The interesting thing about social cohesion is that it often does not show up until we are in crisis situations. The strength of the social cohesion of a grouping of people is often not visible until it’s called upon for us to rally together. If we see social cohesion as people making the choice to connect to each other, then we can see how important that is for a sense of belonging and contribution. Social cohesion allows us to experience stress and still remain positive towards each other. 

Recently my 20 year old cat went missing and alongside the normal door knocking, flyer drop route, I also went on social media. This involved posting on Facebook groups including neighbourhood groups, and ones specifically dedicated to lost animals. Lots of people came back to me letting me know they walked through that street, and some saying they had seen the cat in question. This made me feel like I was not alone. I knew there were eyes and ears out there looking for this cat.

12 days passed, and we started to accept that the cat may not be found and then bing – a Facebook message came through saying someone had found the cat. The cat was brought home and I announced to these very same groups that the cat had been found. Over 200 people liked and commented on this and it was a joint celebration for us all that the 20 year old much loved family cat had returned home.

For me this is an example of what it’s like when people feel positive towards each other, and support each other at an individual and neighbourhood level. While this largely played out on social media, with the floods in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, this played out in real life. People are prepared to put others first, to rally together, and in this time of stress or crisis, work for the betterment of all.

I guess that this is the key thing about Neighbours Aotearoa, where we are interested in generating what it takes for people to feel positive towards the other people in the immediate area where they are living, so that when it is called upon, social cohesion is present. 

Neighbours Aotearoa has been closely following participatory cities and their idea of bridging social capital. For us, when we think about social capital, we think about social relationships, both within existing and emerging groups and individuals. For example, when the dog walking group of New Lynn, the residents doing swap crops and the people on your street come together, they become an effective, joined-up network. They might find your cat.

So how do we get to know our neighbours? What do we have in common and how do we form positive relationships? These are the questions we’re asking at Neighbours Aotearoa. Here’s your opportunity to explore these questions in your neighbourhood this March. Connect with us on our website to find out more.

Pictured left to right: Cissy Rock, Bronwyn Haines, Vanessa Cole and Harriet Paul

Cissy and her team at Community Think are versatile, sensitive and nimble in their approach, able to think outside the square and create practical solutions, by drawing on their diverse range of skills and resources. Community Think deliver a unified and effective approach to getting things done, in ways that are appropriate, relevant and uniquely tailored to each individual client or project.

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