Saturday, April 27, 2013

The City We Live in

Living in downtown Vancouver for close to two years now, I have yet to know a single neighbour's first name nor have participated in a local community event. I am not alone in this category. Vancouver Foundation published a report on Vancouver's local engagement and connections within a community. This report is trying to show how residents experience life in metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver can be a hard place to make friends. One-third of the people we surveyed say it is difficult to make new friends here. And one in four say they are alone more often than they would like to be. In both cases, people who experience this also report poorer health, lower trust and a hardening of attitudes toward other community members. 
That's not surprising; we talk about this, and we experience it. I am not sure why this is the case though, particularly in this city. What do we do differently from other cities that makes it hard to make new friends? Or else, how do they make new friends in different cities?
While most of us know the names of at least two of our neighbours, the connections typically stop there. Most of us do not do simple favours for our neighbours (like taking care of their mail when they are away) and fewer have visited a neighbour’s home or invited a neighbour over. The most often-cited reason for not knowing neighbours is that people seldom see each other. However, another significant reason seems to be indifference: we prefer to keep to ourselves, or have little interest in getting to know our neighbours. One-third of the people we surveyed do not know if their neighbours trust each other. 

There are limits to how people see diversity as an opportunity to forge meaningful
connections. Over one-third of us have no close friends outside our own ethnic group. 
We found that while people embrace diversity and value what it brings to our community, most think that people prefer to be with others from the same ethnic group as their own.
Another interesting finding is that "people think they have little to offer" when it comes to why they don't participate in the many neighbourhood or community activities. I think this is partly because there are  too few opportunities that they can participate easily and do something 'simple' for a community (or don't know if there is such a community event happening). Every one of us has something to offer and can contribute in our communities, but these are not realized and often have a high bar of making the first step. How can we lower the bar of stepping into community activities and create a chance to connect with neighbours?

How hard it is to get together with your neighbours and make your neighbour street awesome? What if we share a garden with next doors, plant some veggies and have a dinner afterwords? Could we invite my neighbours for a weekend house party?

City won't organize these stuff; we have to make a space for it. See what we can do for this.
OpenVancouver, we will see how we can solve this problem, and make our city awesome.

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