Place-Based Community Connecting Projects

Partnerships with local government, organisations and residents to grow inclusive, connected communities

Building relationships and connecting people with each other is at the core of community development - It is through these connections that social capital is built, and through which citizens have opportunities to give and receive support to each other, making the contributions that weave the fabric of community life. Read on to discover how we partner with local governments and residents to support the development of localised social networks.

Strengthen Community Connectedness in Your Local Area

Strengthen Community Connectedness in Your Local Area

Discover how partnering with Befriend enriches local communities

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Examples of Place-Based Community Connecting Projects

Examples of Place-Based Community Connecting Projects

Get a taste of projects we’ve partnered on

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Our Approach to Community Building

Our Approach to Community Building

Learn more about the secret ingredients in our recipe for sustainable impact

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Why Connected Communities Matter

Why Connected Communities Matter

The evidence putting this issue on the international public health agenda

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Strengthening Community Connectedness

At a time in history when a multitude of forces have unintentionally eroded the strength of relationships and networks in local communities, Befriend’s role is to re-activate these networks by bringing people together, sparking new conversations, and creating the space for citizens to discover their own gifts, the gifts of their neighbours, and the ways in which they can make contributions that will be both personally meaningful and socially valued.

Our innovative approach to community connectedness involves partnering with local residents, applying the principles of Asset-Based Community Development in action to develop a local inclusive social network. This unique approach has been designed by Befriend’s experienced team of social innovators, community development practitioners and relationship-building social scientists, and refined through years of experiences in Western Australia. 

The impact of Befriend’s network-building projects has demonstrated:

  • Reduced social isolation and loneliness
  • Increase in inclusive attitudes and behaviours of residents
  • More activated local leaders
  • Increased community resilience
  • Improved health and wellbeing of residents
  • A range of social inclusion indicators
  • Increased social and economic participation of residents
  • Sustainable community networks established

Befriend’s approach to strengthening community connectedness has been showcased locally, domestically and internationally.

Contact Kathleen Burton to discuss partnering with Befriend on a
place-based community connecting project in your area.
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Examples of Place-Based Community Connecting Projects

Befriend Kwinana Network Development Project

A partnership project with the City of Kwinana and Dept Communities (Disability Services) targeted the broader Kwinana community, with an emphasis on residents at risk of social isolation/exclusion, and intentional strategies to enable the social inclusion of residents with a disability. The project developed local Kwinana resident Jodie Papiccio as a Community Builder. As Jodie explained, “Befriend was a platform to do what I already loved (connecting people in my neighbourhood) but in an intentional, effective way that reached many more people!” 

Jodie was encouraged and supported to use her gifts of hospitality (and scone-making), and her local networks through the school, sporting, family and local government networks to find, engage and activate other local residents who shared her passion for making Kwinana a more welcoming, connected place. Jodie supported her fellow neighbours and residents with the confidence, skills and tools to start up and run their own social/interest groups and clubs, connected together as a local inclusive social network, welcoming and connecting anyone seeking welcoming friendship-making opportunities. 

In 18 months, Jodie and the Kwinana residents have developed and grown a local network that is thriving. There is now a diverse team of 22 residents who run the Network, or as Jodie describes, “our feet on the ground that research venues, taste-test menus, sing, crochet, knit, sew, 5D craft, and most importantly, make you feel most welcome at any event.” There are now more than 20 activities organised and run by the resident network each month. 745 attendances have been recorded through the Network’s activities in the past 5 months, with a total of 1,327 attendances since project inception. 23 Kwinana-based community organisations act as referral partners, intentionally supporting the inclusion of residents at greater risk of isolation due to disability, mental ill-health, illness, new resident status or circumstance. Social outcomes include increased quantity and quality of social connections, increased confidence, increased resident participation in valued roles, increased levels of community participation, knowledge and skill development, reduced levels of isolation and loneliness, and increased sense of belonging.
 


Our Approach to Community Building

Like the sound of our work, but hungry to learn more? Ok, we’ll give you a little taste of some of the key ingredients in the secret sauce of our community building.. Our approach is grounded in Asset-Based Community Development principles, empowering residents at the centre, appreciating their gifts and potential, supporting them to share their gifts, passions and interests with others to cultivate new connections.

The hallmark features of our approach to network building include:

  • Local leadership - Right from the get-go, we engage with a local resident who is already a natural community builder, creating the opportunity for them to take their community-building efforts to the next level.

