Speed Neighbouring at Eastwood Hall helps build community

Two relative strangers sitting at a table over refreshments can typically go no further than small talk, perhaps some light gossip. Not so at the Speed Neighbouring event in Eastwood last month on Feb. 13.

One to two minutes in, and participants were sharing aspects of their lives, their aspirations, and what’s meaningful to them.

“I definitely heard a lot of laughs around the tables, and witnessed complete strangers sharing life stories. It was awesome,” says Lenn Wheatley, Eastwood Community League president.

Wheatley says he had been thinking about the importance of relationships in a community, and how the community league could help foster meaningful connections.

“Community events are meant to connect neighbours together, not just collect people together into the same space to watch a performance, whatever that may be,” he explains.

After Wheatley graduated from university and left behind the sense of community there, he found fewer occasions to meet people. At a local event such as a band or play, the cultural boost is always good, he says, but the chance to find new acquaintances or possible friendship is lacking.

“There are not always opportunities at different kinds of social events, other than a brief nod, smile or handshake,” he explains.

So he wanted to “flip that idea on its head.”

“I thought of this event . . . to speak to a missing piece that can be present at a community festival or happening; literally meeting other human beings and starting new relationships with fellow neighbours.”

At Eastwood’s Speed Neighbouring ice-breaker, participants sat at a table with one or two others. Some were acquainted, while others had never met before. They had three to five minutes to pick out and answer pre-prepared questions, in categories that included “my favourite things” and “going deeper.”

Very quickly, the ‘speed dating’ style lead to genuine conversations.

Rahul Sharma, who was invited by Wheatley to help with the event, was glad he came.

“I got something out of it. It gave me food for thought,” says Sharma. “I’d come again.”

Kim McCall, also invited to help out, was thrilled she not only met some of her neighbours, but also got invited to be part of the garden committee.

“I’m elated. So excited,” she says of her new volunteer opportunity. “And I got into some conversations with people I don’t think I would have met.”

The free family event was a success to build on, says Wheatley.

“Everybody who came met at least three new people, and throughout the night, there were 25 table conversations between neighbours,” he explains.

As a bonus, participants who learned more about each other also happen to be neighbours. So it was also building community.

“Speed Neighboring connects neighbours together, and this is really at the core of why the Eastwood Community Centre exists,” says Wheatley.

Eastwood Community League is planning future neighbour-meet-neighbour events, such as coffeehouse concert nights and summertime block parties.

Stay tuned for future Speed Neighbouring events at eastwoodcommunity.org.


11803 86 St


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Featured Image: Eastwood resident Tom Bagoole (left) shares some thoughts with Katherine Jones (right) while Kim McCall (middle) looks on. | Kate Wilson