Five observations from an unexpected isolation

Five observations from an unexpected isolation

We’re learning to live, work and play with COVID-19 in our community here in Western Australia. Inevitably, for many of us, this means periods of isolation.

 

Befriend’s Community Manager, local Vic Park resident and board game enthusiast Dave recently spent 10 unexpected days at home with his family, after one of his children tested positive. Whilst it wasn’t without its challenges, he ended up having an unexpectedly humbling time, largely thanks to the efforts and care of others. Here are five things Dave observed about community life, from his home-isolation.

 

  1. Simple “every day” invitations matter

Some of the loveliest invitations and offers came from our neighbours and friends who tried to enrich each day for us in a small, kind way:-

  • I’m heading to the library, are there any books you’d like to borrow? We can leave them on your porch!
  • I’m at the grocery store, do you need anything?
  • I’m heading out for a coffee, would you like me to grab you a takeaway and drop it off on my way home?
  • I’m taking the dog for an extra-long walk around your way, shall I drop off some board games?
  • I’ve made way too much dinner, would you like me to run some leftovers over?

We found that people often utilised the routines and spaces that already existed in their life and just extended us a thought. It was these types of simple “every day”  invitations that were so meaningful and helped us feel so included.

 

2. People are kind and love to help

Don’t be frightened to ask for help (from people you know, and people you don’t). Part of being human is looking after one another in times of need. And that help, more often than not, comes with no expectation at all… there’s mutual reciprocity in just knowing you’ve made someone’s day. When a neighbour dropped off some treats for us, they said it would cost “one cuddle with the cat, which has been paid for, in full”. We saw that people genuinely wanted to help in their own unique ways because they took joy in it.

 

3. Creative connections made our week

Being plunged into isolation definitely doesn’t have to mean no contact with the outside world (although taking time to connect with yourself is important, too). We relied heavily on technology to keep us connected to our friends and family, and we actually used the time we had to have longer, richer conversations, because, well, we had nothing else to do! We also enjoyed:-

  • Plenty of waves and smiles from passing neighbours
  • A magic show performed through the window
  • Friends calling us on the phone for a chat whilst they stood outside our home
  • Handwritten notes and cards
  • “Verandah drinks” with the neighbours over the road

No idea is too big or too small, no gesture or invitation is unnoticed and your creativity is awesome!

4. Your empathy means more than you think

We were so warmed by genuine, heartfelt offers of help, support, empathy and warm-wishes. It’s not about monetary value or gifts, or even about the practicalities of those offers of help. Just knowing people were there for us if we needed anything was more than enough.

 

5. All connections are important to nurture (but particularly your neighbours!)

We were so appreciative to hear from so many different people in our lives – colleagues old and new, family, neighbours, people who lived far away, people we spoke to often, people we don’t speak to regularly… connections with people can run deep, and be long-lasting. Check-in on your friends, co-workers, the folks from your old book club and your best mate from high school – you never know who might love to hear from you that day.

 

We’re lucky to have a close knit hyper-local community right on our doorstep, but we also acknowledge that we’ve really made a conscious effort to nurture those relationships over the years. We’ve knocked on doors to introduce ourselves, posted ‘connection cards’ out with our contact information, shared lemons from our tree and created a space for our street to connect digitally on social media (which makes it really easy to stay connected and ask for help!). Those gestures are important, simple and authentic and that active commitment has really helped us get to know some amazing people.

 

We’re all likely to know, or live near, someone in isolation over the coming weeks. Some questions we’re left wondering;

 

  • How can you be there for your community right now?
  • How can you actively cultivate stronger relationships with your neighbours? (these connection cards from Red Cross are lovely and ready to print!)
  • What gifts, gestures, hobbies or acts of kindness could you share with someone in isolation to make their day?
  • How and where can you ask your community for support if you’re in isolation?

 

We know it’s not always easy but we’re here to listen and learn from you, and perhaps even help you spark new connections – whether that’s in your own community or through the Befriend Social Network. As always, get in touch if have questions, an idea to bring people together, or even if you’re curious about how you could get to know your neighbours. Dave would love to share some of his experiences with you – reach him at .

What’s possible for you and your community connection in 2022?

What’s possible for you and your community connection in 2022?

We all know that humans are social beings. For tens of thousands of years, we’ve come together to overcome obstacles, to forge friendships, and to build networks of deep care and support. It’s through our connections to one another that we find a sense of belonging and the strength to get through our personal and collective challenges. Never has this been more true than now, amidst this pandemic.