  • Gift discovery - We know that every person has gifts, strengths, skills and talents. For lots of people, identifying and naming our gifts, and feeling that our gifts would be valued by others doesn’t always come so easily! Our Community Builders create the space for residents to discover their gifts, building confidence in their own capacities.

  • Citizen contributions - Community Builders support residents to discover a way of contributing in their community that will be personally meaningful and enjoyable. Unlocking the latent capacity of residents as community connectors is a cornerstone pillar of sustainable community impact.

  • Connecting residents with each other - Through our experiences, we’ve developed a wealth of knowledge in how to connect people, through a whole range of strategies from the old-school ‘word-of-mouth’ invitations, to paper-based local marketing, to 21st century online platforms and social networking technologies that reach large audiences.

  • Extending unusual invitations - We know that there is rich value in bringing together citizens from different backgrounds and walks of life - It is these experiences that cultivate new knowledge, understanding and empathy, through relationships with people different from one’s self. We also know that these interactions rarely happen by accident - They require intention. Community Builders use proactive, intentional, evidence-based strategies to reach and engage people at risk of being socially isolated or excluded.

  • Supporting connections to flourish - Once residents have moved from contemplation to action, hosting gatherings in their own area, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds, that’s when life gets really interesting! We know that the art of tending to relationships can be messy, complicated, and sometimes, downright hard work. Community Builders support local residents to navigate the complexities of social interactions and relationships through capacity-building workshops with our network of partners, as well as offering a line of support that is there when people need it.

 


Why Connected Communities Matter

In Australia, as in much of the Western world, our society is becoming increasingly disconnected. Academics talk about this phenomenon as the decline of social capital, social capital being the value of our relationships and their impact on our lives.

A nationally representative study found that between 1985 and 2004, the number of ‘close others’ (that is, the number of people whom you would feel close enough to share a personal matter with) dropped by nearly one third, from 2.94 to 2.08. One in three men and one in four women in Australia feel they don’t have anyone to help them out if in need (Relationships Australia, 2014).

Consequence: Morbidity, Mortality and Quality of Life

  • To live a long, happy, healthy life, nothing matters more than having good relationships. The Harvard Study for Adult Development tracked a cohort over 75 years to study their evolution of physical and mental health, wellbeing and quality of life. The conclusion? “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period.” (Waldinger, 1993)

  • A meta-analytic review of studies on the determinants of health found that social isolation and loneliness pose a higher risk to our morbidity and mortality than smoking, alcohol, obesity and high blood pressure (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)

Consequence: Social Isolation

  • When whole communities become disconnected, everyone suffers, but more vulnerable members are likely to fare worst and experience social isolation.  Loneliness and social isolation are associated with a range of poor mental, physical and socio-economic outcomes.

  • Social isolation is bad for individuals, but it also affects the rest of the community.   Research has linked loneliness to depression, substance use and suicide. Isolation deprives local communities of the unique gifts and contributions that the affected person could be making if they felt welcomed, included and valued.

Consequence: Low Community Resilience

  • As communities become less connected, their collective resilience decreases, thus increasing the burden on government authorities to respond to large issues affecting constituents such as food shortages, extreme weather or natural disasters.

  • Social capital researchers have found that the most resilient communities post-disaster are those with the highest levels of social capital. Put simply, when we know and care about our neighbours, we help each other bounce back in times of adversity.

Consequence: Increased Costs for Government

  • In a well-connected community, people look after each other.  Social capital creates instrumental value ie. the type of value that we get from the people in our life that we'd otherwise have to pay a system or service for.

  • Social isolation increases the burden on health care systems from its mental and physical health effects, and on other government funded support services such as crisis accommodation and home care.

  • A recent study in the UK found that ‘chronic loneliness’ is experienced by 10% of people over the age of 50, and they on average cost the government AUD $20,000 more than their peers. (www.socialfinance.org.uk/investing-to-tackle-loneliness-a-discussion-paper/)

Consequence: Low Community Cohesion and Higher Anti-Social Behaviour

  • Social capital influences and builds all the major pro-social behaviours of tolerance, respect, kindness, honesty and cooperation. It simply boils down to this - We treat people better when we know them. We make ourselves better, and we make society better, when we know each other.


 

Book a consultation with Kathleen Burton today to discuss your challenges and aspirations with us.

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