Neighbourhood Connect

Our Impact

We have a commitment to evaluation and to sharing the evidence that what we do makes a difference. We also regularly share our approach and insights through conference papers and presentations nationally and internationally (details below).

Evaluation Summary

Snapshot

Number of groups initiated with our support since 2014 33
Number of events held by NC groups (in 2019) Over 140, with over 550 people participating
Number of real-life human connection hours (in 2019) Over 5,100
Most significant change reported by Connectors 100% – stronger connections, friendships and relationships among neighbours.

Introduction and Methodology

Neighbourhood Connect (formerly known as the Street by Street Project) has been helping people form neighbourhood groups since 2014.  By the end of 2019 we have helped over 33 groups start. Structured interviews and surveys were undertaken with Connectors (leaders) of Neighbour Groups. Groups that had been active from a few months to five years were invited to participate. The interviews were conducted by phone and in December 2019.  Fourteen groups participated in the evaluation.

Findings Summary

Participation in Neighbourhood Connect Groups

Groups active during 2019 had an average of 57 members (range of 17 to 206), with the number of people per group coming along to face-to-face events averaging 38 (range of 15 to 80). Each neighbourhood group has its own flavour, shaped by its members. Most groups have a regular social gathering at a local venue, park or home. This ranges from every 3 weeks to every quarter.

In 2019, Neighbourhood Connect groups held over 140 events with over 550 participants and generated over 5,100 hours of real-life human connection..

Over 2018 and 2019, Neighbourhood Connect groups held 270+ events and generated over 9,100 hours of real-life human connection.

Where is the project being taken up?

The majority of new neighbourhood groups have been in Victoria, followed by Western Australia, with some reach to every state and territory.

What has happened as a result of having a Neighbour Group?

Neighbours have built a strong sense of community and reduced loneliness through a wide range of activities:

  • Sharing conversation and food at local restaurants, parks (barbecues) and homes. Most keep it simple (buy your own or bring a plate), others have progressive dinners and cake bake offs! Some add games or a talk to the mix. “We have barbecues at neighbours homes in summer and go to restaurants and pubs in winter.”
  • Groups have larger activities from time to time, such as end of year celebrations, parties, outdoor movies, Easter egg hunts, treasure hunts, cricket. Using the skills of local members, there is sometimes live music, face-painting, etc. “The kids love our movie in the park and the Easter egg hunt.” “We have had a litter clean-up, a movie night, winter solstice and Christmas celebrations.”
  • Some groups improve the neighbourhood by having clean ups and then socialising over, for example, strawberries and champagne. Some garden and plant together. A couple groups have gained money through council or crowd funding to hold an event or improve their park.
  • Others taking action on a local issue.
  • One group adds an element of helping the disadvantaged by having everyone bring along coats, blankets or other things to donate to charity.
  • Some groups have organised walks (with or without dogs), Zumba classes, aqua aerobics and social golf so neighbours can exercise together.
  • The email list or Facebook group is used for sharing and asking for help or recommendations.
  • One group has it’s own choir.
  • Neighbours go together for live music, talks, trivia, wineries, shows and movies. “We did a day trip out to Lancefield and had a lot of fun. We car pooled, went walking, shared food and visited a farm belonging to a neighbour.”

As a result:

  • Neighbours have rallied to support those who are ill or who lose a loved one
  • People are kind and help one another regularly (meals, lifts, fixing things, company)
  • Neighbours are helping the elderly people and those with disabilities around them
  • People have an improved social life, and are more likely to go out if they have companions
  • People are healthier as they are exercising together and sharing recipes and produce
  • People are more involved in the community
  • People are giving things away such as honey, plants and produce
  • Many friendships have been made
  • Kids have made friends
  • People feel safer as they call on one another for help, watch out for one another and keep an eye on each other’s property

“We’ve activated the community about local issues.”

“It’s easy now to ask for help, such as feeding my cat. People are happy to help.”

