THE PROBLEM OF SENIOR LONELINESS IN BARCELONA
With its vibrant spirit and massive annual influxes of tourists, the lively and colorful city of Barcelona seems like the last place on Earth where one can feel lonely. And yet, many of its citizens struggle with a lack of social relationships. One of the population groups most vulnerable to isolation is the elderly. With a significant increase of the elderly population in Europe, more than 20% of the citizens of Barcelona are 65 years or over, and the number is predicted to increase to 24% by 2031 (José López, Lapena, Sanchez, & Continente, 2020). About a quarter of these senior citizens live alone and face challenges caused by the lack of daily communication (Schiller, 2015). Thus, multiple studies have established a connection between social interactions and good mental health, as social isolation risks triggering mental illnesses (Holt-Lunstad, 2010). Moreover, the absence of social relations leads to an increase in
premature mortality (Holt-Lunstad, 2010). Therefore, the problem of social isolation and loneliness of the senior citizens of Barcelona should be given required priority, and actions must be taken on municipal level to improve the situation and facilitate relationship-building among them.Fortunately, the community infrastructure of Barcelona creates perfect preconditions for achieving the goal. The superblock structure that includes creation of neighborhoods with restricted traffic, thus, opening up the streets for pedestrians and green spaces, is perfect for tackling the problem of senior loneliness (Nanda, 2019). The car-free zones have the prospect of becoming community meeting places, bringing the elderly citizens together right outside of their houses. However, so far, the superblocks have not realized their full potential, as installed facilities are not being used to foster social bonds. In particular, they offer little to the elderly with the lack of comfortable sitting areas and activities designed to appeal to the seniors.
FACTORS ADDRESSED IN THE INTERVENTION
Firstly, accessibility of the superblock is determinative in the utility of the facilities and extent of its use. As the elderly face declining mobility which may or may not be improved with the help of external aid, it is important to construct features that will be accessible and inclusive. For instance, a simple ramp from buildings towards the superblocks will have a significant effect on the number of seniors that can socialize in the communal space. Secondly, motivation to engage within the community is a driving factor. Creating awareness, garnering interest and building motivation to use the superblocks is possible and can have
a large impact on community engagement.To this end, the director of the city’s urban ecology, Salvador Rueda jokes, “I’m already fantasising with neighbourhood-organised inflatable swimming pools in the summer.” (Marta Bausells, 2016) Thirdly, adding to this, knowledge of available facilities and events is necessary to ensure involvement. It is important to find channels to deliver the information to the elderly who are stuck within their homes or detached from the local communities. Lastly, the habits they have developed and the routines they have followed over the years are important factors to consider. Efforts to change the habits of staying in and spending time alone may be hard, but well worth the attempt!
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE INTERVENTION
The central element our intervention deals with is the development of community social networks, a factor closely correlated to senior loneliness. This would first of all include spreading knowledge and awareness of the existing facilities’ existence and accessibility, for instance through flyers, posters or brochures that could be handed out or be delivered to the respective residents. We also thought of choosing a “peer ambassador” from the senior community to motivate fellow residents and help them engage with the existing opportunities as well as to inform and introduce the community to new facilities put into place through our intervention.
When it comes to providing new facilities especially for the elderly population we thought it to be vital to make the planning and designing of these as inclusive as possible, for instance by organizing participatory community meetings in which members of the community could sit down and discuss together what to implement and what not. Giving the elderly population a direct say in shaping the landscape they live in would help to increase their sense of belonging in the community and make sure that they perceive the superblocks as also having been built for them and with them. Such a project would have to work in tandem with local authorities and the relevant municipality administration.
EVALUATION OF THE INTERVENTION
One way that we have identified as being successful in evaluating the intervention is through surveys, where we can rate our experience of the superblocks on a Likert scale of 1-10 in several different categories, such as comfort, inclusivity, and intergenerational activity – all issues that we hope will be targeted and improved with our intervention. This form of evaluation has been shown to be most valuable in determining the views of a group (Joshi, Kale, Chandel & Pal, 2015, p. 398). We would also include a long-answers section at the end of the survey, so that those amongst us who would like to go more in-depth about particular issues are free to do so.
Another method of evaluation is simple: observation. By monitoring the superblocks, we can observe if the number of
elderly people has increased since the intervention. In this way, we can judge the effectiveness of our intervention.In this way, we can judge the effectiveness of our intervention. Hopefully we can also see a cross-generational impact, with us elderly people having increased interaction with younger generations, perhaps teaching them some useful gardening tips in the new superblock gardens!
This is linked to the third method of evaluation – analysing the size of elderly people’s social networks, and see if they have gone up since the intervention has been introduced. By doing this, we will be able to see if one of our target outcome variables, loneliness, has been addressed. An increase in social networks should, hopefully, also mean that there is a correlated decrease in loneliness amongst our demographic in Barcelona.
Perceived pressure of displacement due to green gentrification in Barcelona’s Superblocks
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM
Barcelona’s Superblocks or Superillas were introduced to reduce harmful emissions from motor vehicles and to give residents much-needed relief from noise pollution. Since traffic is limited in many inner areas of Barcelona through the development of Superblocks, car traffic is being diverted to the major roads around the outside of the city. As a result, entire groups of streets are now only intended for pedestrians and cyclists, and large intersections have been redesigned into children’s playgrounds and social meeting places for the neighbourhood with lots of greenery.
