I’ve written in the past about efforts to use 21st century technological tools to enhance neighbors’ connections with each other, the sort that are far less common today than in the 1960s or 1970s.
Nextdoor, a leader in this space, has partnered with NYC Mayor Bloomberg to provide Nextdoor services in 1800 existing NYC neighborhoods. It’s a win-win partnership. The city gets a platform that enables them to pinpoint messages that need to get out to certain neighborhoods (such as upcoming events, programs, news, emergency bulletins), and NYC through NYCGov will let New Yorkers know how they can better connect with their neighbors through the Nextdoor platform. (These Nextdoor networks are secure so users have to verify they actually live in a neighborhood to join and users get to control what of this information is public and what is shared privately between neighbors.)
Nextdoor makes it far easier to share information with neighbors (on mobile phones or computers), whether it is about a community issue, or finding a good painter or babysitter, or setting up a block party, or providing other advice or recommendations. Nextdoor is also an example of what Bob Putnam and I call “alloy” social capital that combines virtual and face-to-face elements. We believe that alloy connections are stronger than either the purely virtual social connections in an online gaming community (for instance) and also stronger than purely face-to-face connections. The platform of Nextdoor also makes it more likely that one will meet new neighbors when one follows up on a e-post by inviting a neighbor to coffee, or start waving to or talking with a neighbor who one previously passed silently. And for neighborly relations that already exist, Nextdoor can help strengthen them by increasing the frequency with which one connects with neighbors.
See earlier post about Nextdoor here.
The Nextdoor-NYC announcement, builds on similar announcements with 120 city governments over the last 12 months including cities like San Jose, Denver, Dallas or San Diego. New York City is an iconic city of 8.3 million people and this agreement offers the potential to unlock a lot of social capital so we’ll watch this with bated breath and hope that many other cities will follow NYC’s lead.
It will be interesting down the road to plot out the rise of Nextdoor usage by neighborhood with its impact on social capital measures (e.g., trust of neighbor or borrowing/lending from neighbors) and on putative downstream measures (such as lower crime rate, from the higher level of e-“eyes on the street” to transmute Jane Jacobs‘ pearl of wisdom into the digital age.
See earlier Social Capital blog post on Nextdoor.