Are you welcome in your neighbourhood?

Walk down any street in your neighbourhood.  How do you feel as you walk along? Do you feel welcome or is it a closed shop?

Structure influences behaviour.  Just like the many ways to physically structure your office for collaboration, how we structure our personal property influences our relationship with our neighbours.  We can structure our properties to encourage connections between neighbours, and just plain make others feel that they are welcome here, and came to the right place (homage to Peter Block).

Neighbourhoods are like living systems, and the more the parts of that system connect with each other, the healthier the system/neighbourhood will be.

And so, with my camera in hand, I went on a walk-about in my own South Jubilee neighbourhood; comprised of single family homes, low-rise apartments, a mix of retailers, a small public school, and a small arts college.  It’s a relatively safe place, not to many gated properties here.  Still, I wanted to capture a few of the ways my neighbors (be they home owners, retailers, schools, or public property) have structured their properties, and that make me feel especially welcome!

All of the following pictures I took as I walked along the sidewalk.  I selected these because each one spoke to me in a friendly, inviting, neighbourly kind of way, and show how structure can foster connection.











What other ways do you and/or your neighborrs structure for connection?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to my blog. Thanks, Ben.


  1. Marilyn Davison says

    Ben, as always, your posts are thought provoking and, for me, timely. Your great photo journey through your neighborhood evokes what I so miss about my Boston South End neighborhood – and is lacking in my recent neighborhoods in France. We once lived in Maisions-Laffitte, a lovely suburb of Paris and initially I asked why everyone had fences and front gates as it certainly did not look like a dangerous community – and was told, oh that is how the houses are built here. Here in the south as well we are surrounded by iron locked gates, no chance of anyone appearing anywhere near your front door – and it does symbolize the very private sense of property. Our village and the small cities here, Cannes and Nice and all in between are very open and welcoming. Neighborhood socialization is not part of the French culture, recently my American friends had a party and introduced neighbors who had lived on either side of him for 22 years but had never met. Of course we don’t get the chance to meet outside digging out streets and cars from snow as we did in Boston either. Thanks very much – Marilyn

  2. Hi Marilyn. Thanks for sharing your own observations and experiences relating to property layout and neighbourhood socialization. Your comments also highlight differences in countries, cultures, rural/urban… and one’s sense of property. There must be an insightful study out there somewhere about all of this! And meeting your neigbhours while shovelling snow rings true… reminds me of my own past when I lived in other parts of Canada that routinely deal with snow (the 99% of Canada).

  3. Hi Ben, the use of photos to illustrate “Are you welcome in your neighbourhood?” is great. These structural nuances are the key to real community. Many of these can be planned but many are also spontaneous creations of citizens… Thanks for sharing your neighbourhood – it inspires me to do the same.

  4. Hi Lorne, glad you liked it. It’s funny – I didn’t appreciate all the things in my own neighbourhood until I made the effort to intentionally look for signs of neigbhourliness. I’m guessing others would make similar, positive discoveries.

  5. Ben
    Such a visceral and literally rich post of examples from your neighborhood – thank you. What popped into my mind was the notion of a blog – just on that topic: people around the world are invited to do what you did: walk about their neighborhood and photograph the scenes that “say” welcome in some way, perhaps with related links on google maps or, if the site is a place that services people (non-profit like a YWCA) or a business, have links.

    There are several online businesses that seek to serve locals and get them involved in posting about their town or neighborhood – this blog might get links to them
    As a former journalist who writes, consults and speaks on connective communication and on ways to collaborate I am really enjoying the conviviality and smarts that are evident in your posts + I have a goddaughter in Victoria.

  6. Thanks so much Kare. I like your mapping idea. Perhaps as even more people are using the latest mobile tech toys – there will be apps (I’m sure they’re out there now) to facilitate punching in the geo-location, taking photo, and adding text, and uploading it all, as we stroll our neighbourhoods, to some public mapping s/w such as Google Maps. And coupled with your blog idea – who knows where it would lead to… Nice to see you have a Victoria connection.

  7. Great photo essay on the neighbourhood that I am also fortunate to share, thanks Ben.
    and PS you’re always welcome at Ten Thousand Villages (even if you’re not buying coffee!)

  8. Thanks Maria. My only wish with the photos is that it was a sunnier day when I took them – showing the neighbourhood under the bright lights it deserves!

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