go to the park
❏ 87. Ask a new person to join a group for a dinner or an evening
❏ 88. Host a potluck meal or participate in them
❏ 89. Volunteer to drive someone
❏ 90. Say hello when you spot an acquaintance in a store
❏ 91. Host a movie night
❏ 92. Exercise together or take walks with friends or family
❏ 93. Assist with or create your town or neighbourhood’s newsletter
❏ 94. Organize a neighbourhood garbage pick-up – with lawn games afterwards
❏ 95. Become a story-reader or baby-rocker at a local childcare centre or neighbourhood pre-school
❏ 96. Join a book club discussion or get the group to discuss local issues
❏ 97. Volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels in your neighbourhood
❏ 98. Start a children’s story hour at your local library
❏ 99. Be real. Be humble. Acknowledge others’ self-worth
❏ 100. Greet people
❏ 101. Cut back on television
❏ 102. Join in to help carry something heavy
❏ 103. Plan a reunion of family, friends, or those with whom you had a special connection
❏ 104. Take in the programs at your local library
❏ 105. Read the local news faithfully
❏ 106. Buy a grill and invite others over for a meal
❏ 107. Fix it even if you didn’t break it
❏ 108. Pick it up even if you didn’t drop it
❏ 109. Attend a public meeting
❏ 110. Go with friends or colleagues to a ball game (and root, root, root for the home team!)
❏ 111. Help scrape ice off a neighbour’s car, put chains on the tires or shovel it out of the snow
❏ 112. Hire young people for odd jobs
❏ 113. Start a tradition
❏ 114. Share your snow blower
❏ 115. Help jump-start someone’s car
❏ 116. Join a project that includes people from all walks of life
❏ 117. Sit on your stoop
❏ 118. Be nice when you drive
❏ 119. Make gifts of time
❏ 120. Buy a big hot tub
❏ 121. Volunteer at your local neighbourhood school
❏ 122. Offer to help out at your local recycling centre
❏ 123. Send a “thank you” Letter to the Editor about a person or event that helped build community
❏ 124. Raise funds for a new town clock or new town library
❏ 125. When inspired, write personal notes to friends and neighbours
❏ 126. Attend gallery openings
❏ 127. Organize a town-wide yard sale
❏ 128. Invite friends or colleagues to help with a home renovation or home building project
❏ 129. Join or start a local mall-walking group and have coffee together afterwards
❏ 130. Build a neighbourhood playground
❏ 131. Collect oral histories from older town residents
❏ 132. Contra dance or two-step
❏ 133. Help kids on your street construct a lemonade stand
❏ 134. Open the door for someone who has his or her hands full
❏ 135. Say hi to those in elevators
❏ 136. Invite friends to go snowshoeing, hiking or cross-country skiing
❏ 137. Offer to watch your neighbour’s home or apartment while they are away
❏ 138. Organize a fitness/health group with your friends or co-workers
❏ 139. Hang out at the town dump and chat with your neighbours as you sort your trash at the recycling centre
❏ 140. Take pottery classes with your children or parent(s)
❏ 141. See if your neighbour needs anything when you run to the store
❏ 142. Ask to see a friend’s family photos
❏ 143. Join groups (e.g., arts, sports, religion) likely to lead to making new friends of different race or ethnicity, different social class or bridging across other dimensions
❏ 144. Attend or start a free summer music series at a local park
❏ 145. Tell friends and family about social capital and why it matters

Note: Expanded from original list of “100 Things You Can Do to Build Social Capital” (Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America project at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government); additional contributions from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation, as well as ideas from the general public.

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