What If We Turned Our Neighbourhoods Into Places of True Belonging?

Dialogue and media-making initiative to centre on the art of neighbouring

Jocasta Boone

One would think that creating a more connected neighbourhood would be a fairly intuitive and easy exercise.

And, on some levels, it can be.

As we all know, part of the work of connecting with others in your neighbourhood comes down to very simple practices. Choosing to sit on your front porch rather than your back deck. Looking up and saying hello when you pass someone on the street. Sharing the fresh green beans from your garden.

The Art of Neighbouring

Illustration: Jocasta Boone

But if it’s entirely about that level of fairly straightforward interaction, then why do so many of us lament that we aren’t as connected in our neighbourhood as we’d like?

Why do studies corroborate the anecdotal evidence that so many people feel increasingly isolated and disconnected in the places where they live?

Two answers come to mind. First, there’s a good chance more of us could be practicing more of those simple things more often.

But/and what if we explored the possibilities in introducing collective experiences that require a little more thought and organization but will likely go further faster in drawing folks together in a more meaningful, positive way?

“Failure to see the costs of not having real neighbourhood relationships is the primary cause of our weak, local communities,” author John McKnight writes in the article, Opening the Neighborhood Treasure Chest. “And it is this weakness that is eroding our ability to lead productive, satisfying lives in the 21st century.”

Over the next few weeks, a group from the Peterborough Dialogues will be designing a dialogue and media-making initiative on the art of neighbouring.

Over the next few weeks, a group from the Peterborough Dialogues will be designing a dialogue and media-making initiative that will centre on the art of neighbouring. We see tremendous possibility in holding a space for both citizens acting on their own and those connected to organizations and groups that have a vested interest in cultivating their neighbourhood connectivity to come together. We’re imagining faith communities, those that work with people who have a disability, long-term care centres and our education partners, just to name a few, to have all kinds of reasons for wanting to get better at the art of neighbouring.

Similar to the Peterborough Dialogues Core Conversations, the art of neighbouring initiative will be an emergent, generative and narrative experience. The idea is to cultivate, deepen and support partnerships, ideas and projects based on who’s in the room and what’s coming up for people.

One possible calling question for the initiative: What if we turned our neighbourhoods into places of true inclusion and belonging?

Watch for updates as the design of this dialogue and media-making series takes shape. The goal is to launch in September.

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