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From Isolation to Community: Exploratory Study of a Sense-of-Community Intervention

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From Isolation to Community: Exploratory Study of a Sense-of-Community Intervention

Abstract and Figures

This exploratory pilot study analyzes the role a facilitated neighborhood intervention, geared towards meeting one’s neighbors and discussing local needs and civic action, can play in moving individuals from isolation to community. It focuses on whether NeighborCircles (NC), a neighborhood intervention run by a nonprofit in Massachusetts, is associated with increases in social capital (SC); the main constructs used are Perkins and Long’s (2002) 4 dimensions of SC (sense of community [SOC], collective efficacy, neighboring, and participation), with a primary focus on SOC. Surveys and interviews with a majority Latino sample group reveal NC is associated with reported increases in all 4 dimensions of SC. The author concludes by considering what may have led to these reported increases, as well as implications for both future research about and experimentation with similar interventions.
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ARTICLE
FROM ISOLATION TO COMMUNITY:
EXPLORATORY STUDY OF A
SENSE-OF-COMMUNITY
INTERVENTION
Brendan O’Connor
Van de rb il t Un iv er si ty
This exploratory pilot study analyzes the role a facilitated neighborhood
intervention, geared towards meeting one’s neighbors and discussing local
needs and civic action, can play in moving individuals from isolation to
community. It focuses on whether NeighborCircles (NC), a neighborhood
intervention run by a nonprofit in Massachusetts, is associated with
increases in social capital (SC); the main constructs used are Perkins and
Long’s (2002) 4 dimensions of SC (sense of community [SOC], collective
efficacy, neighboring, and participation), with a primary focus on SOC.
Surveys and interviews with a majority Latino sample group reveal NC is
associated with reported increases in all 4 dimensions of SC. The author
concludes by considering what may have led to these reported increases, as
well as implications for both future research about and experimentation
with similar interventions. C!2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
I thank Lawrence CommunityWorks (LCW) staff and members who warmly welcomed me into their world.
Among many others at LCW, Dr. Audrey Jordan was critical to the birth and development of this project. Spencer
Buchholz and Altagracia Portorreal of LCW’s Network Organizing Department—the home of NeighborCircles—
worked equally hard and were central to bringing together all the data collection and other moving parts. I
also received invaluable advice and support from thesis committee members, Dr. Kimberly Bess and Dr. Doug
Perkins, and a number of fellow students—particularly Krista Craven, Nikolay Mihaylov, Joanna Geller and
Laurel Lunn.
Research was supported by Clinical and Translational Science Award UL1RR024975 from the National Center
for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).
This article is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent official views of the
NCATS or the National Institutes of Health. Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research grant
support (UL1TR000011 from NCATS/NIH) allowed data to be collected and managed using REDCap (Research
Electronic Data Capture) electronic data capture tools hosted at Vanderbilt University (Harris et al., 2009).
Please address correspondence to: Brendan O’Connor, 1900 Thurman St., Nashville, Tennessee.
E-mail: bhoconnor@gmail.com
JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY PSYCHOLOGY,Vol.41,No.8,973991(2013)
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jcop).
C!
2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/jcop.21587
974 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
“A more organized citizenry in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods would consti-
tute a systems change that could have far-reaching consequences” (Ferguson & Stout-
land, 1999, p. 48). This pilot study begins to analyze the role that a neighborhood
intervention, geared towards knowing one’s neighbors and discussing local needs and
potential civic action, can play in addressing Ferguson and Stoutland’s concept of a
“more organized citizenry” on the neighborhood level. More precisely, a mixed meth-
ods design of surveys and interviews was used with a largely Latino population to an-
alyze whether the NeighborCircles (NC) intervention, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was
associated with increases in social capital (SC)–focusing primarily on the sense of com-
munity (SOC) dimension of SC. Given sampling limitations, I conclude by consider-
ing the potential for both more robust follow-up research and similar interventions in
other contexts; findings from this study, however, build a foundation for further re-
search into these forms of interventions by providing a conceptual framework and initial
findings.
This study focuses on SOC for two main reasons. First, the chief goal of NC is to foster
SOC. Second, community psychology considers SOC a central value (Townley, Kloos,
Green, & Franco, 2011) for various reasons, not the least of which is Sarason’s (1974) view
of it as “the overarching criterion by which to judge any community effort” (p. 4). Despite
the constitutive value of SOC, this article also examines how SOC and SC are related,
as Perkins and Long (2002) argue SOC is weakened when divorced from the inherent
actions of SC.
NC, facilitated by the nonprofit Lawrence CommunityWorks (LCW), involves a neigh-
bor (the host) inviting around 7 to 10 others from their block who they do not know well
or at all into their home for a series of three meetings, including refreshments and some-
times full meals. At NC, two trained LCW members1facilitate conversations and activities.
The first NC meeting includes a chance for participants to tell their story to the group of
how and why they ended up on the block where they live. Although LCW staff indicate
that the primary goal is to form actual relationships and a sense of community,2facilitators
also encourage participants to engage in civic or political action during or soon after the
meetings.3
SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
Definitions
SOC has a long and deep history in community psychology, dating back to Sarason (1974).
In similar ways, SC resonates in other disciplines, from political science to community
development (Perkins & Long, 2002). This study draws on Perkins and Long’s (2002)
four-dimensional definition of SC, which includes: SOC, collective efficacy, neighboring,
and participation (see Figure 1).
It is important to briefly define these four dimensions of SC. First, for SOC, McMillan
and Chavis’ (1986) attitudinal definition is used: “Sense of community is a feeling that
1Members sign a commitment and are defined as anyone “enrolled in or participating in community and family
asset-building and/or who is engaging in relationships of mutual support or collective action” (LCW, n.d.).
2SOC is treated in this study as the primary focus even though NC use what Perkins and Long (2002) consider
the participation dimension of SC to affect SOC.
3More details are below and a NC guide is available online: www.typp.org/media/docs/0155_NeighborCircles.
pdf
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !975
Figure 1. Perkins and Long’s (2002) four dimensions of social capital.
members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the
group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to
be together” (p. 9). McMillan and Chavis identify four dimensions of SOC that will be used
and elaborated on throughout this article: membership, shared emotional connection,
needs fulfillment, and influence.
For the other three dimensions of SC, Long and Perkins (2007) hold that (a) collec-
tive efficacy involves the belief that behavior or action with others will be effective, (b)
neighboring is “informal mutual assistance and information sharing among neighbors”
(p. 566), and (c) participation entails grassroots formal citizen behavior in an organiza-
tion, although that is expanded here to include formally organized social behavior, such
as NC or joining in a social event4(an expansion supported by the relational nature of
SC: Sampson, 2008).
The Utility and Challenge of SOC and SC
Why do SOC and SC matter? SOC has been correlated with myriad positive outcomes,
from community participation (Chavis & Wandersman, 1990; Long & Perkins, 2007),
to collaboration at work (Lambert & Hopkins, 1995), to psychological empowerment
(Peterson, Speer, & McMillan, 2008), to health and well being (e.g., Freedman et al.
