What emotionally attaches us to our communities? I suspect we’re all aware of the neighbourhoods that we do and don’t like, but perhaps it’s not always so easy to define what it is about a place that gives it that ‘certain something’.
Gallup and the Knight Foundation in the US conducted a study between 2008 & 2010 to pinpoint what it actually is that drives ‘resident attachment’, a resident’s degree of emotional attachment to their community.
Whilst the study is US-centric, it covered a sample of 43,000 people across 26 communities and pretty much included the entire melting pot of the USA. And in conjunction with what I’ve learnt about the Gallup approach to research, I think the findings are relevant no matter where we live.Why does resident attachment even matter?
Importantly, the study identified a correlation between resident attachment and local GDP – the higher the attachment, the higher the local GDP growth and the more positive the economic outlook. And a more successful community is able to attract better talent. A Virtuous Cycle.
So what were the top 3 drivers, and how can we deliver on these when we’re creating sustainable communities?
- Social Offerings; nightlife, places to meet, people caring about one another, arts and culture, community events. There is a lot going on here, but one consistent design driver is our need to create great places [place making] to enable social offerings to happen. Urban planning, social and precinct-scale infrastructure, and flexible spaces.
- Open-ness; a good place for all types of people – age, gender, ethnicity, ability, disposition and composition… engaged communities are more tolerant, therefore more diverse, therefore more resilient to change… again this supports a more robust local economy; and
- Aesthetics; parks, playgrounds, trails, beauty or physical setting. This one is probably obvious to most of us – but think about the implications on planning, urban design and infrastructure delivery… this is the stuff we have to get right from the very beginning, because it’s a little hard to shoe-horn in later.
One of the aspects of this that I find the most tantalising is how we might begin to measure how well we are delivering on these community attributes during the design process, and how we might create the best canvas on which a community can grow. Maximising a Lot yield is easy, but optimising the drivers for resident attraction [which translate to city competitiveness] is where the real art will lie for the future integrator.