Don’t Just Live in Your Neighborhood—Build It.


Angela Cravens

– VOL. 4

The signs of a neighborhood are all around. They’re the flowers in your neighbor’s window box. The smell of barbeque wafting from the local park. The nods and waves and “hellos” on the way to the subway, the café, the bodega, passing a vibrant mural created by still more of your neighbors.

In Venn Neighborhoods, these signs take on a distinct local flavor. In Kansas City, for instance, where Building Ambassador Jay Ashman—who owns local gym KC Barbell—encourages newbies to get in shape with free beginner strength training. Or in Shapira, Tel Aviv, where Building Leader Matan organized a Second-Hand Party featuring local artists selling their goods—a “colorful, sustainable, and successful event,” said Venn Leader Kathy Cohen. 

Image of Neighborhood Leaders Kansas City

Building Leaders, also referred to as Building Ambassadors, are grassroots leaders, helping Neighbors get more involved with their communities.

The secret sauce in Venn Neighborhoods? It’s the Building Leaders, individuals who know their neighborhoods inside and out, and serve as a connector between Venn and neighbor. They have a unique ability to link neighbors with local arts and businesses, as well as give-back initiatives. Kansas City Neighbors, encouraged by Building Leader Vyonne Tezza, raised funds to support children’s education with Operation Breakthrough. Building Leaders help transform buildings into micro communities, making it easy for people to get involved in their neighborhoods and get to know each other. Whether it’s a chance to see some local comedians, or clean up the local park, Building Leaders are the community voice—and they know how to throw a good party.

“In a way, we created a close-knit power team within a larger community to help us turn Neighbors in buildings into thriving micro-communities.”

“We needed to find a way to reach every neighbor,” says Kathy Cohen, reflecting on the early days of the program in Shapira. “We realized that the only way to do it was to empower Neighbors from within each building.” Venn gives Building Leaders the tools they need to lead, launch events, and welcome newcomers to the neighborhood. “In a way, we created a close-knit power team within a larger community to help us turn Neighbors in buildings into thriving micro-communities.”

Image of neighborhood leaders

The Building Ambassadors in Kansas City meet for the first time to determine their community goals.

So what’s next for Building Leaders and the place they call home? In Shapira, Neighbors will compete for which building can build the best Sukkah, or temporary outdoor dwelling, for the Sukkot holiday, gathering to share meals under the Sukkah for eight days. In Kansas City, this fall will be bustling with opportunities to volunteer with local organizations, host family dinners, share in a community garage sale, and even gather Back-to-School supplies for local teachers. And in Bushwick, folks will break bread at a neighborhood luncheon.

Barbeques, potlucks, and back-to-school—it’s just a few of the things that make a neighborhood feel like home. Connect with your Building Leader to find out more about what’s in store for yours.