They saying goes that ‘within crisis, are the seeds of opportunity’ and in the midst of this challenging year, Neighbourhood Network was founded by the national neighbourhood street party event Street Feast, to help support and coordinate neighbours all over the country to stay connected with each other, and in particular to those in our communities who are at risk. The community initiative now has over 200 active groups across Ireland, providing weekly resources and newsletters to keep neighbours connected in a safe way.
“We want to use this time of crisis as an opportunity to build community and celebrate our neighbourhoods”
-Samuel Bishop, Co-founder of Neighbourhood Network.
The team behind Neighbourhood Network, began their community building journey with Street Feast, Ireland’s annual day of street parties & community lunches as a way to reduce isolation, environmental impact, and boost community resilience. When lockdown hit in April of 2020, the Street Feast team realised that now more than ever it is vital that we connect our communities together to get through this time. With funding from Web Summit via ChangeX’s #thecommunitycall, they were able to get the ball rolling.
“We’re all about building and strengthening neighbourhoods, reducing loneliness and kick-starting ideas for positive community participation. We do this by running projects that promote neighbourliness, social inclusion, volunteerism and creativity in the community”.
-Aoife O’Connor, Co-founder of Neighbourhood Network.
Naturally, with different levels of Covid-19 restrictions coming and going and shaping our new normal, the initiative has been evolving since it started. In the face of the Covid-19 crisis, the Network was able to coordinate the goodwill efforts of neighbourhood volunteer groups all over the country. Since then, they’ve produced a programme of 30+ activities, that enable communities to stay connected to their neighbours through accessible socially-distanced activities.
“Neighbourhood Network itself is an evolution from what we used to do with Street Feast”, explained Aoife.
“It’s taking the idea of bringing communities together through activities and events and applying it in a much broader sense and learning about what exactly makes a community. It’s looking at what you can do in your day to day to be a good neighbour and how we can all be supporting each other more now that our neighbourhoods are the primary location of our daily activities”.
Since April, Neighbourhood Network have been connecting and supporting local groups through online webinars, newsletters and focus groups. People have used the online resources to get to know their neighbours and even start up their own Residents Associations. In a recent survey of the Neighbourhood Network groups, assessing their impact since the start of Covid-19 restrictions; 85% of respondents said they felt more involved within their communities and 45% have plans for more community-led events.
“We can see that our work is making a difference because Neighbourhood Networkers are telling us that they’ve been connecting with the neighbours in their estates, villages, apartment blocks and around their country townlands – building up the bonds and relationships we hoped the Network would inspire.”
The impact of Neighbourhood Network can be seen in the lives of their members and in the connections that have been made over lockdown, but what’s next for Neighbourhood Network? The team have assured that they have an eventful year of projects ahead of them, expanding what they do and working directly with Neighbourhood Networkers across Ireland to build and strengthen their ability to forge new neighbourly connections.
“We don’t know what the future holds for neighbourhoods across Ireland in 2021, but we do know that we will be figuring out how to support them every step of the way.”
How has your community found ways to connect in 2020? Let us know at [email protected]
Stay Safe, Stay Connected!