In this series from Seven Generations Architecture + Engineering, we are going to take a deep, research-based dive into pocket neighborhoods. More than just a trendy buzzword, pocket neighborhoods can add real value to communities – especially tribal communities. In part three of this five-part series, we will examine the community benefits that pocket neighborhoods can offer.
A pocket neighborhood, or a “cohesive cluster of homes gathered around some kind of common ground,” offers a number of benefits to residents. Just one of these benefits is that it can foster a greater sense of community. In particular, it can generate an increase in what is known as collective efficacy. Read on to learn more about collective efficacy, how it enhances life for residents of a neighborhood, and some of the key ways that pocket neighborhoods can strengthen communities and increase collective efficacy.
UNDERSTANDING COLLECTIVE EFFICACY
The term collective efficacy means “the perception of mutual trust and willingness to help each other” (Cohen, Inagami, & Finch, 2007, p. 198). Collective efficacy is what transforms a collection of housing units near one another into what we might call a true neighborhood. This sense of trust and support is associated with everything from lower crimes rates to lower rates of obesity, but it is also felt in a way that is much harder to measure (Cohen et al., 2006; Sampson et al., 1997). In a pocket neighborhood, there are a greater number of organic opportunities for interaction, which can lead to social cohesion among residents.
Collective efficacy can manifest itself in a number of key ways, just some of which include the following:
More opportunities to physically see and talk to neighbors. When residents know and trust their neighbors, they can strike up easy conversations that don’t require planning, adding to the community environment with each trip outside.
A reinforced support system. Social cohesion in a neighborhood means that it doesn’t feel awkward to ask a neighbor for help, whether that means borrowing a cup of sugar or searching for a missing pet.
Sharing resources. In addition to shared common areas, residents in a pocket neighborhood can share physical items
like tools. There is no need to buy 12 lawnmowers, for example, if there is one working lawnmower in a shared shed that all residents can use. In addition to fostering better relationships, this saves residents money.
Shared childcare. One benefit of a common space surrounded on all sides by housing units is that there is a natural neighborhood perimeter, a plus for all parents and guardians. One parent can oversee a few children playing together in a safe shared space, freeing up time for other parents and allowing children to build deeper relationships with no travel time.
Creating housing developments are investments into community. For the Bay Mills Indian Community, the untouched island lake called Spectacle Lake is a tremendous asset. According to 7GAE Vice President of Practice Steve VandenBussche, “While tribe had multiple options for the development of the space, they opted to use the land adjacent to the lake for their elder housing community. This investment put tribal elders close to the beauty and serenity of Spectacle Lake, showcasing their commitment to the ongoing development of community.”
When residents are in close proximity, and have natural, organic opportunities to see one another on a regular basis, it helps to develop trust. This is key to the success of pocket neighborhoods. By facilitating easy, unplanned interactions, residents are more likely to foster genuine relationships. The resulting collective efficacy is what transforms a collection of homes into a community.
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