A National Network
In Australia Good Karma Networks are flourishing in some 90 communities. According to Amy, who began the first one in the Melbourne suburb of Kensington six years ago, “They are suburb specific Facebook groups which are designed to help neighbours with whatever challenges they face. They are for people to connect and solve each other’s problems and bring care and value back into their communities.” The important thing is that they must be non -transactional – in other words, you can’t sell goods or services on them and there should be no expectation of reward given for anything which you do. It’s just about spreading kindness and positivity.
You can find out if there’s a network in your neighbourhood by clicking here. Click here too if there isn’t and you want to start one.
International neighbourhood networks
Though not as personal, many suburbs and towns also have dedicated Facebook Groups to let people know what’s happening in their area. I’m told that these can be very broad, big and busy and can also harbour a lot of trolls.
In the UK the Good Neighbour Network has been running for forty years and just one region –Hampshire, has 120 highly localised groups, offering practical help, emotional support, befriending schemes and local activities. It also tells you how to start one yourself.
The USA's Good Neighbor Network started in March 2022, and has some very good ideas as to what might want to do in your community. In both cases the groups are small and local. They should not be confused with another group called Good Neighbours International or its Australian offshoot Good Neighbours.com.au. Though though this organisation does a lot of excellent work, it is more in the form of humanitarian aid to other countries. It is currently organising aid to the Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, so still worth checking out if you would like to help there
Nextdoor.com is San Francisco – based, but operates in 11 countries and had some 270,000 neighbourhoods in 2020. Its brief is broader in that it
includes things like community alerts from local authorities such as the police and local government advising which streets will be undergoing repairs, as well as goods and
services for sale. There were even some entries for my community. While it does take the work out of setting up your own group,
there are some caveats.
One is that it is a commercial operation which presumably makes its money from advertising by local companies who want to reach their neighbourhoods so expect ads. for local services.They also ask for way too much information e.g. I stopped when it got to “Who else lives in your house?” There have also been some reports of thieves using the information on the site to target homes offering goods for sale. It could also be a way to find out when people are going away –for example when people advertise for dog sitters. In the US, there have also been some complaints about racism and the like, though the company is working hard to address this by offering training to local leads (moderators) and reminding people to be kind. The following YouTube video explains how to change your settings to retain more privacy.
How ever you do it, do it now
What is apparent, is that more and more people are seeking greater connection with their communities. How much and the kind will depend on the individuals within it. With good moderators most of the potential downsides can easily be avoided. Covid has obviously been an enormous catalyst but when I think of the people in Queensland recently who, facing the second hundred -year flood in three years, found themselves without communication or government support of any kind and were totally reliant on their neighbours for rescue and help, I think it’s time we all started looking around and making a point of getting to know our neighbours, preferably before any kind of disaster.
PS We congratulate the Labor Party, the Greens and the Independents on their excellent election results!