During this uncertain period, we need to understand that people have different capabilities and will be in different situations at particular moments of their life. They have just moved out of the area, just had a child, lost their job, been diagnosed with Covid 19 or have seen their street massively change with people moving out.
Crisis, the emergency, pandemic. Every day we hear words used to stress us out. The new normal is changing very quickly and often for the worst. Often this is accompanied by stories of conflict between actors about who should get a slice of the pie, who’s to blame and what should be done to punish them, whether it’s migrants swamping our communities, so-called scroungers using our money or moped hoodies taking over our streets.
Statistically, we might look at our neighbourhods and find there is no increase in crime, that there is mean testing to death — metaphorically and sometimes literally. But statistics don’t tell the whole story, they may be out of date, not local enough or most importantly not asking the right questions. And surveys aren’t the best way of taking the social temperature.
Brexit may in part have been as a result of voting illegalities, but it also had deep rooted causes that people didn’t see and people voted for different reasons.
Cohesion may be reducing not just because people feel left behind or left out, but people are motivated by different values.
For some people, seeing their high street transform from ironmongers turning into hipster cafes, garages turning into co-working spaces and pizza parlours turning into hot yoga gyms may create a sense it’s not for people like them anymore. Equally for a freelance single co-working living on an estate where there’s mainly families who knew each other and meet in the playground they may not feel a sense of neighbourliness either.
Regeneration, affordability of housing or lack of and changes in family & work structures have changed the social makeup of the streets we live in and can make it difficult for us to relate to one another.
Councils often develop strategic approaches to cohesion which are often focused on “hard” techniques like tackling hate crime and “soft” ones like supporting residents to come together around street fetes.
How about making cohesion the way we
- Support participation and service design so that every interact with people helps build their resilience and bridge connection between communities
- Develop our economies encourages sectors, businesses and employment create cohesion through how it recruits and works with its customers
To do this, we need to value and understand people’s motivations, skills & connections. We can create or support activities that not only help people connect with others but create stepping stones for them to become more involved and build resilient relationships, from “drop ins” in our libraries to Make Meanwhile makespace or our Centre for Independent Living.
This needs to be supported by infrastructure that builds on existing resources and cultural practices. Make Meanwhile started from a lack of health food and activity. People are subject to the day to day pressures and so we can help people experience and practice change, supporting spaces which connect different people and most importantly different ways of doing, that help people genuinely become neighbourhods, where by taking part in one activity they can become interested in another.