2006; Pretty, Andrewes, & Collett, 1994). Similarly, SC is widely regarded as a key sign
of a healthy civic life (e.g., Putnam, 2000; Warren, Thompson, & Saegert, 2001), despite
disputes about the level of its decline in the United States (e.g., Sobieraj & White, 2004).
More recently, Putnam (2007) contends that SC and trust5are lower in heterogeneous,
urban areas than more homogeneous, suburban areas. He associates such diversity with
anomie and isolation, which suggests the need to explore ways to build SOC and SC, given
unprecedented levels of U.S. diversity (Alesina & Glaeser, 2004) and common ideals of
mixed-income, diverse neighborhoods (DeFilippis & Fraser, 2010).
If SOC and SC promote positive outcomes, should one or both be facilitated via
deliberate interventions? Sampson (2008) argues such efforts simply may not work:
“[I]nterventions in the local community are unlikely to succeed if they attempt to pen-
etrate the private world of personal relations” (p. 165). In another study, Sampson,
McAdam, MacIndoe, and Weffer-Elizondo (2005) found the presence of organizations
spurs participation to a greater extent than social ties or neighboring do;6however,
they largely fail to consider the independent worth of those relational outcomes. The
present study begins to challenge and add nuance to Sampson and colleagues’ (2005)
4For example, a senior center could formally organize bridge games to build SOC, but it appears Long and
Perkins’ (2007) definition of citizen participation would exclude this.
5Trust is a term used synonymously with SOC by Perkins and Long (2002)
6The importance of organizations noted here is similar to the focus in community psychology literature on the
importance of settings (e.g., Seidman, 1988).
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
976 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
work by suggesting that interventions in personal relations may not be successful if at-
tempted outside of organizations and the “specified processes that take place within them”
(p. 679); following that logic, the organization in this study is understood to be LCW and
the process, NC.
This leads to the question of whether practitioners who want to increase either SOC or
SC can easily do so. How would a community center or community organizing group best
increase their members’ SOC and/or SC? Could they simply use a SOC or SC intervention,
or somehow incorporate these constructs into existing interventions? It is unclear from
previous studies if they could easily do either. Several scholars argue for useable SOC
interventions (Proeschold-Bell & Roosa, 2005; Bathum & Baumann, 2007; Townley et al.,
2011; Bolland & McCallum, 2002), as well as interventions to stem the apparent decline
in SC (Putnam & Feldstein, 2003); however, existing interventions have not been widely
researched. This pilot study begins to fill that gap by using quantitative and qualitative
data to analyze reported effects of a SOC intervention, extending the discussion at key
points to SC.
SOC INTERVENTIONS
The most applicable literature for this study includes research related to the outcomes
and processes associated with SOC interventions. The term intentional SOC intervention
is used here to refer to any intervention that has the explicit goal of increasing SOC,
though some literature on interventions that affect SOC without that explicit goal will
also be reviewed.
Intentional SOC Interventions
Proeschold-Bell and Roosa (n.d.) claim that “while theory and measurement of SOC
have progressed, there have been few reports of interventions designed to promote it”
(p. 2). Kingston, Mitchell, Florin, and Stevenson (1999) describe both individual and
environmental factors that may lead to SOC. They suggest SOC interventions could help
“local residents to increase their skills, and to strengthen their connections with other
residents” (p. 684)—an intervention that sounds quite similar to NC.
In a study of low-income Baltimore neighborhoods, Brodsky, O’Campo, and
Aronson (1999) discuss SOC interventions. They found active involvement in neigh-
borhood organizations predicts higher SOC (at individual and community levels), and
the same for religious institutions (at the individual level). Although not likely thought
of as “SOC interventions,” neighborhood organizations often have a deliberate interest
in building locational community, while virtually all religious institutions intend to build
relational community (for more on locational vs. relational community, see Bess, Fisher,
Sonn, & Bishop, 2002). Brodsky and colleagues suggest community-level changes are
needed to increase SOC, such as better job opportunities, increased economic develop-
ment, and increasing voter registration. Importantly, however, they state: “Efforts to reach
and understand the needs of uninvolved, alienated residents while harder, seem to be
necessary” (p. 677).
Some interventions had insignificant results. Kingston et al. (1999) found that the
mere presence of a neighborhood association did not have a significant relationship to their
measure of SOC,7despite the fact that Long and Perkins (2007), similar to Brodsky et al.
7Whether true for most neighborhood associations or not, this was the impetus behind NC—LCW staff thought
neighborhood associations were too hierarchical and, based on staff interviews, less likely to increase SOC.
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !977
(1999), found that participation in a neighborhood association was predictive of SOC.
Although presence of an association is different than participation in one, analyzing the
effects of both highlights some of the limited reach of neighborhood associations.
Unintentional SOC Interventions
Some interventions have not intentionally focused on increasing SOC, but have never-
theless been associated with SOC. Peterson and Reid (2002) found in a substance abuse
intervention that higher reported empowerment meant lower SOC. Interestingly, this led
Peterson and Reid to advocate for deliberate promotion of SOC within empowerment
interventions. Speer (2000) determined organizational participation was associated with
higher SOC and empowerment, using formal participation in “school groups, church
groups, [and] block clubs” as the participation variable (p. 55). Using a more politi-
cal participation scale—including signing petitions, writing letters, and attending public
meetings—Peterson et al. (2008) found significant positive correlations between SOC
and participation.
In summary, some participation—in neighborhood associations, political activities,
and school or church groups—is related to SOC, while some is not. Most of these studies,
however, ask whether participation in an available intervention or related experience is
associated with SOC. What Kingston et al. (1999) and Brodsky et al. (1999) note may
highlight the more difficult realities of anomie and isolation—that is, that the existence
of more common forms of participation (e.g., neighborhood associations or religious
institutions) may not be enough to curb the lower levels of trust and SC that Putnam
(2007) has found in urban areas. Thus, research that examines innovative SOC and/or
SC interventions may help document not only how such interventions work but also how
anomie and isolation might be reduced.
SOC Intervention Processes
As Miller and Shinn (2005) note, processes by which interventions work are often not
explicit. Given the limited interventions that target SOC, there is similarly little known
about how interventions create SOC. Proeschold-Bell and Roosa (n.d.) do articulate
factors that may lead to SOC, yet they do not indicate a clear process by which these factors
may work together in a SOC intervention. They review literature related to McMillan and
Chavis’ (1986) SOC dimensions and connect it to research into group cohesion, social
identity, and social support; they then create a matrix of 20 causal antecedents for these
three areas, suggesting the antecedents may be useful in SOC interventions.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESES
Based on these gaps in the literature about SOC interventions and processes, two questions
guided this study: (a) Is NeighborCircles associated with reported increases in SOC and
the other three SC dimensions? (b) If there are reported increases in SOC, what about
the NC process may have facilitated those apparent increases?