 

Perth is now beginning to live, work and play with COVID-19 in the community, and for us connection-minded folks, we’re asking ourselves what the next few months might look like for our social routines. How we can have healthy, productive conversations with our friends and family about safety, wellbeing and inclusion? In what ways might we like to adapt our groups and routines to include others? What creative measures can we experiment with that will help keep people together and create spaces for belonging and friendship?

 

We’ve created a handy resource to help you explore these questions further! Within these pages, you’ll find

  • reflective questions for yourself
  • conversation prompts for your friends, family and social groups
  • hints and tips to help you have these conversations
  • a little creative inspiration from the Befriend community
  • an offer of support from us

 

This resource is made for you and your communities, from us here at Befriend. You can use it just for yourself, with a friend or family member, or you can use it in a social group setting to have conversations about how you might stay connected over the coming months. Print it out, scribble in the margins, share it with your friends or family, or just skip to the parts you’re interested in. It’s yours to keep!

 

We know the landscape ahead might feel uncertain and that you might be looking for a bit of extra support to navigate your connected world. Please reach out to our Community Building Staff Team for a conversation if you’re looking to connect into the Befriend Social Network or spark something in your own way. For more information about The Befriend Social Network and our COVID-19 organisational position, you can head over to our FAQs. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, sing out!

 

We hope that it’ll help you and your social networks prepare to nurture connection throughout 2022 in a way that is safe, inclusive and meaningful.

How can community conversation and connection make a difference to how we see the world?

How can community conversation and connection make a difference to how we see the world?

Befriend is hosting a series of warm, friendly community conversations that we hope will bring people together, plant new seeds of possibility, and transform how we see the world around us. We hope you can join us!

 

The world we share is complex and constantly changing. In our communities, we find ourselves facing challenges that often feel larger than us as individuals: bushfires, social inequity, loneliness, and more recently, our collective experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, to name just a few.

 

A very human way to deal with this level of complexity is simply to view these colossal challenges as multiple static things. We tend to analyse these in isolation and digest them in smaller chunks, rather than widening the lens to take in the full, interconnected (often messy!) whole of it. Often we rely on numbers, patterns and statistical analysis to steer us towards some kind of conclusion or way forward. Reliance on ‘big data’ is regarded as the gold standard in science, research, business, politics, health (as in the pandemic), and almost every aspect of human affairs. 

 

Big data is extremely valuable, but it’s also limited. Just because something can’t be counted doesn’t mean it doesn’t count or isn’t important. There is so much ‘warm data’ in our shared human experience, and it is all important and relevant to the changing world around us. Our unique experiences as community members are important. Our stories are important. Our observations about life around us are important. The way in which we communicate them to one another is important. This kind of information we each hold within us is still “data”; it’s just more difficult to measure on a spreadsheet… it’s warm, human data.

 

When we come together to share our stories and listen to one another, we expand our view of life, deepen our understanding of what others in our communities are going through, and perhaps even see fresh possibilities.

 

Introducing “Warm Data Labs”

 

Many thousands of people around the world are participating in community conversations called ‘Warm Data Labs’. We like to think of it as the best after-dinner conversation you’ll ever have with people you don’t (yet) know!

 

At its core, a warm data lab experience is a space to bring together community members from all walks of life, to generate invaluable warm data through the organic act of conversation. Participants come together to explore a common question ( for example, ‘what is home in a changing world?’, or ‘what is wellbeing in a changing world?’). Small groups to reflect upon the day’s question through different “lenses” or arenas of life, such as family, community, economy, health, religion, and more. Everyone is encouraged to move around the room, joining different groups to hear and share perspectives and stories. 

 

Group participating in community conversation

 
Image originally from an article entitled ‘Working with warm data‘ by Torben Lohmüller

 

These experiences have been described as a “kaleidoscope of conversation”, packed with enriching stories, laughter and insight. They nourish the soul, transform the way we approach work, life and our communities, and ultimately, create space for new relationships to flourish. They can even plant new seeds for community projects to renew and revitalise community life.

 

Curious? Join us!

 

If this is something you’d love to participate in, we invite you to join us at one of our upcoming series – Vital Village: Connecting through Conversation – where we’ll host a community buffet-style dinner (on us!) followed by rich, warm conversation, in Butler, once a fortnight, starting in October. A second series will run at the same time in Yanchep, every alternative fortnight.  

You don’t need any experience to participate… just bring along your curiosities and be yourself. All are welcome.

