-hOST neighbor nights-

People building a gravel trail.

Neighbors gather in a circle to discuss their Table Talk topic.

One person acts as a “Story Catcher” and takes notes in a

notebook that is saved by the Neighbor Night Committee.

The Garden of Concord 

Eli Whitney, NC

Alamance County

Three times a year, 80 people gather in the Eli Whitney community building to share tasty food and friendly conversation. These “Neighbor Nights” are organized by The Garden of Concord and are free for everyone. A special committee from the garden organizes Neighbor Nights, and each gathering is led by one person from the committee.

 

Typically, a Neighbor Night includes:

  • Meet & Greet: Greeters welcome attendees and pass out an icebreaker, such as Bingo, to help participants get to know each other.

  • Dinner: Everyone is invited to get food and mingle using the icebreaker. 

  • Introductions: Everyone takes a seat in chairs that have been set up in a U-formation. Each person has 15 seconds to say their name and share something “new and good.” They can always pass if they don’t feel comfortable sharing.

  • Table Talk: People are invited to share ideas they would like to discuss, which might include topics for the garden, such as what to grow next year, or something completely different, like planning a chili cook-off. Three to four topics are chosen, and everyone splits into groups to
    discuss the topic that most interests them.

  • Marketplace: The group comes back together, and each person is invited to make an offer, request, or declaration. For example, a person who wants to make smoothies could request a blender, and someone who owns a blender they don't use could offer it up.

  • Closing: The leader thanks everyone for attending and announces the next Neighbor Night.

Want to host a Neighbor Night for your organization? Here are some tips from The Garden of Concord to help your Neighbor Night go smoothly:
 

  • Follow a Planning Template: The committee uses this template to plan what they will do in the month leading up to the event.

  • Collaborate: The Garden of Concord realized the events are too much work for one person so they organized a committee. Everyone helps with planning, and they take turns leading the actual event.

  • Gather Emails: The Garden sends invitations to each Neighbor Night through a listserv that includes all garden members and anyone who has attended a previous garden event.

  • Put Someone in Charge of Food: Managing the evening’s food is an important and time consuming job. The committee hires a caterer to do this so they can focus on the people attending. A less expensive alternative is to create a Potluck Committee.

  • Provide Free Childcare: A separate room is turned into a “Kids Space” and staffed by hired
    daycare workers, which allows parents to participate fully in Neighbor Night. This space could also be staffed by vetted volunteers.

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