The study involved two related hypotheses: (a) NC will be associated with an increase
in SOC and all three other dimensions of SC. This is based on Long and Perkins’ (2007)
finding that participation—which, again, is how NC is understood in this study—can
predict SOC. (b) If this first hypothesis is correct, though study design precludes causal
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
978 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
inferences, then it was hypothesized that any of the attitudinal dimensions of SOC that
NC reportedly increases will be related to behavioral counterparts of those SOC dimen-
sions. That is, any SOC dimensions that NC increases will be increased via behavioral
group processes in NC that promote membership, shared emotional connection, needs
fulfillment, and influence.
METHODS
Study Overview and Setting
This study draws on Miller and Shinn’s (2005) call to “locate, study, and cooperate in the
dissemination of successful indigenous programs” (p. 170). The Annie E. Casey Foun-
dation, based on their support (Fulton & Jordan, 2010) and dissemination of the NC
model in various parts of the United States (A. Jordan, personal communication, August
4, 2012), has suggested it works. Therefore, this study’s focus on a promising program, us-
ing inductive and mixed methods, offers high potential for the ecologically-valid findings
emphasized by Miller and Shinn.
The study was conducted in partnership with LCW in the old textile city of Lawrence,
30 miles north of Boston. Lawrence’s population has shifted from largely White, European
immigrants to over 70% Latino. Hence, survey and interview protocols were translated
into Spanish with a professional translator; 21 of 28 surveys and 2 of 11 interviews were in
Spanish.
Guiding Principles
This is an exploratory, cross-sectional case study that uses mixed methods. The goal was
to contribute to theory and practice about SOC and SC interventions. This included an
attempt not to ascertain generalizable results, but rather to consider findings “in terms
of the generalizability of cases to theoretical propositions rather than to populations
or universes” (Bryman, 1988, p. 90). Additionally, such research provides a theoretical
foundation for future studies that may wish to generalize to certain populations or com-
munities. Lastly, the study was designed in the spirit of Townley and colleagues’ (2011)
view that SOC has generally been measured quantitatively, leading them to suggest a need
for more mixed methods studies of SOC.
Quantitative Surveys
Sample and representativeness. Each of the 221 NC participants from 2008 to 2012 in LCW’s
records were mailed physical invitations to come to LCW for a meal, to give feedback on
NC, and to fill out the survey. Partially because of the transitory nature of the population,
low e-mail use precluding electronic invitations, and limited resources for making indi-
vidual phone calls, only 28 former NC participants completed the survey (see Table 1).
This low response rate, in addition to sampling limitations, further justified a mixed
methods approach.
Three main factors affected the survey sample. First, the 28 in the final sample received
a high dosage of NC, with the vast majority (86%) reporting the full dosage of one NC
group (i.e., three meetings) or more (see Table 2). This may not be representative of
the larger group of 221 NC participants, as only 24% (n =54) of those were logged by
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !979
Table 1. Survey Demographics
Var ia ble n Frequency P ercent
Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (general)
Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin 27 96.4%
Non-Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish 1 3.6%
Tot al 28 28 100%
Education
High school diploma or less 8 28.6%
2-year college degree or vocational certificate 5 17.9%
4-year college degree or more 10 35.7%
Missing 517.9%
Tot al 28 28 100%
Combined household income
$10,000-$20,000 7 25.9%
$20,000-$40,000 8 29.6%
$40,000-$75,000 or more 5 18.5%
Don’t know 1 3.7%
Missing 622.2%
Tot al 27 27 100%
Note. Given demographics include missing data, these are conservative estimates.
Table 2. NC Attendance for Study
Var ia ble n F requenc y Pe rcent
Total reported NC groupsa
11035.7%
2or3 10 35.7%
4ormore 7 25.0%
Missing 1 3.6%
Tot al 28 2 8 10 0.0%
Total estimated NC meetingsb
1–2 3 14.3
3–4c10 42.9
5ormore 12 42.8
Tot al 28 2 8 10 0.0
Note: NC =NeighborCircles.
aNC groups are comprised of at least three meetings, according to the model.
bTot al m ee ti ng s at te nd ed n ot a va il ab le b ecause some reported at te nd in g bu t di d no t pr ov id e ex ac t me et in gs p er group.
So numbers may be conservative, with some having participated in 10 or more meetings.
c17.9% (n =5) attended exactly three meetings.
LCW as having attended three meetings or more.8Second, respondents included two staff
members and eight facilitators,9though all but one were regular NC participants at one
point prior to assuming those roles. Third, 10 individuals (40%) participated in NC five
or more blocks from their home, including three in another city (two were facilitators);
the other 60% participated in NC within one block of their home or in their home.
However, these data were still valuable. Given the limitations, though, and the need
to be adaptive in mixed methods research (Bryman, 1988), a social desirability scale was
used and the study was modified to be an analysis of highly involved attendees. Although
8LCW data had lower reliability; other data suggested doing more than three meetings was fairly common.
9Facilitators are not staff, but previous NC participants paid a small stipend to lead one or more NC.
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
980 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
not optimal, this finds support in Cronbach’s (1982) call for research into the who, where,
and when of why programs work. Less highly involved attendees were also interviewed.
Instruments and scales used. Survey responses mainly involved retrospective self-reports,
with pre-NC and post-NC items juxtaposed immediately after one another for a clearer
sense of comparison; as noted, this and the overall study design raised the possibility of
socially desirable answers. Thus, surveys included a Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability
Index (SDI; (Strahan & Gerbasi, 1972; Cronbach’s alpha =.513). For SOC, the 8-item,
validated Brief Sense of Community Scale (BSCS) 10 was used (Peterson et al., 2008; Cron-
bach’s alpha pre-NC =.904 and post-NC =.804). A six-item collective efficacy scale was
adapted from Perkins et al. (1990); scales for neighboring (four items) and participation
(eight items) were adapted from Brown, Perkins, and Brown (2003; Cronbach’s alpha for
collective efficacy pre-NC =. 933 and post-NC =.724; for neighboring pre-NC =.452 and
post-NC =.117; for participation pre-NC =.698 and post-NC =.279). Other questions,
including those LCW was interested in, were also included.
Qualitative Interviews
Sample. Semistructured interviews, lasting 52 minutes on average, were conducted with
participants, facilitators, and staff; however, this paper focuses on participant interviews.
Overall, 11 interviews were conducted: six with NC participants, two with NC facilitators,
and three with LCW staff members. To explore a diverse set of experiences, a combination
of maximum variation (Miles & Huberman, 1994) and convenience sampling was used
for participant interviews. Of the six past participants interviewed, three were males, three
females; two were interviewed in Spanish; one participated in 2006, one in 2008, two in
2011, and two in 2012. Two had been hosts and participated in more than one NC group;
four attended at least three meetings, and two attended less than three (one went to only
one meeting, and one went to two).
Most were more highly educated than the survey sample, except one who had only a
high school diploma. Of the four who provided a household income, two were between
$30,000 and $40,000 and two between $50,000 and $75,000; the one who did not report
his income had only a high school degree, worked construction, and lived in a lower
income part of town.
Coding theory and general process. Coding was done with MAXQDA software. As suggested by
Charmaz (2006), open coding and then focused coding were used, informed by grounded
theory and the constant comparative method recommended by Glaser and Strauss (1967).
