New Neighbourhood Project Hits the Streets
22 April 2014 at 11:00 am
An innovative new Not for Profit project is on a mission to revive the art of neighbourliness across Australia and is calling for broad community participation to ensure its long-term success.
Street by Street is a national project aimed at strengthening neighbourhoods and social infrastructure by re-kindling the practice of community and forging connections between neighbours.
An initiative of the Centre for Civil Society, Street by Street will focus on generating and supporting local neighbourhood networks in small population precincts of between 200 and 400 households.
Each network will be supported by a coordinator and a network partner organisation, and will choose one or more activities to focus on that are relevant to the specific needs of their ‘micro-community’.
For example, a community with many young families may decide to form a child care circle among neighbours, or if there is a high population of elderly residents the neighbourhood could support them by visiting, running errands and doing odd jobs around their homes.
Street by Street’s inaugural (pro bono) Project Manager Irene Opper said that in recent years the Centre for Civil Society had become increasingly aware of the need for stronger social infrastructure at the very local level.
She said the aim of Street by Street was to “recover the practice, and art, of neighbourliness”.
There was a time when these kinds of neighbourhood connections formed spontaneously, but these days they often require a little facilitation by a third party to get them off the ground, she said.
“There have been examples of people trying to establish local groups with a singular purpose, and they haven’t been able to sustain them over time,” Opper said. “We want to make it really easy for people in local neighbourhoods to come together to support each other.”
Opper said the aim was to begin progressively rolling out Street by Street in May this year until it was eventually operating in communities on a large scale across Australia.
The project is currently in its establishment phase, with community engagement underway to ensure the delivery and resourcing models are right from the outset.
Interested members of the community are invited to provide input at a Street by Street Design Lab in Melbourne’s CBD next Tuesday, April 29. The free event will run from 10.00am to 12.30pm on the fifth floor of the Angliss Conference Centre on the corner of LaTrobe and King Streets.
“We don’t want to just randomly try something; we want to do everything we can to make sure it’s going to be successful," Opper said.
“We are seeking input on the project and its operating model, as well as ideas on how the project can be resourced on a large scale.”
Expressions of Interest are also being sought from people interested in playing an active role on the project’s national steering/reference group, which will oversee the development of the project around Australia.
“We don’t want to surround this activity with excessive rules and regulations, nor do we want to subject participants to the usual procedures that volunteers in formal organisations are subject to,” Opper explained.
She said participants in a Street by Street network will not be traditional volunteers.
Instead, they will be people in a voluntary relationship with their neighbours, as neighbours.
“It is our intention to develop Street by Street as a facilitated network combining simple informal neighbourhood connections, with resourcing and coordination on a large scale across Australia,” she said.
Each local network will be supported by a community organisation (a network partner) such as a neighbourhood house, a service club, a community services provider, a church, a school, a scouts or guides group, or a sporting club.
Street by Street is also seeking major partners in the form of state and national organisations, and municipal councils, to support the overall development of the project.
Opper said there had been sufficient interest to get the initial wave of local networks off the ground, with the first ones due to roll out next month.
Under the project’s proposed model, local networks will select one or more focus areas from the menu below (or decide on another focus that is better suited to local needs):
a local network for helping people who are less mobile due to ageing, disability or chronic illness, with practical tasks such as putting out the rubbish bins, doing some shopping, helping with gardening, or walking pets;
a local network in areas of high risk from natural disasters for disaster alerts, for information sharing, risk prevention and response arrangements;
a local gardening network where people growing vegetables and fruit can exchange ideas, tools, and advice, and organise distribution of produce;
a local buying group for electricity, gas, and telecommunications;
a supported living network for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses living in a community, with a focus on relationships, not just practical tasks;
a local sharing network for tools, lawn mowers etc; or
a revamped version of Neighbourhood Watch to address community safety issues, especially in areas adjacent to railway stations, areas where high volumes of alcohol are consumed, and areas with high volumes of graffiti.
Each local neighbourhood network could have its own online social network, while a central website will supply information about the location, purpose and contact details of all the local networks.
There are three proposed membership categories:
Residents are invited to join at no cost to receive updates on the project and participate in sharing progress.
Community organisations are invited to join as network partners. Each organisation will partner with a local network, help it to establish and meet its practical requirements, provide guidance and participate in its activities where appropriate. The proposed network partner membership fee is $110.
Local governments, state and national organisations are invited to join as a Street by Street Partner to support the development of the project on a large scale. The proposed membership fee for a Street by Street Partner is $1100.
Individuals or organisations wanting to register interest in being involved in Street by Street or provide feedback on the design and resourcing of the project, who aren’t able to attend next week’s Melbourne Design Lab, can use this form. Or contact Irene Opper by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 0413 706 233.