 

Butler Community Centre | 6pm – 9:00pm | free

Friday, October 22

Friday, November 5

Friday, November 19

YHUB, Yanchep | 6pm – 9:00pm | free

Thursday, October 28

Thursday, November 11

Thursday, November 25

 

Whilst it’s not essential, we do recommend that you try to make it to as many sessions in a series as possible. This way you can get to know each other better and become more familiar with the process. Also, feel welcome to come along to both series in Butler and Yanchep if you’d like.

Click either of the buttons below to register for Vital Village: Connecting through Conversation and we’ll see you there! 

 

 

For those extra curious folks amongst us, Peter and Hayley (two members of the Befriend Staff Team) recently recorded a conversation over Zoom, talking about Vital Village and this idea of “Warm Data Labs”. You can give it a watch just below!

For any questions, please feel free to reach out to Lee on or give her a call on 0488 823 817.

Case study: City of Kwinana

Case study: City of Kwinana

We are a non-profit social enterprise based in Perth, Western Australia who exist for one single purpose; to foster inclusive, welcoming communities. We love to work in partnership with like-minded organisations and people who share our mission, and work together to change the way people think about community and their roles within it.

In 2017, we were given the opportunity to spark a partnership project with the City of Kwinana and Dept Communities (Disability Services), targeting the broader Kwinana community, with an emphasis on residents at risk of social isolation/exclusion. We were invited to bring the Befriend Social Network to the City of Kwinana, empowering local residents to contribute their skills and gifts to their local community, share what’s important to them with others and create welcoming social spaces in which everyone can participate.

Here’s what happened.

Image description: Befriend ukelele group

The Objective

A partnership project between the City of Kwinana and the Disability Services Commission began in February of 2017. The programme was funded for one year with an intentional, strategic focus to find, engage and activate local residents to make Kwinana a more welcoming, inclusive and connected place. On a micro level, this would look like small, ‘every day’ social gatherings, led by the Kwinana community. On a macro level, however, this network development project would begin to change the dialogue around inclusion and increase the whole-community effort to enable connection to flourish for everyone, particularly for residents who may be more vulnerable to loneliness than others.

The Significance

Human beings are social creatures with an innate need to belong. But establishing and maintaining new, meaningful relationships can be challenging and many of us can find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely. There are lots of circumstances that can disrupt our social circles unexpectedly; we move to new countries or cities in search of new opportunities, we end long-term relationships, we change careers or have big things evolve in our lives that create the need to form new connections. For some of us, cultivating new relationships can be particularly tricky due to our diverse abilities, experiences with mental ill-health, social anxiety or a multitude of other factors that result in increased isolation.

Loneliness in our communities is having a devastating effect on our collective health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Studies are now discovering that our level of social integration (the frequency with which we interact with various people in our lives; saying hello to our neighbours, having a brief discussion with the barista who makes your coffee, engaging in a polite chat with the person who delivers your post, having dinner with some friends, etc.) is the biggest determining factor of how long we are likely to live. It is this pivotal aspect of our health that impacts us far greater than obesity, diet, whether or not we smoke, how clean the air is that we breathe and the frequency with which we exercise.

Befriend’s existence is built on the understanding that the size, strength and quality of one’s social circle can significantly help individuals to discover more about themselves, explore how they relate to others and find new ways to contribute.

The Befriend Social Network

The Befriend Social Network has been strategically designed as an easy-access opportunity for local residents to be their own catalysts for change, creating community-owned welcoming spaces for any adult in Perth to participate in a shared social experience.

The project required someone ‘on the ground’ who was passionate about connection, the community and social inclusion. This person would need to be both a do-er and a thinker, a listener and a collaborator and be that perfect, unique blend of being equal parts analytical and creative. Thankfully, Befriend met local Kwinana resident Jodie Papiccio, who took on the role of ‘Community Builder’ in the local area.

Image description: Befriend volunteers and staff at info stall

 Jodie’s primary role was to encourage, support and activate local residents to build a grassroots movement of togetherness through social participation and develop several relationships with community partners who could serve as a referral pathway into the network. 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.

Two years later, we met Inger Ward; another local resident who shared Jodie’s passion for community, connection, and contribution. Inger began her Befriend journey as a Host within the Kwinana Social Network and was quite the social butterfly! When an opportunity came up for Befriend to expand our work in the local area, in stepped Inger, armed with her ukulele and her strengths in story-telling, to support the continued flourishing of community-building activities.

Over the next three years, Jodie and Inger have supported their fellow neighbours and residents to develop 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.

