The Art of Neighbouring: Strengthening your community

The Art of Neighbouring: Strengthening your community

Building relationships with your neighbours doesn’t have to be complicated. Mutual respect and the occasional small talks are key to enjoying your neighbourhood explains Marie-Hélène Ferguson, Solicitor and Founder of The London School of Etiquette. In the grand scheme of things, being friendly and engaging with your community is a small effort that can go a long way. We’ve put together the most endearing neighbouring initiatives that helped communities grow stronger around the world.

The UK is not short of community initiatives, and in most cases our sense of community is being developed through our love of hearty food. Two initiatives stand out for their originality and scope of reach.

The Big Lunch was started in 2009 by the Eden Project to help people get together with their neighbours. From picnics on the village green to huge street parties, over 7 million people took part in 2015.

The key ingredient is people. The Big Lunch is a great way to connect people where you live. It’s an opportunity to celebrate commonality and what we all share as human beings.

Sir Tim Smit KBE, Co-Founder of the Eden Project and The Big Lunch

According to him, once people are sharing food they start to share so much more such as stories, information, resources and support for each other.

Another food initiative that has made its mark in the UK community landscape is the Casserole Club. The idea is simple, cooking one extra plate of food for older neighbours who are not always able to cook for themselves and share a home-cooked meal together. Anyone can participate by registering as a ‘cook’ or a ‘diner’ on the Casserole Club website. Within just four years, more than 7,000 people have signed up across the UK and Australia.

Peter Lefort, Country Manager for The Big Lunch explains that “ultimately, the initiatives which stand out, and which work, are the ones which have identified a need in their community and enable people to enjoy themselves while meeting that need.”

Towns and villages in bloom – Beyond the UK, in France, one of the oldest standing community initiatives is the horticultural contest ‘villes et villages fleuris’ (translation: towns and villages in bloom). First launched in 1959, this contest was created to promote green spaces and floral displays in cities and villages as well as the effort of the collectivity implemented to reach that goal.

Garden in bloom

Last year (2015) more than 9700 towns participated in the contest. Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society has also been coordinating a similar contest since 1964 called ‘Britain in Bloom’. More than 1,600 neighbourhoods participate each year.

I love my neighbourhood - On the other side of the Atlantic, Canadians also take neighbourhood initiatives seriously. The city of Calgary has adopted a new approach to help decrease urban decay and stimulate social inclusion. Launched in 2010, the program ‘I Love My Neighbourhood’ is a resident-led approach that encourages people to work with city coordinators. So each person can have an impact on the future of their neighbourhoods.

As a final word of advice, Ferguson tells us that you should always:

Enjoy your neighbours and remember they are part of your community, your world, so look after them and surely they’ll look after you.

Read more about neighbourly etiquette when you move into a new area here

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