Seven easy ways to build a sense of community in Auckland

Wednesday, 11 November 2015 by Mark Sandiford

A recent ' Great Neighbour' Survey in Auckland showed that 85 per cent of respondents wanted to know their neighbours better. But wanting this and actually doing it are two completely different things.

So what's standing in our way and how do we get to the promised 'communal' land?

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Life has changes in many ways. If we look back to how communities were shaped and how they have grown, we can see that in our immediate past (the last 10 - 20 years) neighbours looked after one another's kids, made time for a simple chat and generally kept an eye out for one another.

Fast forward to today and we note that our focus (in urban areas like Auckland) has shifted, away from local community and has essentially more become more self focused.

_auckland _in _watercolour _paint _effect

It is easier to focus on what we can immediately control and influence - that is, our own lives.

And while we may want to contribute more meaningfully to our community, there are things that can get in the way:

  • language barriers
  • physical barriers impractical for communication
  • high fences and zero access properties
  • an increase in working parents
  • isolation
  • high car usage
  • transience

Longer working hours and also mobile and internet connectivity can in part be blamed for our lack of physical connectedness that has essentially moved our social tendencies and focus into online platforms like Facebook.

It then begs the question - how do we become more community connected? While the following steps won't build an immediate communal utopia, it will get the ball rolling.

simple, easy steps to build a sense of community

  • Knock on your neighbours door. Don't wait for an emergency to bring you closer together. You may have lived alongside one another for years but all it takes is one of you to make the first move for connections to begin.
  • Welcome newcomers. Make the time to introduce yourself to those who are new to your neighbourhood. Whether you stop by with fresh baking, home-grown produce or just a friendly smile, you'll make a big impact.
  • Invest in a pet... dogs are fantastic ice breakers. Taking your dog to the local dog park will open you up to more conversations with people, than if you simply went alone.
  • Create positive reasons to unite. It could be a community BBQ (or block party as they call them in the States), garage sale or working bee, an issue affecting the neighbourhood or fundraising for a local school. Let your neighbours know what's going on and encourage them to play a part.
  • Be the bridge. Learn to say 'hello' and 'how are you' in different languages spoken by residents in your area.
  • Join Neighbourly.co.nz.  Working within the digital field to rebuild some of the 'disconnect' the internet has caused are sites and apps like Neighbourly which aim to keep us, as a community, connected. Being a part of local social platforms can lead to all sorts of positive face-to-face connections.
  • Be local, shop local, volunteer local, dine local - explore what's available to you in your own community. Night schools, book groups, sports clubs, churches, farmers markets are all a great way to make more local 'real world' connections.

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The benefits of being community-connected

Once we start to "invest" in our communities - we begin to unearth the value of our collective power, and start to truly realise the value and benefits our neighbours can bring to our lives and the growing lives of our children.

And "investment" is a person specific contribution. Whether it's financially, emotionally or spiritually - the point is not so much what you do, but that you do. It's simply about making a conscious decision to participate in community life and help build a 'sense of community'.

And it probably wont take as much time as you think. Because we all know that time is the main reason or excuse we have - we are time poor. But are we really?

If we want to reap the benefits of local community, we do need to put in some effort and get things going.

It's in our best interests to start making small changes now so that we can all live in a community where people are keeping an eye out for each other's homes and children, where homegrown produce swaps happen on the regular, and you're never more than a door-knock away from a friendly cuppa and an enriching chat?

Ultimately, living in a connected and caring neighbourhood positively affects our well-being and fosters a sense of belonging and social contribution.

What does a connected community, in a world class city like Auckland look like?

  • Neighbours welcoming new residents

  • People stop for a chat and discuss local/real issues

  • People treating each other with respect and assume the best despite differences

  • Residents look for creative ways to tackle problems together

  • No-one feels isolated

_community _group

So let's kick it off and by all means start small - it may be as simple as a knock on a neighbours door to say 'hello'.

Again it's not so much what you do, but that you do - because doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

At Kiwi International Hotel we are proud to be based in such a great, world class city.

Auckland has many untold treasures to unearth, the least of which are its residents. With growing community pride and connectedness throughout the city we look forward to a time and a day when all people within Auckland have a strong sense of social connection and acceptance.

This connectedness will benefit us all... because who doesn't want to live in a community where you feel connected and valued.

We also think it will benefit visitors to our city and hopefully inspire them to be as community minded when they get home; because the issue of connectedness is county-wide.

Stay a night or two in Auckland, venture out into the many community-minded suburbs of the city and soak in what makes a place great - the people.

 

 
 

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