Image description: Befriend knitting meetup

The Impact

After the initial grant ended with DSC (February 2017 to January 2018), the City of Kwinana stepped in as a funding partner for the following 6 months, having witnessed for themselves the impact and success of the project within the community. Shortly after that, the Department of Communities supported our work as part of their Empowering Communities programme. This abundant strategic support has enabled The Befriend Social Network to continue its growth in Kwinana over the course of four years, reaching an estimated 9,000 local residents who between them have spent more than 3,000 hours connecting with one another through fun, participatory and inclusive activities. Jodie and Inger have been supporting the growing strength of the community with the help of talented volunteer community champions who have developed a number of valuable roles within the project, including co-Hosts, skill-sharers, promoters, newsletter-creators, social inclusion ambassadors and social media whizzes.

It’s become almost impossible to track, but by our estimations, there’s been over 8,000 community gatherings since the project’s inception, ranging from social sewing to coffee catch-ups, to ukulele practice, to board game nights! Community members report that they feel a greater confidence in connecting with people, feel a great sense of belonging in their local community, and have more opportunities to sweeten their social life.

Over 60 local residents have laced up their Hosting bonnets and proudly step into the role of regularly initiating welcoming social groups, both online and in-person. As a community, they showed enormous resilience during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, hosting fun digital gatherings over Zoom to stay connected and continue sharing social experiences with their groups. Without Hosts being brave enough to take that leap of faith, leading the way and putting the invitation out there, the network simply wouldn’t exist. We’re just the support act.

The project is supported by an effective partnership network, with over 25 Kwinana-based organisations acting as referral partners.

Ultimately, what we’ve seen over the course of 4 years is an evolution of the community, led by the very people living and playing in it. Community Builder and local resident Jodie says “I don’t really have any one favourite moment from this whole process, rather a series of moments that lift my heart. They seem to happen most often when I attend an event and see people who otherwise might never have met, I see them engaged in conversation, sharing a laugh or helping each other”.

If you’re looking for a partner for a place-based community development project, then reach out to Iain for a chat on or learn more about how we do what we do, just here. We’d be happy to explore our shared purpose with you!

How do I make friends in Perth if I’m introverted?

How do I make friends in Perth if I’m introverted?

You want to meet people, form friendships and feel less alone, but you think that your introverted nature is an obstacle to achieving that?

In a society mainly designed for extroverts, you can think that somehow being quiet and introverted isn’t the right way to go, and that more extroverted personalities have it easier when it comes to interacting.

First, stop undermining your introverted nature! It’s not better or worse than being extroverted! In the world’s history, a lot of transformative leaders and creatives have been introverts. Studies estimate that a third to a half of the population are introverts, so there’s a lot more of you around than you might think!

According to Susan Cain, introversion’s not about shyness, which can resemble fear of social judgement, but is rather about how you respond to social stimulation. Ok, it’s not an absolute science but extroverts favour stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their best when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.

You must understand that being an introvert is not a barrier! You do have things to offer to create a connection with a fellow human being. The key is to be in the right zone of stimulation and to understand the implicit rules of social interaction.
How do you make friends as an introvert?

To build relationships, we need to have a positive social engagement, which is always easier if you’re in a valued social role.

“Social roles locate people in social space, structure the ways a person who makes a particular contribution usually shows up and acts and signal what others can expect from them in that role.

Social roles identify the different ways that people relate to one another, belong to each other, count on each other, and are responsible to each other. They point to the ways a person can contribute and make a difference in other people’s lives.”

We all know it’s easier to be in a comfortable social setting, but have you already asked yourself why you feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a given social situation?

The keys to social interaction and overcoming social isolation

You’re much more at ease when you’re in an environment where you can share your passions, interests, knowledge and abilities.  That’s because you’re interacting around something you value. You being interested makes you interesting!

  • Let’s say you are crazy about Friends. You going to a quiz night around the TV show’s great because you’re knowledgeable about it. You can throw around some Friends inside jokes to fellow fans! Isn’t the best way to start a friendship?                                                                             
  • On the contrary, if you go to a chess night and know nothing about the game, it can be harder to talk about it with players for example. You might need to make more efforts to understand what’s going on and adopt the expected behaviour. You might find yourself in a situation when you’re just an observer and you’re not participating. And that’s not something you want to happen! 
Find local events that you’ll love and will suit your interests, even if you feel socially awkward!

If you ask yourself where you can go, don’t worry any more! Befriend’s got you! You can find our events on Facebook and on our website. We’ve got a bunch of different events from crochet knitting to scavenger hunts!

If you don’t find anything interesting there, why not become a host and propose your own event around something that you’re passionate about?!!