The Power of Neighbourliness

Have you ever considered the importance of being neighbourly? No matter where we live – townhouses, detached homes, condos, apartments – we all have neighbours. And there’s a lot to be said for how (and how often) we interact and connect with them.

Neighbourliness has been on the decline in recent years, and this is unfortunate but not irreparable.

Long work weeks, both parents working, over-programmed kids and the pervasiveness of digital media are all reasons for the weakening of relationships with our neighbours, but there are things we can do to strengthen these bonds. And they’re really quite simple.

  1. Introduce yourself. We may be stating the obvious here but all of us should make a point of knocking on the door of the “new kid on the block” and welcoming them to the neighbourhood
  2. Be the “eyes on street.” This phrase was coined by renowned urbanist, Jane Jacobs, and is essentially informal surveillance by community residents looking out for one another, in the name of safety.
  3. Be generous with your time when you can. Offer to take in their mail and water their plants when they’re on vacation. Shovel their walk once in a while. Bring over a batch of holiday cookies.
  4. Be social! Invite them over for a BBQ. Organize a block party or community garage sale. Or simply shoot the breeze over the fence.

All of these small efforts add up to something much larger – social capital. Defined by Wikipedia as

a form of economic and cultural capital in which social networks are central; transactions are marked by reciprocitytrust, and cooperation; and market agents produce goods and services not mainly for themselves, but for a common good,” social capital is invaluable.

In his book, “The Vanishing Neighbour”, Marc Dunkelman describes three rings of contact in our daily lives – the inner ring includes our closest friends and family, and the outer ring contains our extensive group of people from school or work. The middle ring is represented by the people who live near us and come in regular contact with, but we don’t call close friends. Dunkelman feels the neglect of this middle ring is partially responsible for the steady erosion of our community networks, and this is due in large part to our propensity for surrounding ourselves with like-minded people:

“Today, if you don’t know your neighbors—if you’ve transferred social capital away from the middle rings—your political frame of reference is limited both to the people you love most and the legions who, through outer-ring networks, share your point of view.”

Engaging with your middle ring often means exercising your ability to be inclusive and respectful, and accept different points of view. This is a skill that can have positive reverberating effects beyond your own backyard. It teaches tolerance, kindness and compromise – all good things.

Over the past few years, we’ve come to learn that many of our homeowners have grown close within our communities. Even in recent projects such as Wateridge, our service and sales teams are informed of new friendships forming amongst Uniform homeowners. As homebuilders, this makes us proud. It’s proof that our small efforts like social media contests or the Merry Dairy ice cream giveaway are playing a part in fostering a strong sense of community in the places where we build.

So, the next time you step out of the house and catch sight of your neighbour, say hello. Ask them what they’re up to this summer. Compliment them on their garden.

Lend them some sugar.