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The Power of Community: Potluck Celebrations

28 Feb 2015 | Mirella Ferraz, Network of Wellbeing

Community Potluck 2

As the well-known saying goes, "sharing is caring", and, in fact, social scientists have now shown that giving can be a powerful way to improve happiness, and that social connections are central to our wellbeing. Appreciating the importance of offering people opportunities for sharing and connecting, the Network of Wellbeing (NOW) has been running regular Community Potluck events in the town of Totnes (in Devon, UK) for over a year now.

These regular Potluck events started after the NOW team had many interesting conversations with members of the local community in Totnes, about the value of open community events for bringing people together. The idea that emerged was simple: to host a shared meal, for which everyone brings a contribution, and to extend an open invitation to the whole community.

For the first Community Potluck, we hired a community hall, promoted the event, and then on the day we put some decorations up, created a children's area (with toys, scrap paper and colourful pens), and waited in anticipation and excitement. That night over 70 people came along, and shared a beautiful feast and a lovely atmosphere. Many new connections were made, and people spontaneously shared their views on happiness and wellbeing through connecting at the event.

The following month we ran the Community Potluck event again - and this time over 100 people came along. We heard from many people that the act of sharing a meal in an informal and friendly environment provided a very positive experience, so we decided to make it a regular event.

Food At Potluck

NOW currently hosts a Community Potluck every third Friday of the month in Totnes. We have a growing team of enthusiastic and supportive volunteers who help to make the event an open and welcoming occasion. It has been fantastic to see how this event has developed over time, welcoming new people to attend and help out.

Through these types of Potluck events, we particularly encourage reaching out to those who feel isolated, and it is inspiring to see the diversity and sense of community belonging and participation that the events bring. Some research suggests that intergenerational contact can be very effective in combating loneliness, so we aim to ensure everyone - young and not so young! - feels welcome to join in the Potluck fun.

Kids At Potluck

Based on these positive experiences, we would like to encourage other communities to host similar events in order to strengthen new and already existing relationships. We have recently created these Community Potluck Guidelines to share our experiences of running these events, and to advise on setting up similar initiatives. We hope that these guidelines inspire others to bring their own community together to share and connect with each other.

On 20th March it will be the International Day of Happiness, and as part of our celebrations we will be running a special Community Potluck event, which will include sharing of music and poetry, as well as the usual delicious food and friendly conversations. You can check out further information about this event here, and for those outside Totnes you can always take a look at our guidelines and consider running your own event.

Based on our experience of running Community Potlucks so far, we've learnt that apart from being a great fun, organising these types of events can be very rewarding due to the power of bringing different members of the community together to connect and share with each other.

You are very welcome to get in touch with any comments, feedback, questions or details of your own Potlucks via info@networkofwellbeing.org. Happy sharing, everyone!

 

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