Initial open coding was conducted to identify emergent themes, though some theoretical
coding was used based on McMillan and Chavis’ (1986) SOC dimensions. Subsequently,
a full coding framework was developed and provided to a second coder to code three
interviews. Discussion between coders about general themes and categories, facilitated by
a MAXQDA intercoder analysis, helped solidify the coding structure for the final, focused
coding stage.
10Based on ongoing research, the scale was changed from a 5-point range of strongly disagree to strongly agree
to a similar 5-point range of never to almost always.
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !981
RESULTS
To sta rt, t he first r ese arc h que sti on is a ddr essed r ega rdi ng wh eth er NC i s ass oci ated wi th
increases in SOC and SC; this is analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. For the second
question, survey and interview data are used to consider if NC processes may have affected
SOC.
Quantitative Findings About SC Increases
Social desirability and SC intercorrelations. Table 3 shows intercorrelations between reported
changes in all four SC dimensions and the social desirability index (SDI). All of these
correlations were nonsignificant, suggesting participants did not provide significantly
socially desirable answers. The largest correlation, while nonsignificant, was between
neighboring and SDI (r=.12, ns); some SC dimensions had nonsignificant negative
correlations with the SDI.
This analysis did reveal significant correlations between all SC measures, excluding
the variable for meeting participation. Reported changes in collective efficacy and neigh-
boring had the highest correlation (r=.798, p<.01); other significant correlations ranged
from .421 (p<.05) for change in participation and neighboring to .709 (p<.01) for change
in SOC and neighboring. SC changes and number of NC meetings attended were not
significantly correlated, but there was a clear trend relationship between total meetings
and change in three of four SC dimensions: SOC (r=.359, p=.09); collective efficacy
(r=.288, p=.17); and neighboring (r=.259, p=.23). Total meetings attended and
participation change had a small correlation (r=.049, p=.81). Yet, as noted, number of
meetings attended was not precisely measured because of inexact survey questions.
t test of SC changes. Turning to a key question of the study: Is participation in NC as-
sociated with reported increases in SOC and/or the other SC dimensions? Differences
between pre-NC and post-NC responses for SOC and the other three SC measures were
tested using a paired-sample ttest (see Table 4). Significant change was reported for SOC,
Table 3. Intercorrelations for Reported SC Change Dimensions and Social Desirability Index (SDI)
Correlations
SOC Collective Neigh. Partic. Partic. Partic.
change efficacy change change changeamtng changebwork changecSDI
SOC change 1.00 .682** .709** .491* 0.34 .511** 0.01
Collective effic. change .682** 1.00 .798** .510** 0.22 .710** 0.10
Neighboring change .709** .798** 1.00 .421* 0.26 .489* 0.12
Partic. changea.491* .510** .421* 1.00 .885** .746** 0.09
Partic. mtng changeb0.34 0.22 0.26 .885** 1.00 0.35 0.10
Partic. work changec.511** .710** .489* .746** 0.35 1.00 0.04
SDI 0.01 0.10 0.12 0.09 0.10 0.04 1.00
Note. SC =social capital; SOC =sense of community.
aParticipation overall in neighborhood meetings and work.
bParticipation in meetings for one of four groups: neighborhood associations, religious groups, youth-related groups,
or crime-related groups.
cParticipation in neighborhood work or action (for one or more of the same four groups).
*p <0.01 level, 2-tailed. *p <0.05, 2- tailed.
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
982 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
Table 4. t Test for Dependent Samples: Reported Pre to Post Changes in SC Dimensions
95% Confidence
interval of difference
Mean SD
Std. error
mean Lower Upper t df
Sig.
(2-tailed)
SOC post – SOC pre 1.63 1.00 0.20 1.22 2.05 8.16 24 0.00††
Collective effic. post –
Collective effic. pre
0.63 0.72 0.14 0.34 0.93 4.43 24 0.00††
Neighboring post –
Neigh. Pre
0.91 0.82 0.17 0.56 1.26 5.43 23 0.00††
Partic. post – Partic.
prea
0.05 0.17 0.03 0.01 0.12 1.69 27 0.10
Partic.M post –
Partic.M preb
0.03 0.24 0.05 0.07 0.12 0.59 27 0.56
Partic.W post –
Partic.W prec
0.08 0.17 0.03 0.02 0.15 2.54 27 0.02
Note. SC =social capital; SOC =sense of community; SD =standard deviation; df =degree of freedom.
aParticipation overall in neighborhood meetings and work.
bParticipation in neighborhood meetings (i.e., for one of four groups: neighborhood associations, religious groups,
youth-related groups, or crime-related groups).
cParticipation in neighborhood work or action (for one or more of the same four groups).
††p<0.01, 2-tailed. p<0.05, 2-tailed.
collective efficacy, and neighboring (p<.01). Participation overall showed nonsignificant
change, as was the case for meeting participation in four types of neighborhood organi-
zations; however, significant change was found for more action-oriented participation in
neighborhood organizations (p=.02).
The above analyses largely support the hypothesis that participation in NC is asso-
ciated with increased SC. Considering Townley et al. (2011) found that predominantly
Latino neighborhoods appear to have lower SOC, this finding may be particularly mean-
ingful, given all survey respondents but one were Latino. However, clear limitations of the
sample, including overrepresentation of highly involved participants, narrow the breadth
of these findings.
Qualitative Findings About SC Increases
For interviews, explicit questions were asked about SOC and all areas were coded for
SOC. The other three SC dimensions were coded for but not included as deliberate
questions. All four are presented separately below. The six interviewees are referred to as
NC1 through NC6.
SC: Sense of community. The author asked participants questions about each of the four SOC
dimensions: membership, shared emotional connection, needs fulfillment, and influence.
SOC: Membership. For the membership dimension, five of six participants said NC made
them feel more like a member of their neighborhood. One outlier, NC5, said she always
felt like a member; NC2 said the same, but continued to say NC reinforced that feeling
because “it allows you to grow and actually identify what is affecting everyone.” Both
demonstrated potential self-selection into NC; however, this did not appear to be the case
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !983
with the other four. For example, in response to a question about if participants felt like
members before NC, NC4 said:
Well, before you got, I don’t think . . . anybody feel that before, because you
. . . think that you are invisible . . . like, nobody knows that you don’t even exist,
except by your close friends, for instance. But, ah, when we had that group, it’s
ah . . . it was great . . . .
This response speaks to a more profound desire for membership than was obvious
among others, yet it shows the ability of NC to affect someone with such intense levels of
disconnection.
SOC: Shared emotional connection. All participants said NC positively affected shared emo-
tional connection (SEC). NC6 said, “We feel like a family,” and NC3 said that she “formed
a really nice friendship with a guy that participated.” When asked about the story exer-
cise, NC3 said, “We shared beautifully and everything was lovely there.” NC4 said SEC
depended on people’s ability to bond with others, saying NC affected it only a “little bit”
for him, but that more meetings would affect it more. NC5 explained more significant
effects on SEC:
I think it made me closer, especially when we were, like, I learned things about
my neighbors that I didn’t know . . . where they came from, how they . . . end
up coming here, you know . . . . They shared their stories, uh, maybe people that
I thought they were, like, I don’t know, that they were not friendly and they really
were friendly, they were just shy.
