How Small Acts of Neighborliness Can Shift the Morale of Your Neighborhood

Want to better your community but don’t know where to start? Enter It’s the Little Things: a weekly Strong Towns podcast that gives you the wisdom and encouragement you need to take the small yet powerful actions that can make your city or town stronger.

It’s the Little Things features Strong Towns Community Builder Jacob Moses in conversation with various guests who have taken action in their own places and in their own ways.

Consider the elements of a strong neighborhood and you’ll likely think of the usual: walkable streets, housing for a mix of incomes, and an obvious gathering place

But ask Steve MacDouell and you’ll discover an equally important element—micro-neighborliness—which Steve defines as the small, patient, and practical ways that we pivot toward our localities and the people that we share them with. 

Think tending to community gardens, throwing a block party, or, as Steve shares in this episode, hosting a happy hour in your front yard (I’m for real).

At first, these low-lift acts may appear as nothing more than signs of a welcoming neighborhood. But observe how neighbors respond and you’ll find that these acts—compounded over time—shift the morale of the neighborhood; a shift from passive interaction to active participation in the strength of the neighborhood. 

The process through which Steve discovered micro-neighborliness resembles the low-risk, high return approach we often reference at Strong Towns, known as Neighborhoods First. The gist: small, incremental investments over time—as opposed to big projects—create strong cities, towns, and neighborhoods. 

Now, picture neighbors applying this approach to investment and you’ll discover the power of micro-neighborliness. You’ll discover your neighbors adopting a newfound interest in their neighborhood; proposing their own investments to one another; and, most important, boosting their belief that everyone can (and should) play an active role towards making their neighborhood stronger. 

In this episode, Steve shares how micro-neighborliness transformed his neighborhood in London, Ontario, and how you can foster micro-neighborliness in your own neighborhood—including how small, low-lift acts inspire neighborliness, how micro-neighborliness inspires neighbors to invest in their neighborhoods, and which low-lift acts you can make today to foster micro-neighborliness in your own neighborhood.