Active Neighbours

Covid-19 saw an outpouring of community-led support in which 9 million ‘volunteers’, or 15% of the UK’s population, stepped forward to help out. 70% of those who stepped up plan to continue doing the same amount or more once the pandemic is over. 

What are the stories behind these statistics? What factors have shaped their desire and ability to contribute and care? What’s needed to support and encourage them to carry on caring? Our Active Neighbours Field Guide explores these questions and presents five Active Neighbour groups. 

Ministers call this a ‘volunteer army’ but few would describe themselves and volunteers and they are certainly not an army ready to be redeployed – there is no structure, no formality, no rules. Most weren’t mobilised by an organisation. They are willing citizens making an individual commitment. This is change in a different currency: organic, relational, much more “Me Too” than “Neighbourhood Watch”. We must nurture an ecology that enables it to survive and thrive without owning and constraining it.

David Robinson

The Moment We Noticed

Introducing our Active Neighbours

The Practical Tasker

The busy doers new to volunteering who thrive on getting tasks done 

The Neighbourly Empathizer

The sociable companions who have found meaning in new neighbourhood connections

The Community Weaver

The connectors and organisers building platforms for others to get involved

The Visionary Disruptor

The big picture thinkers agitating for a new way of doing things

The Everyday Carer

The old hands who provide unwavering care to someone close to them 

Find out more

Take a dive into the needs, preferences and experiences of our Active Neighbours

What kind of Active Neighbour are you?

In celebration of Neighbour Day in Australia, the team over at Be Somone for Someone have put together a fun quiz for you to find out what type of Active Neighbour you are. 

Take a look and let us know how you get on @Rships_Project!

Explore the stories 

The Active Neighbours Field Guide draws on the experiences of volunteers up and down the country. You can explore their stories in full below. 

We’re very grateful to everyone who has shared their story with us as part of this work. To protect their privacy, all names and identifying information have been changed. 

Active Neighbours – Wendy

“[It’s] the feel good factor of helping people – it’s that thought: ‘oh I’ve just done something good today for people.’ And it’s just seeing people smile […] sort of grateful because you’ve helped them in some way.”

Active Neighbours – Sarah

“I got involved because it was something I could do – it was only small but I could do it around work. All the small things add up. If we can just brighten up someone’s day.”

Active Neighbours – Rachel

“What I love about what I do is the honesty of people and the kindness and how grateful the people are. It’s not about flash cars, it’s not about big houses – it’s literally just about spending time with people and having a bit of fun.”

Active Neighbours – Patricia

“Being useful […] It’s giving back to people that need it and giving time to people that need it more than me just sitting at home, and meeting people from all walks of life, and getting more involved in my area. It’s breaking down barriers, and I’ve really appreciated that. […] You think from the outset that you’re not going to gel with certain people, and then you’re surprised. Like at the end of the programme, you had people saying ‘we’ll see each other again soon’ […] I like being able to help in person. I’ve got really tired of Zoom”

Active Neighbours – Nick

“I saw that there was an NHS Responder app. I saw that, and […] I just wanted to get involved and kind of help out and do what I could – because I saw the NHS and all the lengths that everyone was going to […] And I saw quite a few community efforts on Facebook and I thought it was something I could do to help out with.”

Active Neighbours – Marie

“Volunteering shouldn’t have parameters wrapped around it – you shouldn’t have to do x, y, z to be a volunteer.”

Active Neighbours – Khan

“With all the restrictions in place, there was a lot of questions about how much I could do or how much was normal to do. I didn’t want to put too much stress on myself but I wanted to help out as much as I could. I was brought up in a household where I was expected to do all the housework, the DIY, preparing meals. That was considered normal for me but with some individuals, depending on what their household is like, what is normal is different; I wanted to do more and more but I didn’t want to ask and they didn’t ask.”

Active Neighbours – Kate

“I just think it’s really nice we can each all be each other’s solutions – people are volunteering not because they feel obligated because they’re family -they just want to help you. I always think that’s really powerful. If everyone put in just a few hours a week to help in their community, we can change so much. And I think that’s what we’ve seen during Covid.”

Active Neighbours – Julie

“The satisfaction you get from volunteering is really fulfilling. You get home and know you’ve helped someone that day. It enabled me to meet new people – other volunteers, those we helped. Having the opportunity to talk to some elderly people in the community. When you’re not from somewhere, when would you ever have the opportunity to talk to someone from a different generation?”

Active Neighbours – Josie

“[Covid] was an almighty stop. There are so many people that are natural doers – volunteering and helping others was possibly the only thing they could do. A lot of people potentially thought that was their only option to continue to do something. Covid gave everyone the opportunity to step slightly out of their comfort zone. Everyone needs that door to be slightly open to be able to step through [….] I just have to say that the food bank needs peanut butter, 12 hours later there will be 56 jars on my porch”