As NC5 demonstrates, the story exercise clearly played a hand in SEC, in part by
simply allowing her to learn “things about [her] neighbors that [she] didn’t know.”
SOC: Needs fulfillment. All but one interviewee said NC increased their ability to fulfill
their needs. The outlier, NC3, felt her needs were not largely met because actions were
not taken to deal with problems on her street, such as cars speeding by; this was clearly
supported by survey data detailed below that actions did not meet the needs of a number
of participants. NC2 pointed out that meeting needs via NC “might be the only way to
get . . . your neighbors involved in the community.” Two participants noted a related
theme that, as NC5 puts it, NC allowed her to get to know people “so that if we ever
need something, you know, they’re gonna be there for us.” NC2 expanded on this with a
specific example: “I didn’t know that was a person who was a nurse. So now I know. . . . If
I’m sick I could run over to that person and knock on the door and be, like, ‘hey look,
I’m not feeling well.’” This is not only a concrete example that NC2 feels that his needs
can be fulfilled via NC, but it is also an example of the neighboring dimension of SC.
SOC: Influence. There were more missing responses for the influence dimension than for
the other SOC dimensions, along with some mixed answers. The author overlooked asking
NC1 the influence question and the translator incorrectly asked the question to NC6. NC3,
similar to needs fulfillment, did not believe her influence was much greater. NC5 clearly
seemed to think her influence had increased. For NC2, who became a city councilor at
some point after NC, he said he always had felt influential, but he extended this analysis
to the neighborhood level and said he thought NC had increased the influence of the
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
984 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
neighborhood. NC4 responded to the question about influence by saying: “Yeah, yeah,
but like I said, we have to do a follow-up, we have to continue. And . . . I have a feeling
that it kind of stalled.” He explained that it stalled by not continuing to meet in some
form after the first three NC meetings.
SC: Collective efficacy. Turning to the other SC dimensions, all participants except for NC3
were coded for one or more statements that suggested an increase in collective efficacy.
Participants talked about gaining a voice and learning they can make a difference for
issues such as street signs (NC2, NC4), problems with trash (NC1), or collectively asking
a neighbor to turn down their music (NC6). “We discovered that we can do alot,said
NC4.
Some of this, however, led to neoliberal themes, best captured by NC5’s explanation
of how neighbors were considering purchasing a snow blower to clear their sidewalks. She
was conflicted about whether the city of Lawrence should do this, though they had in the
past. She said, “We pay a lot of taxes,” and noted that she and others had unsuccessfully
gone before the city council. Although she thought the city was in the wrong, she was
unable to articulate a way by which citizens could pressure leaders to change their policy.
Similar attitudes were voiced by NC1 and NC2, usually in the form of resolving issues
“without having to go to the city” (NC2).11
SC: Neighboring. Most interviewees seemed to experience some degree of neighboring via
NC. There was not much evidence of neighboring for NC1 and NC6; however, not much
time had passed since they had participated in NC. NC3 did not articulate much in the
way of neighboring, but demonstrated a form of it by calling a friend she made at NC
in the middle of the interview to encourage him to participate in the study. NC4 said he
sees people in the streets or in the supermarket now and is able to talk and connect with
them.
NC5 talked about regular in-person, phone, and text communication with neighbors
about criminal activity, providing an important example:
We used to . . . call each other . . . . There were times also we were having people
getting into the other people’s backyard, like the guys that were drug dealing and
there was a time where my mom had to say, you know, “What are you looking for?”
Because the lady up the street, she lives alone. And she’s, like, 80 and something
years old. So, we were concerned . . . and I end up calling the cops, “Can you
please send a patrol over.”
This example clearly goes beyond simple relational interactions to neighboring that
affects safety and crime. NC2 provided evidence of continued cookouts being organized
after NC:
In 2010, so, ya know, I’ve never been shy, but I wouldn’t be like an intruder going
into someone else’s backyard and, hey, they’re cooking, I want food. But now,
like, I could just say “Hey neighbor,” and you know what they would say? “Hey,
11A subsequent article will explore this further, but Warren, Thompson and Saegert (2001) note problems
that arise when SC is viewed as an alternative to public investment. Others cite flaws of solely consensus-based
approaches to change, opposed to conflict-based (such as traditional community organizing; e.g., Stoecker,
2003).
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !985
come over.” Before, ya know, they were having the food, and I would just walk by
and do nothin’.
In terms of degree of neighboring, these examples are outliers among the small
interview sample but are corroborated by significant changes in neighboring reported in
the survey findings.
SC: Participation. As previously noted, the fact that coming to NC is in and of itself a form
of participation means that NC involves additional participation. Similarly, the common
occurrence of organized collective action via NC is a form of participation; all participants
except NC3 reported taking actions via NC. Even for NC3, though, she said, “I’ve talked
about this program, I’ve said that they participate . . . that they go to the community
to participate.” NC4 noted that homeowners like him were more likely to participate in
NC, though NC5 said it was useful for renters too (of 20 survey respondents, half were
homeowners and half were renters).
Summary of SC Increases
Toge ther, quantita tiv e and q ual ita tiv e find ings sh ow th at NC i s ass oci ate d with incre ase s
in all four dimensions of SC. Though NC most prominently focuses on SOC, the other
three dimensions of SC also appear to be positively affected. Up to this point, findings
have been presented that suggest NC is associated with increases in reported SC for highly
involved attendees. Next, participant surveys and interviews are analyzed to answer the
question: What actions and processes within NC may have led to reported increases of
SOC in particular?
Processes at NeighborCircles
Interview and survey questions were designed to examine processes that may lead to SOC.
Survey questions were formed a priori based on the idea that deliberate components
of NC will increase SOC to the degree they represent behavioral versions of McMillan
and Chavis’ (1986) four SOC dimensions. Thus, interview and survey questions targeted
processes that may lead to a sense of membership, shared emotional connection, needs
fulfillment, and/or influence.
Membership processes. Sixty-two percent of 26 respondents said they got to know more than
five new people or people they did not know well; all 26 said they got to know at least
two or more new people or people they did not know well. Why didn’t they know those
people well or at all before? Of the options, most (60% of 25 respondents) said they did
not know them because “it is hard to know how to get to know neighbors well” (emphasis
added). Referring to the idea of membership, NC1 said: “I will say that they will, they felt
like they were a member as soon as they got to the first meeting and find out what the
neighborhood association12 is all about.” Other processes involve hosts inviting neighbors
to NC and participants signing a document to commit to all three meetings; those who
return often see the same neighbors or “members” because it is designed to be a smaller,
more intimate group of 7 to 10 people.
12NC was incorrectly referred to as a neighborhood association a number of times, showing that it was understood
by some as similar—thoughNC1, for example, had never been to an actual neighborhood association.
