Project Details

Small Town Uptown seeks to bring the connectedness of the "small town" to Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. Through door-to-door surveys, meet-and-greet events, and the use of social media, Small Town Uptown brings together neighbors with similar interests, utilizes and makes available the skills inherent in a neighborhood, and helps weave the social fabric intrinsic in small towns into the downtown urban environment. Modeled on the Abundant Community Initiative in Edmonton, Small Town Uptown can turn First Ward into a true *neighbor*hood.

More info here:

Johnny Wakefield's Biography


Project Update

johnny cook outFebruary 2016
Johnny is as determined as ever to connect with this neighbours and break down barriers to community interactions. In the process, he's profiled two inspiring people in his neighbourhood, hosted a cook out, and tried to kick-start a community association. He's faced challenges and some resistance from neighbours as he transitions from "Johnny the neighbour" to "Johnny the grant winner."

Here's Johnny describing the progress and road blocks in his own words:

When a project isn't your full-time job, it takes a little longer to come together. And when you're trying to launch any new initiative, you have to see what works and what doesn't. And sometimes, your "great" ideas aren't that great or effective (or easy) after all.

This Our First Ward blog has been a bit of a struggle: in July, August, and September, I reached out to several neighbors to be interviewed. When I did, I noticed a disturbing trend... I was no longer "Johnny, the neighbor and dad who cares/wants to be my friend;" I started to become "Johnny, the non-profit guy who wants to 'tell my story.'"

That started to put up barriers in my own neighborhood, my own life, as neighbors and friends became "skeptical interviewees." That in itself is counterproductive to everything I want Small Town Charlotte to be, both for myself and for anyone else that tries to follow the examples I set here.

I want people to realize they can reach out and get to know their neighbors without needing to "start an initiative," without having a blog, without winning a grant, and that when they do, their lives/communities are infinitely better for it. And yet, as soon as I started an initiative to tell people they can know their neighbors, it became harder for me to really know my neighbors.

That's a problem. Maybe a personal problem, but one I needed to step back and consider before lunging forward with Small Town Charlotte and the Our First Ward blog.

I'm still considering it, daily, but while I let the blog go for awhile (stay tuned), my wife and I continued to try to connect with our neighbors.

We had a Labor Day cookout where we simply camped out in our parking lot with ladder ball, bag chairs, a speaker, and a tailgate grill. People spontaneously made dishes and joined us (Miss Shirley's baked beans were fantastic). Other neighbors stopped and stayed awhile. It was a huge success for us.

We've attended neighborhood board and tenant association meetings, meeting more and more people that call First Ward home.

And we're constantly knocking on doors asking to borrow things, partially out of real need, but also out of a desire to build familiarity. Our neighbor got so tired of us asking for a can opener, she bought us one and left it on our doorstep with a really nice note. Even that was a success. :) We now know her well.

Small Town Charlotte website

Small Town Charlotte Twitter

We Love CLT - Have you met Johnny Wakefield?
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What could make Charlotte an even better city? These two have some ideas
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