Turning strangers into neighbours (Report) - RSA

Turning strangers into neighbours


  • Community and place-based action
  • Technology

Communities facing cuts can be protected from some of the worst impacts by strong local networks of ordinary people. However, local and central government need to invest in helping to turn ‘strangers into neighbours’. With no new money for large scale regeneration projects, there is a pressing need to develop low-cost ways to support those people. 

In light of the summer riots of 2011, we need to find fresh approaches that can be delivered in an age of low public spending and a shrinking state. The impact of recession on the marginal areas, which struggle to remain economically viable, will be harsh: these areas will be slowest to recover if or when the economy strengthens. We also know that in the coming years inequality is likely to grow. The amount of public sector investment available to alleviate the problems of the areas with the most engrained problems will be minimal compared to past decades. There is no money in sight for a new generation of big infrastructure spending. 

The work carried out in many different areas characterised as ‘deprived’ and ‘disadvantaged’ has led us to conclude that we need to find new ways to put the lived experience of residents at the centre of regeneration policy and practice. We need to build on local assets and boost resilience in a way that both supports mobility for those who wish to leave, and stability for people who choose to stay in the areas that they call home.

This paper recommends the following:

  • Build ties between people living in the same neighbourhoods, which is the key to building resilience.
  • Experiment with using technology such as email correspondence, local websites and social networks to develop positive neighbourly relations in certain areas.


Picture of Nicola Bacon
Nicola Bacon
Founding Director, Social Life

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