Our second event: from friends of affinity to friends of proximity

We hosted our second event this past Saturday after a month in the accelerator program.


Here’s the long version:

We pivoted drastically since our last event and are currently running an experiment where we commit to our current neighborhood for 1 month and see what happens.

So instead of inviting people from all over Porto that seem value aligned to our event, we only invited neighbors, not knowing if they are at all aligned with our big vision of building a neighborhood for families.

In the accelerator we talk about “friends of affinity” vs. “friends of proximity”. So far I thought I want to build community with highly value aligned people and somehow make them my neighbors. Now I am looking at who is already close by and how I can connect to them. I was extremely surprised about my experience!

Some background:

  • we live 15 minutes by public transport away from downtown Porto. Which is far enough to be away from the tourists and the crowds. I would say our neighborhood is still quite Portuguese and not an expat hotspot. Also meaning many people don’t speak English very well or at all.
  • We chose our neighborhood without ever having been to Porto and moved here 6 months ago. Our criteria were: proximity to public transportation, dog-park within 10 minutes walking distance, balcony, rent in or preferably under our budget. We also had “organic grocery store nearby” on the list, but that turned out to be harder than we thought. We now have a great setup for that as well and get most our groceries delivered from local farms and supermarkets.
  • We didn’t know anyone here before we moved and do not speak Portuguese yet.
  • Here’s a report from our first event: Hosting 6 families in our apartment to create a neighborhood

What we did this time:

  • We thought of an event that wouldn’t require language and decided to do a Jenga party
  • We asked Chat GPT to come up with a flyer and a name for the event both in English and Portuguese (and credits to @savkruger for improving the text!):

  • We went door knocking without much success. Many people didn’t answer or they didn’t understand us. One guy came out on his balcony and talked with us but then didn’t show up or text us.
  • We also just walked up to strangers on the street that seemed to live in the area and invited them, handing out flyers. We had wonderful, very nice conversations with all of them. We approached 3 couples and one mom with her teenage daughter.
  • We also put flyers in Mailboxes. Just to see what happens.

Here’s what happened:

  • Our downstairs neighbors from the first floor came the night before and apologized that they won’t make it and brought some pastries.
  • on the day of our event we didn’t clean much. we made sure the toilets and sinks were in good shape. But I didn’t go nuts cleaning. And I opted to nap instead. I had ideas for how to involve everyone.
  • everyone came 40 minutes late. they all arrived within 5 minutes of each other. Welcome to Portugal :wink:
  • Three couples came, one with their 6 months old son. One couple was our downstairs neighbors from the second floor, the other couples were strangers we talked to on the street.
  • One couple was from Portugal, the others were from Brazil. So we were the only folks who didn’t speak Portuguese. And it didn’t matter.
  • They talked with each other in Portuguese, they translated and looped us in whenever it seemed necessary. But we very much enjoyed just watching 6 people we randomly threw together in a room connect with each other in such a wonderful easy going way.
  • The Jenga blocks were not used for the first hour of the event.
  • We didn’t do an official pitch but the conversation unfolded naturally and we talked a tiny bit about what we would like and why we did it. It felt very organic.
  • Everyone brought some snacks, one of them brought an Orchid <3 I’m a plant lover so yayyyy
  • Most of the event happened sitting on the kitchen / living room floor with a snack bowl in the middle.
  • At one point Stephen put the Jenga tower in the middle and people just started playing. Not in a fixed order. Not in a way that would disrupt the conversations. Anyone who felt called to remove a block did it.
  • The event went an hour longer than we had announced. We had to cook dinner for our toddler but it was fine. I chopped veggies while still talking to someone, Stephen cooked and had a wonderful conversation with one guest about buying houses here (which - sidenote - might be easier than we thought)
  • in the end we asked everyone if they want to be on a whatsapp thread together and plan a next event and everyone opted in. We created the thread and people thanked us for being brave and for the wonderful time they had.
  • there was not much clean up to do. One guest took care of the Jenga blocks and the rest went in the dishwasher without much effort.
  • We felt extremely excited about the event and very nurtured by it.
  • Unfortunately we also went to bed way to late and then our daughter woke up frequently so we didn’t have a great next day… to put it mildly.

What we learned, what’s next:

  • This is juuust the beginning! We now know the names of a couple of neighbors and know where they live and we now have blossoming friendships with a couple more.
  • Having flyers is an awesome thing when talking people up on the street.
  • Make sure to exchange numbers! People might loose their flyer!
  • Underprepare! It’s awesome! saves time, stress and leaves enough room for people to jump in and be helpful. i will try to do that even more next time.
  • The right people show up. There’s no forcing it.
  • There are many ways to meet neighbors. Door knocking is one of them but not the only.
  • Don’t be afraid to disrupt your neighborhood with your passion for connection! It might change an entire block… but it might be to the better.
  • Meeting neighbors is possible even if you don’t speak the language. It’s also an amazing motivator to actually learn the language.
  • We already are thinking about buying a house and feel anxious that we won’t find one in our current neighborhood (which is hilarious given that we never planned on making this particular part of Porto our forever home and just committed to it for one month a couple of days ago)
  • Our next event will most likely be a picnic in the park 10 minutes from our house and we most likely will ask the people we already know to invite neighbors that they know.

I’d love to hear any thoughts, questions and feedback!