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
986 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
Shared emotional connection processes. Survey respondents were asked, “At NC, some people
say they interact with others on a casual level, while some say they interact on a deeper
level—what would you say?” Out of 24 respondents, 16 (67%) “mostly interacted with
others at NC on a deeper level.” Respondents were also asked if they had a chance to
“tell [their] story to the larger group.” At the first of three NC meetings, participants are
supposed to tell the story of how they came to live on their current street; the survey
question was used to check: (a) if this was happening and (b) if participants saw this as
“telling their story.” Of 24 respondents, 70% said yes they had a chance to tell their story,
25% said somewhat, and one person said no.
Needs fulfillment processes. One survey question asked: “Some say the NC meetings and/or
the actions taken by their NC group met some of their needs, while some say they did
not—what do you say?” Interestingly, 80% (20 out of 25) chose “Yes, the meetings met
some of my needs,” while only 44% (11 out of 25) chose “Yes, the actions taken met some
of my needs”; given that 61% (17 of 28) said they got involved with NC to take some type
of action, this suggests that either some actions taken were not meeting needs or actions
simply were not being taken (as was reflected in some interview data). However, of 27
respondents, 19 (70%) said they took action during or soon after NC with participants
(and 82% said they took action since NC).
Influence processes. Last, the process of influence was examined by asking survey respon-
dents if they influenced aspects of NC and/or if they were influenced by aspects of NC. Out of
28 estimated13 respondents, 54% said they influenced or affected the community issues
talked about at NC, while only 32% said they influenced or affected the actions taken.
Similarly, out of 28 estimated respondents, 57% said they were influenced or affected by
the community issues discussed, with only 29% reporting being influenced or affected by
the actions taken.
Taken together with the reported increases in SOC and SC, these processes shed light
on concrete ways by which SOC in particular might be increased. As noted, the processes
appear to largely represent the behaviors or actions that are implied by the attitudinal
dimensions of SOC.
DISCUSSION
Numerous scholars reviewed above suggest SOC interventions are needed. However,
the minimal research on SOC interventions tends to focus on traditional organizations,
which Brodsky et al. (1999) suggest do not reach less engaged citizens—and often involve
interventions not even intended to affect SOC. Therefore, this study appears to be rare
among SOC research as an analysis of an intervention with the clear goal of increasing SOC
and SC. Focusing on generalizability to “theoretical propositions” (Bryman, 1988, p. 90),
not populations, the quantitative and qualitative findings for highly involved participants
in this study support the theory that SOC and SC interventions have critical potential—
this is reinforced by Sampson’s (2008) aforementioned view that “interventions in the
13This an estimate because participants were asked to check a box to show affirmation; thus, if no box was
checked, this could mean “no” or something similar, or it could mean they skipped the question. To be
conservative, the percentage calculation was treated as though all who left the question blank intended to say
“no.”
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !987
local community are unlikely to succeed if they attempt to penetrate the private world of
personal relations” (p. 165).
Quantitative findings included high correlations between all SC dimensions except
some forms of participation; however, the fact that participation related to actions taken
with a neighborhood organization was significantly correlated with the other SC dimen-
sions suggests that action may be more important for SC than meetings. However, given
the poor internal consistency for the neighboring and post-participation scales used, find-
ings for action and meetings may have been stronger if scales with greater reliability had
been used.
This study also highlighted processes of NC that may have contributed to reported
increases in SOC. The findings support the idea that, at least in part, processes using
behavioral forms of McMillan and Chavis’ (1986) attitudinal dimensions may be a way
of building SOC (and possibly SC). Additionally, of the aforementioned 20 antecedents
Proeschold-Bell and Roosa (n.d.) note are causally related to SOC-like dimensions, NC
either fully or partially includes 9 of them: one for shared emotional connection (SEC)
(interaction among members); five shared by SEC and needs fulfillment (opportunities to
communicate; group distinctiveness; clear roles; clarity of group goals; and group success);
two for needs fulfillment (cohesive, expressive environment; and self-disclosure); and,
finally, one for membership (acceptance by members).
Implications
This study has several implications for SOC and SC interventions and future research.
In terms of practice, Miller and Shinn (2005) note the need for research that identifies
powerful ideas and central aspects of interventions, allowing flexibility around those core
components. One such powerful idea from this study is simply that interventions may be
needed to build meaningful relationships between neighbors—though perhaps between
others as well. A related powerful idea is that the cognitive form of SC (i.e., SOC) may
not be best created by a cognitive method—such as telling people they should care about
or build SOC—but by a deliberate, behavioral intervention; this and the potential for
behavioral interventions to create SC in general should be further tested.
More concretely, Lipsey (1993) suggests “small theories” to describe processes for lo-
cal programs. Specifically, relating NC back to SOC, findings suggest it roughly included
the following processes: (a) membership (i.e., a host inviting neighbors to come into
her/his home, followed by repeat meetings that provide a member-like experience with
neighbors); (b) shared emotional connection (i.e., fostering opportunities to connect
emotionally, such as sharing food together and relating one’s story to the NC group);
(c) influence (i.e., being able to present one’s issues and suggested actions to the group,
while also hearing issues and suggested actions of others); and (d) needs fulfillment
(i.e., satisfying needs via meeting, discussing issues, and taking collective action on is-
sues that matter to the group). This is a nascent description and both the varying fi-
delity in program delivery and limitations of the study suggest the need for further
research to test it—ideally, casual research that takes into consideration limitations noted
below.
In terms of testing the process, the potential to experiment with the NC model should
be considered, in terms of both program components and settings. The powerful idea of
deliberately building neighborhood relationships and SC is likely best left as the core, but
additional program components should be weighed, such as: meeting more than three
times (as suggested by the majority of survey respondents); keeping NC dynamic and
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
988 !Journal of Community Psychology, November 2013
useful for broader neighborhood relationships by mixing groups up every 3 to 6 months;
dealing with findings of limited action and needs fulfillment by providing clearer stepping
stones from completion of NC to other involvement, such as social or civic engagement
(perhaps by being educated about various local options, such as neighborhood associ-
ations and community organizing); and considering incorporating facilitated dialogue
about difficult issues (such as the Everyday Democracy model14 of discussing issues such
as race, faith, and immigration).
Additionally, use in different types of neighborhoods (e.g., public housing, mixed-
income) and in different types of organizations or settings (e.g., community organizing,
community centers) should be eventually attempted and studied. Indeed, the question
of what type of organization is best to create that “more organized citizenry in low-
to moderate-income neighborhoods” (Ferguson & Stoutland, 1999, p. 48) is a central
question that will be addressed in a subsequent theoretical article. Regardless, any experi-
mental efforts should be approached with care and deliberate evaluation, in part because
of limits to this study and in part because of the fairly homogeneous population in this
study; Miller and Shinn (2005) recommend “study[ing] ways that treatments must be
modified to work in new settings” (p. 176). As suggested above, this or any other future
study of a NC-like program should build on the exploratory design of this research to
develop more rigorous descriptive and explanatory research.
This article focused more on SOC than overall SC. However, more efforts should be
made to connect the two via research and action, as called for by Perkins, Hughey, and
Speer (2002). In that same paper, the authors note the need for community psycholo-
gists and community developers to collaborate—a perfect means by which SOC and SC
interventions could be further connected. For NC, comparative case studies should be
considered in the various other locations where the Annie E. Casey Foundation has used
the model.