“It’s good fun. We feel part of a community now and most of us felt isolated before. One lady who is on her own said she was always frightened, alone and isolated – she doesn’t say that anymore – she can walk to any of our houses and we’ll give her a hand. We all know each other so well. There have been spin-offs – 3 women go to water aerobics together. Many people go for walks together, some with dogs – some every day. People have given others lifts to hospital for tests. Several of us rallied and helped a neighbour to move into a retirement home. The men borrow tools from each other and have a rubbish bin competition – to see who can get everyone’s bins in or out first – the guys love that. People will come out to say thanks and they’ll chat for half an hour. We share recipes and food. People ask ‘can anyone loan a juicer’ or something and someone does. We watch out for each other, keep an eye on each others properties, feed each others pets, collect mail.. We all feel happier being part of a community. It’s been over a year now and everyone’s still enthusiastic. This really lessens depression and anxiety. The two people who have lost spouses have been given a lot of support that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They’ve opened their homes and their lives” Jenny McCarthy, McCrae, Vic

“People pop into each others homes and say hi, they sharing tools and gardening things. There’s a general feeling of kindness, especially for older people. It’s been great hearing stories of the neighbourhood from older people about what it was like. We have also found out more about other things going on in the neighbourhood, eg someone went and tried dragon boating after meeting a neighbour who did it. We are more aware of litter after a local event.” Wendy Wisniewski, East Fremantle, WA

“Kids have got to know each other better – they’ve made friends. We’ve activated the community about local issues. I feel it’s easy now to ask for help, such as feeding my cat. People are happy to help. It’s been a gradual process but it is good to see momentum gathering and others taking on leadership roles.” Maureen Maher, Hilton, WA

Evaluation indicates that Neighbourhood Connect groups result in people being happier and more supported.    

What’s the most significant change that has come about as a result of your neighbour group?

100% of Connectors said that the most significant change has been the stronger connections and friendships among neighbours.

“We now have a sense of community – we all know each other and help one another.”

“People have been getting to know each other better and that has led to sharing and a sense of belonging. I feel I know these people so much better now. We’ve had a common purpose in improving the park. We feel relaxed with each other. There’s a nice community vibe around the neighbourhood.”

Survey Results

Sense of belonging / community Connectors: 8.9 compared to large Australian studies: 6.63/6.75
Number of neighbours Connectors know Average of 8 prior to the Neighbour Group to an average of 57 with having a Neighbour Group (average of 6.5 who have become friends)
Life satisfaction Connectors: 8.6 compared to large Australian studies: 7.6/7.9
Happiness and wellbeing 91% are happier compared to before they initiated a neighbour group
Trust in neighbours 91% increased their trust in neighbours
Involvement in local issues 73% increased their involvement
Loneliness Of those who experience loneliness, 80% experience less now. 0% felt very lonely, compared to large Australian study: 17%
Helping 10% help a neighbour daily, 20% help a neighbour weekly, 50% monthly and 10% every few months. 40% receive help weekly, 50% receive help monthly and 10%every few months.
Social Support 0% lacked social support, compared to a large Australian study: 9.5%

Greater sense of belonging and trust

The Connector’s average score on satisfaction with feeling part of the community was 8.39, which compares favourably with the result of 6.63 from the nationwide HILDA study in 2013[i] and 6.75 in data from sixty four Melbourne Metropolitan Councils in 2018[ii].

100% of Connectors chat with their neighbours often or very often. Before starting a neighbour group, Connectors knew an average of 8 neighbours (range 1-46) and they now know an average of 57 (range 18-80). Importantly, they have made an average of 6.5 new friends each.

91% have greater trust in their neighbours since starting a neighbour group.


[i] The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey is a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households, which commenced in 2001.

It is run by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne

This data is drawn from in the following report: Reeve, R., Marjolin, A., Muir, K., Powell, A., Hannigan, N., Ramia, I. and Etuk, L. (Eds.) (2016) Australia’s Social Pulse. Centre for Social Impact: UNSW Australia, Sydney and UWA, Perth.

