We have a commitment to evaluation because it’s important to us that what we do makes a difference. We are happy to share with you the great outcomes we are achieving.
We also share our approach and insights through presentations nationally and internationally. See below the evaluation section for more detail.
|Number of groups initiated with our support since 2014||27|
|Number of events held by NC groups (in 2018)||Over 130, with over 400 people participating|
|Number of real-life human connection hours (in 2018)||Over 4000|
|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 2018 we have helped over 25 groups start. Structured interviews and surveys were undertaken with Connectors (leaders / organisers) of Neighbour Groups. Only groups initiated with our support that had been going more than six months and were active in 2018 were invited to participate. The interviews were conducted by phone and captured in survey forms in December 2018. 11 groups participated in the evaluation.
Participation in Neighbourhood Connect Groups
Groups active during 2018 had between 6 and 165 members, with the number of people coming along to face-to-face events ranging from 6 to 70. Groups had between 1 and 6 Connectors, with Connectors much preferring not to do the role solo.
In 2018, Neighbourhood Connect groups held over 130 events with over 400 participants and generated over 4,000 hours of real-life human connection.
Where is the project being taken up?
The majority of new neighbourhood groups have been in Victoria (59%), followed by Western Australia (26%). The vast majority are in urban areas.
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!
- Groups have larger activities from time to time, such as end of year celebrations, parties, outdoor movies and Easter egg hunts. Using the skills of local members, there is sometimes live music, face-painting, etc. A local art gallery put on a special event just for one group.
- Some groups improve the neighbourhood by having clean ups and then socialising over, for example, strawberries and champagne. Some garden and plant together. One group crowd-funded and improved their park.
- Others taking action on a local issue (noise, protecting a church square). One group adds an element of helping the disadvantaged by having everyone bring along coats, blankets or other things to donate to charity.
- A couple members of one group have held open days for their handmade products and neighbours have gone along to support them.
- Some groups have organised walks (with or without dogs), Zumba classes or aqua aerobics 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 and has held a pop-up street market.
- Neighbours go together for live music, talks, trivia, wineries, shows and movies.
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
- Neighbours are helping the elderly people 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
- Many friendships have been made
- Kids have made friends
- Neighbours 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 in to 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. A guy wanted to open a supermarket and we were able to mobilise quickly and stop that development going ahead. I feel it’s easy now to ask for help, such as feeding my cat. People are happy to help. It’s been a slow process, but nice to see momentum gathering. Doing things like building and painting together has been good.” 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.”
|Sense of belonging / community||Connectors: 7.8 compared to large Australian studies: 6.63/6.75|
|Number of neighbours Connectors know||Average of 10 to average of 35 (average of 4 who have become friends)|
|Life satisfaction||Connectors: 8.7 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||64% increased their trust in neighbours|
|Involvement in local issues||64% increased their involvement|
|Loneliness||Of those who experience loneliness, 60% experience less now. 0% felt very lonely, compared to large Australian study: 17%|
|Helping||27% help a neighbour weekly, 55% monthly and 18% every few months. 18% receive help weekly, 36% receive help monthly and 45% every few months.|
|Social Support||0% lacked social support, compared to 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 7.8, 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].
55% of Connectors chat with their neighbours often. Before starting a neighbour group, Connectors knew an average of 10 neighbours (range 1-40) and they now know an average of 35 (range 8-90). Importantly, they have made an average of four new friends each.
64% have greater trust in their neighbours since starting a neighbour group.
Improved life satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing
The Connector’s average score on life satisfaction was 8.7, which compares favourable 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
55% report greater awareness of local issues and 64% report greater involvement in local issues compared to before they started a neighbour group. 27% now use local businesses and services more.
Reduction of loneliness
Of those who experience loneliness, 60% 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
27% help a neighbour weekly, 55% monthly and 18% every few months. 18% receive help from a neighbour weekly, 36% receive help monthly and 45 % 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?
64% 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
Keynote Presentation: Building a Connected Neighbourhoods Movement in Australia – the Antidote to Depression and Anxiety
Irene Opper, National Manager, Neighbourhood Connect
Asset Based Community Development Conference in Goa, India January 2019. Organised by Bank of Ideas.
Presentation: Connecting Neighbours Street by Street
Irene Opper, National Manager, Neighbourhood Connect
Power to the People Conference in Melbourne December 5-6, 2017. Organised by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).