Coffee and Donuts in the Park

As part of Cohort 0 of the Neighborhood Stewards program, we are running experiments in local community building in our neighborhoods. For our first experiment, we decided to do donuts and coffee in the park at 9am on a Saturday morning.

It was a very simple setup: we got some donuts from a local donut shop and a couple to-go jugs of coffee and brought them to the park across from our house. We texted neighbors to let them know about it and sent a message to the local parents WhatsApp group to invite new people. We set up on a picnic table next to the playground and invited families who happened to be at the playground to come join us. No matter how many times I host events, I think I will always feel the anxiety of the moment the event starts where I wonder if anyone is going to show up.

Around half a dozen families saw the messages and came by with their kids. It turns out we were counter-programmed by the town’s annual Little League Parade, which we didn’t realize was happening at the same time. This impacted attendance, with several people telling us they wanted to come but were at the parade. We also had people ask us if we were planning to do this on a recurring basis. Generally those who showed up (and even some who didn’t) sent us messages of gratitude and excitement about continuing to build more community connection in our area.

Learnings:

  1. Public space - Doing it in a public park was great because it drew in people who wouldn’t have otherwise known about the event and felt like more of an open community event. It also made it easy for the adults to hang out and chat while the kids floated around the park or played on the playground.
  2. Recurring - Getting to the point where we have a recurring event feels like the key. If we do this each week, I could easily see it becoming an event people start to count on and come to each week.
  3. Timing - Saturday mornings felt like a good time to do it—generally a time when people with kids are available and looking for something to do with the family. Little League Parade was a one-time conflict. Maybe we should have started at 8am instead of 9am, as many people had already had their morning coffee and/or breakfast.
  4. Food - Having a food offering definitely adds to the community vibe. A simple setup like donuts and coffee was a way smaller lift than a dinner party and makes it more likely we could repeat it each week. In the future we could get a large coffee carafe and brew it ourselves. Donuts aren’t the healthiest option, but they are simpler than other breakfast options like bagels.
  5. Families - Parents really value easy drop-in-drop-out activities with other families. It’s easy to find things to talk about with other parents, because there’s such a clear shared experience of raising kids. It’s a bit hard to break beyond kid talk though. Tapping into existing local WhatsApp groups for families also feels like a big unlock.
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Love.

So excited for you two.

I really like that you marketed to existing networks of people on the WhatsApp groups.

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