[ii] Sixty-four councils participated in the 2018 survey, with a minimum of 400 interviews undertaken within each participating municipality. JWS Research (2018) Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey 2018 State-Wide Research Report, Department Of Environment, Land, Water And Planning On Behalf Of Victorian Councils, Melbourne Accessed via https://www.localgovernment.vic.gov.au/our-programs/council-community-satisfaction-survey

.

Improved life satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing

The Connector’s average score on life satisfaction was 8.7, which compares favourably with 7.6 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics General Social Survey[iii] and 7.9 from the HILDA study[iv]. 91% reported that since starting their neighbour group they are happier and have greater wellbeing.

Greater involvement in local issues

82% report greater awareness of local issues and 73% report greater involvement in local issues compared to before they started a neighbour group. 45% now use local businesses and services more.

Reduction of loneliness

“People feel less lonely when they make friends in the group and regularly run into people they know.”

“Many of the people in my group were lonely, they didn’t know anyone. Now they’re much more connected.”

Of those who experience loneliness, 80% experience less since starting a neighbour group. While 17% of Australians in the HILDA study often felt lonely[v], none of the Connectors felt this.

Improved social support 

80% of Connectors help their neighbours at least monthly (some daily or weekly). 40% receive help weekly, 50% monthly and 10% every few months. While 9.5% of Australians lack social support[vi], none of the Connectors lacked social support.

What are the good things that have come out of it for Connectors?

Meeting great people and increasing connections, community and friendships are the main things Connectors gain from leading a neighbour group. Getting help when you need it is also an important outcome. Connectors find it satisfying to make things happen in their neighbourhood and enjoy the appreciation from neighbours.

“I really like where I live, I feel much more connected. I’ve met a lot of people, I’m known as a connector. I’m living my true nature. I enjoy seeing others connect and they are appreciative.” Maureen Maher, Hilton, WA

“It’s very rewarding – we are making a difference, getting people together, lessening people’s loneliness. This has been one of the best things I’ve ever done – it’s made a big difference in my life. Jenny McCarthy, McCrae, Vic

Would Connectors have gone ahead without the support from Neighbourhood Connect?

55% of Connectors said that they would not have brought their neighbours together and started a neighbour group if they hadn’t received support from Neighbourhood Connect.


[i] The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey is a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households, which commenced in 2001. It is run by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. This data is drawn from in the following report: Reeve, R., Marjolin, A., Muir, K., Powell, A., Hannigan, N., Ramia, I. and Etuk, L. (Eds.) (2016) Australia’s Social Pulse. Centre for Social Impact: UNSW Australia, Sydney and UWA, Perth.

[ii] Sixty-four councils participated in the 2018 survey, with a minimum of 400 interviews undertaken within each participating municipality. JWS Research (2018) Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey 2018 State-Wide Research Report, Department Of Environment, Land, Water And Planning On Behalf Of Victorian Councils, Melbourne Accessed via https://www.localgovernment.vic.gov.au/our-programs/council-community-satisfaction-survey

[iii] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) General Social Survey: Summary Results, Cat. No. 4159.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra

[iv] Reeve, R., Marjolin, A., Muir, K., Powell, A., Hannigan, N., Ramia, I. and Etuk, L. (Eds.) (2016) Australia’s Social Pulse. Centre for Social Impact: UNSW Australia, Sydney and UWA, Perth.

[v] Relationships Australia (2018) Is Australia Experiencing an Epidemic of Loneliness? Findings from 16 waves of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Survey, Canberra Accessed via https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/An-epidemic-of-loneliness-2001-2017

[vi] Relationships Australia (2018) Is Australia Experiencing an Epidemic of Loneliness? Findings from 16 waves of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Survey, Canberra Accessed via https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/An-epidemic-of-loneliness-2001-2017