Nicola Bacon writes for the March 2023 RSA Journal on belonging, arguing that we need to take a three pronged public health approach to belonging in our neighbourhoods and our local social spaces.
- We must design for belonging, avoiding features like 'poor doors’, playgrounds segregated by tenure, and design that speaks to one group and not to others, favouring enches and places to socialise, design that does not discriminate on tenure and income, and that encourages neighbourlyness
- We need to create the supports and services that help people belong, focusing on building relationships and maximising social contact within and between groups. Relationship-based practice is becoming more widespread; however, it is easy to talk about but more difficult to do. It can be challenging for established ways of working and hierarchies.
- We need to value what is supporting belonging and be wary of change that undermines it. This means a preference for refurbishment rather than demolition – of estates, neighbourhoods or town centres – improving and evolving what is there.
"Promoting belonging in difficcult times helps give people a sense of control when so many aspects of life seem precarious. Our sense of belonging to our local areas is a social asset built up over time, but we cannot take it for granted. Feeling that you belong cannot tackle food poverty or poor housing but it can, as a central element of social capital, help people be more resilient and better equipped to manage difficult times."