Limitations
As previously noted, generalizability of this pilot study is limited, as is the statistical power
given the sample. It is potentially biased towards staff and has shortcomings in regard
to neighborhood measurements, with 40% of respondents engaging in NC five or more
blocks from their home (though they may have still been participating with neighbors);
this suggests a limitation in validity for the SC constructs, given that some items are
neighborhood-oriented. The study would also have been much stronger with a pre-post
analysis and/or a control group.
One overall limitation was the analysis of individual- as opposed to community-level
indicators, which falls short of suggestions regarding SOC measurement (e.g., Brodsky
et al., 1999) and SC measurement (which are particularly important to consider at the
collective level, as noted by Sampson et al., 2005). Additionally, because it was not antici-
pated that so many participants would have done more than one NC group, the questions
in the survey did not fully address this. Some questions distinguished between first and
second NC groups, but others used the language “before NC” and “after NC,” which is not
precise enough. Low alpha reliability of scales for neighboring, post participation and, to
a lesser degree, SDI, was another limitation.
14More on the Everyday Democracy model can be found online at www.everyday-democracy.org/
Journal of Community Psychology DOI: 10.1002/jcop
From Isolation to Community !989
CONCLUSION
Sense of community and social capital interventions merit much more attention, particu-
larly given our increasingly heterogeneous society (Alesina & Glaeser, 2004) and the ideal
of mixed-income, diverse neighborhoods (DeFilippis & Fraser, 2010). Whether we build
a country that becomes only more divided as it becomes more diverse may depend on
our approach to SOC and SC going forward. This study provides evidence that SOC and
SC can be deliberately formed, at least for highly involved participants. It is an important
task to build on this work, experiment with the NeighborCircles model, and push for-
ward on the ever-present challenge of fostering more local, pragmatic, inclusive forms of
community.
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The NHS Plan is introducing social prescribing link workers into GP surgeries in England. The link workers connect people to non-health resources in the community and voluntary sector, with the aim of meeting individual needs beyond the capacity of the NHS. Social prescribing models focus on enhancing individual wellbeing, guided by the policy of universal personalised care. However, they largely neglect the capacity of communities to meet individual need, particularly in the wake of a decade of austerity. We propose a model of community enhanced social prescribing (CESP) which has the potential to improve both individual and community wellbeing. CESP combines two evidence-informed models – Connected Communities and Connecting People – to address both community capacity and individual need. CESP requires a literacy of community which recognises the importance of communities to individuals and the importance of engaging with, and investing in, communities. When fully implemented the theory of change for CESP is hypothesised to improve both individual and community wellbeing.
... 181]. Sense of community is positively associated with life satisfaction [27,29,32,36,44]. Hispanic immigrants may report a positive life satisfaction regardless of the challenges they face. ...
... what is the process for appointment to leadership positions, how could a person develop an association or community organization, or what are the boundaries for local neighbourhood associations). Additionally, collaborative programming could focus on ways to increase a sense of community such as by (1) hosting community dinners where both established residents and newcomers can be together, (2) presenting community storytelling where people can learn the history of the space and its residents and gain a greater appreciation for the community, (3) developing community gardens where people are focused on common goals, and (4) holding family-centred activities [44,60]. ...
Article
The influx of Hispanic immigrants into rural areas of the United States has created demographic, economic, and social change within communities. Sense of community, a psychological construct that includes membership, influence, fulfilment of needs, and a shared emotional connection between community members, is a vital element in assessing the integration of immigrants into a community. This study used a sequential explanatory mixed methods design to describe and examine sense of community, community participation, and life satisfaction among Hispanic immigrants from two communities in rural Nebraska (N = 180 survey participants; N = 53 focus groups participants). The results indicated that participants felt a sense of community. Sense of community was significantly positively correlated with community participation, r = 0.29, p < 0.01, and life satisfaction, r = 0.31, p < 0.01. Participants identified that being part of the community was more than just sharing a geographic space. It encompassed a feeling of belonging, unity, and acceptance as well as a willingness to help others and participate. Respondents had participated in their communities by volunteering, donating to community organizations, talking to others about community issues, and participating in associations. The vast majority of participants were satisfied with their lives. Using linear regression, sense of community was found to be a significant predictor of both community participation, R² = 0.37, F(6, 168) = 16.45, p = 0.000, and life satisfaction, R² = 0.13, F(6, 168) = 4.00, p = 0.001. Implications of improving social well-being among rural Hispanic immigrants in the United States are discussed.
... There is evidence that the rapid shift to remote work for formerly co-located workers during the pandemic has led to a deterioration of intraorganizational collaboration networks in some organizations (Yang et al., 2021). Intentional SOC interventions targeted at physical communities, such as the facilitation of face-to-face meetings among neighbors (O'Connor, 2013) could potentially be translated to virtual settings assuming that there are suitable analogues or equivalents. Designers of these potential workplace interventions could also consider the research that has been done with respect to: SOC in virtual communities (Blanchard and Markus, 2002;Blanchard and Markus, 2004;Blanchard, 2008), and; the links between, social interactions, social networks and SOC in virtual or online education (Rovai, 2002;Dawson, 2006;Dawson, 2008;Seckman, 2014). ...
Article
Purpose This study aims to examine the associations of social networks with the sense of community (SOC) construct and spatial colocation or having an office. The study site was an institute for health-care policy research formed in 2011 by bringing together scientists from more than 20 different university units. Only 30% of the scientists were had an office or physical presence at the institute. Therefore, the institute was an ideal site to examine whether SOC was correlated with different dimensions of network position – connectedness, reachability and brokerage – even when the authors account for the lack of spatial colocation for the off-site scientists. Design/methodology/approach A two-part (sociometric and workplace) internet survey instrument was administered in 2014 to the institute’s population of 411 individuals. The sociometric data were used to create an undirected interaction network and the following dependent variables (DVs) or network centralities: normalized degree to measure connectedness; average reciprocal distance to capture reachability; and normalized betweenness to proxy brokerage. Separate node-level network regressions were then run with random permutations ( N = 10,000) and listwise deletion for each of the DVs with SOC and spatial colocation as the independent variables, and variables that controlled for gender, organizational affiliation and job category. Findings SOC and spatial colocation are both positively and significantly correlated with network connectedness and reachability. The results suggest that both SOC and spatial colocation have a larger impact on reachability than connectedness. However, neither SOC nor spatial colocation are significantly associated with network brokerage. Finally, the findings show that SOC and spatial colocation are more reliable predictors of network connectedness and reachability than are key individual- and unit-level control variables, specifically the individual’s sex, job category and organizational affiliation. The controls were not significantly associated with any of the three network centralities, namely, connectedness, reachability and brokerage. Originality/value This exploratory study used social network analysis and node-level network regressions to examine the associations from SOC and spatial colocation to dimensions of network position. SOC is positively and significantly associated with network connectedness and reachability, suggesting that SOC is an important consideration when individuals are disadvantaged from the absence of spatial colocation. The findings have implications for work in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as they imply that interventions based on the SOC construct could potentially lessen the negative effects of remote work on workplace social networks due to factors such as the reduction of social contacts.
... First, this is a cross-sectional study. Future studies should consider longitudinal follow-up approaches, with attention to intervention components to improve SOC interventions and relationship building in the community (Christens, 2010;O'Connor, 2013). ...
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The growth of age-friendly community initiatives underscores a paradigmatic shift from the individual to the community, addressing dynamic transactions between people and the environment they are living in. The purpose of the present study is to address the gap in existing research by examining the psycho-social effects of the sense of community in mediating between WHO domains of age-friendliness and the life satisfaction of older adults. Data were obtained from 898 participants in Hong Kong. Path analysis was conducted. Two AFC domains, Social Participation as well as Community Support and Health Services, were found to be associated with life satisfaction. Sense of community was found to mediate between these two domains and life satisfaction. The implications of these findings are discussed with reference to developing opportunities in social participation of older adults and enhancing community/health support services in the context of developing sustainability in the community.
... However, strategies to increase CE have not been well described, and likely entail intervening at multiple levels of the socio-ecological model (SEM)including interpersonal, intrapersonal, organizational, community, and policy [12]. There is a lack of research on how to operationalize CE concepts in interventions and use CE as a focus of change and a unit of measure in multilevel community interventions [13][14][15]. ...
Article
Increased community collective efficacy (CE), defined as social cohesion among neighbors and their willingness to intervene for common good, is associated with improved community health outcomes. However, processes to increase CE and estimate its dose within an intervention are not well understood. The 2 year Children’s Healthy Living (CHL) intervention aimed to improve child behaviors known to affect obesity. We used data from CHL to estimate CE dose and examine its association with a successful outcome from CHL—reduction in children’s recreational screen time. Monthly reports from nine intervention communities were quantified, and CE dose was calculated for each community overall, at 4 time intervals (6, 12, 18, and 24 months), and for each CE building block—social bonding, social bridging, social leveraging, empowerment, and civic engagement. CE dose at each time interval and change in screen time was correlated using Spearman’s rho. Next, communities were categorized as having a high CE dose or a low CE dose, and differences between four high-dose and five low-dose communities were compared using a two-tailed t-test. The correlation between change in screen time and CE dose was significant (rs = 0.83, p = .003). Significantly more activities facilitating empowerment and civic engagement were conducted in high-dose communities, which were more likely to show improvements in screen time, than in low-dose communities. This method of estimating an intervention’s CE dose and examining change over time and effect of CE and its building blocks on intervention outcomes shows promise.
... The neighborhood collective efficacy scale was initially found to predict improved safety and freedom from violent crime (Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). Broader applications of the construct and measure followed, focusing on the study of health (e.g., Browning & Cagney, 2002;Vega, Ang, Rodriguez & Finch, 2011), sense of community (Long & Perkins, 2007), and the effectiveness of community-based social capital building initiatives (O'Connor, 2013). ...
Chapter
Social capital provides a conceptual tool for understanding the social fabric at the heart of the community psychology agenda. It adds an emphasis on how everyday interactions are situated in social relationships structured by group membership and how these relationships lead to particular identities and social positions (Bourdieu, 1984, 2005) as well as individual outcomes that derive from the collective resource of social capital (Christens, 2012; Coleman, 1988). We suggest in this chapter that both social support and social capital may best be understood as aspects of social life rather than as separate variables. This chapter aims to promote understanding and integration of these two concepts in an effort to further research and practice in community psychology and related disciplines. It is organized into three parts. First, we review the main theoretical and empirical developments of each concept, including historical emergences and resulting usages within community psychology. Second, we analyze the relationship between social support and social capital to critically consider what each offers for thinking about social relationships and their social contexts. Third and finally, we conclude our chapter by revisiting the question of how theories of social support and social capital contribute to useful knowledge about communities’ and individuals’ well-being, as well as assessing the limitations of these bodies of knowledge and practice.
... Interventions at the community level may also be effective, although these have not received much attention even in the community psychology literature. One notable study in a Latino community, although small (n = 28), examined the impact of a neighborhood intervention involving individuals inviting neighbors into their homes and found increased SOC, social capital, and collective efficacy outcomes based on pre-to post-test changes (O'Connor, 2013). The extent to which community interventions could foster these kinds of outcomes for people with disabilities in their communities would be a valuable line of research. ...
Article
Sense of community (SOC) refers to feelings of belonging and attachment one has for a community. Despite a growing focus on adjustment and community outcomes following disability, this construct has received little attention in the rehabilitation literature. The primary aim of this study was to examine the extent to which SOC and social identification with one’s town contribute to life satisfaction outcomes among adults with brain injury, controlling for demographic, disability, and other related social constructs (e.g., social support and social integration). Members from brain injury associations across the United States (N = 177) participated in a survey-based study. Results from hierarchical regression analysis indicated that the final model accounted for 45% of the variance in life satisfaction, with SOC variables contributing 11%. Symptom severity, perceived emotional support, and the SOC dimension reinforcement of needs were significant independent predictors of life satisfaction. Findings from this study highlight the importance of examining SOC variables among clients with brain injury to enhance subjective well-being.
Article
Black Americans have the lowest life expectancy and health‐related quality of life (HRQoL; a strong predictor of premature mortality) of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. Low rates of physical activity and engagement in healthy eating are two known contributors to low HRQoL. Black Americans are more likely to live in environments that inhibit engagement in these two contributors. The present study examined sense of community as a buffer against the adverse effects of low physical activity and healthy eating on HRQoL among Black Americans. A sample of 290 Black American adults were recruited for the present study. Results indicate that sense of community buffers against the adverse effects of low physical activity on HRQoL. The results of the present study can be used by health promotion interventionists and policy‐makers to improve HRQoL and reduce premature mortality among Black Americans.
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Recent decades have seen a growing number of studies on the benefits and environmental determinants of community social capital. This study explored the relationship between neighborhood residents’ perceptions of their built environment and social capital by comparing two neighborhoods, Bucktown, an example of traditional neighborhood design, and Schaumburg, exemplifying suburban sprawl. Furthermore, the study sought to develop suggestions for further research about the variables contributing to neighborhood variations in social capital. Results of two cross-sectional phone surveys with 197 residents indicated that Bucktown respondents reported more close neighborhood ties, and believed they were more involved in mutual aid and community problem solving, but viewed their neighbors as less supportive than participants from Schaumburg. It may be hypothesized that aspects of residents’ perceptions of the built environment, particularly perceived safety and walkability, may be partly responsible for the neighborhood differences found. Further research is needed to understand the pathways of how elements of perceived built environment may affect social capital formation and development.
Article
Whenever there is widespread agreement or consensus that a certain policy, or set of related policies, should be pursued and enacted, it becomes necessary to step back and ask, why? This is because once widespread agreement occurs, the theoretical premises that underlay the policies become lost-assumed away as the policy goals become self-evidently "good." But the "Why?" questions do not cease to be important; they are just asked less frequently. Why, that is, should we pursue the policies in question? What understandings of the current state of affairs and the potential change to them (after the policies are implemented) are required for us to think we should enact the policies?.