As the development and expansion of Barcelona’s Superblocks rose in a number of neighbourhoods, so did the attractiveness of these neighbourhoods for people to settle down. The actions taken in order to create a so-called Superblock gave the particular neighbourhood a considerable upgrade. What happens afterwards is that outsiders to the neighbourhood seek to move into the area, possibly changing the neighbourhood dynamics.
When entire new families and individuals enter the neighbourhood because they are attracted by the benefits of the Superblock, the existing residents may feel disconnected from the neighbourhood as former neighbours and friends move away, often due to associated rent and living cost increases. As a consequence, these people may perceive a pressure of getting replaced by new residents as well. To be specific, the problem of green gentrification arises – that is, ‘the process started by the implementation of an environmental planning agenda related to green spaces that lead to the exclusion and displacement of politically disenfranchised residents’ (Barcelona Laboratory for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability, 2018).
Due to decreasing social cohesion and increasing citizen dissatisfaction with rising rental costs, which are two potential consequences of the development of Superblocks, existing residents may lose the sense of belonging and perceive a pressure of displacement from their neighbourhood. Especially low-income residents tend to become the victim of green gentrification. This has been and still is a real issue among Barcelona’s society. Hence, we developed an intervention to tackle this problem and change the perspectives of certain local resident groups so that they might feel a decreased pressure of displacement with the rise of Superblocks.
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE PROBLEM
The problem of gentrification arises because, as already mentioned, the attractiveness of the area rises when it becomes a Superblock. Living in a quiet, green neighbourhood, with traffic-free streets for children to play, and for adults to gather would be attractive to the majority of people. Naturally, high demand leads to the increase in value of the property located in this area. Therefore, people who want to move to the Superblock neighbourhood, and more importantly, can afford it, are high-end income earners. Consequently, the increased concentration of wealthy people in the Superblock attracts high-end businesses, such as restaurants, shops and salons that can replace the local established businesses. The locals of the area may be against all these differences in the neighbourhood, as a result blaming the newcomers for changes like locals being unable to go to their beloved cafés anymore, or chat with the shopkeepers they have known for a long time. Not only will locals have to search for new places to do their daily routine, but also they will be bound to pay higher prices for this unwanted change. So to sum it up: the locals of the Superblock can feel that they do not belong to the area anymore because of the change in demographics in the area and the displacement of the local businesses.
FACTORS ADDRESSED IN OUR INTERVENTION BASED ON OUR BALANCE TABLE AND FRAMEWORK
In Table 1, we have outlined five factors that determine the perceived pressure of displacement: identification of oneself to a lower income group; increased rental costs; replacement of local businesses by high-end businesses; (perceived) shift in neighbourhood demographic structure; and social alienation. We assessed them on the extent to which we can influence them (changeability), and on the extent to which the change in each variable would help people to feel less pressure of displacement.
The conceptual model illustrates the links between these five factors and the problem of interest (Figure 1). A few of the variables with the potential to be influenced by the intervention might act as signifiers of its success, the first being the replacement of local businesses by high-end businesses.
While the intervention is unlikely to completely prevent a shift in the Superblock’s economic composition, through the support provided to local businesses, it might be possible to slow or limit this replacement. Another important factor that we target is the perceived shift in neighbourhood demographic structure, and the closely linked social alienation. Relatively sudden demographic changes like gentrification can be unwelcome in established communities due to a perceived loss of the sense of community or the socioeconomic status based differences pitting long-term residents against new arrivals in an “us versus them” group perception (Mahmoudi Farahani, 2016). Our intervention would aim to preserve the local businesses and create opportunities for old and new residents to bond. These opportunities would include the residents jointly contributing to the neighbourhood’s economic well-being and having time for social cohesion to potentially replace some of the otherwise experienced social alienation. Therefore, the eventual demographic shift possibly coming to be perceived as more of a neutral or even positive change can be used to evaluate the intervention’s long term community-oriented effectiveness.
OUR INTERVENTION TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM
Local businesses comprise one of the key characters in Barcelona’s struggle of providing residents with a feeling of stability and security, amidst a continuously changing and gentrifying city. They embody the local, traditional component of the city’s population, fighting to maintain their ground against new multinational corporations that increasingly dominate the urban landscape. Supporting these businesses and protecting them from being displaced offers one of the most efficient ways of the local government to publicly express their support for the resident population. In this light, the city government of Barcelona is currently granting subsidies to local businesses in order to support their perpetual existence. However, besides simply providing symbolic stability through sheer persistence in the neighbourhood, local shops and businesses can also help to mitigate two more of the above mentioned factors that reinforce the perceived pressure of green gentrification amongst the local population; identification as a lower income group and social alienation. Both of these factors are being facilitated by the widely detached lifestyle of old and new residents. With both groups roaming through different parts of the city, browsing through different shops, their shared interaction remains at a minimum.
To circumvent this issue, we want to use local businesses as a channel to bring both groups together, increasing social cohesion, while simultaneously publicly expressing support for Barcelona’s local community. To do this we propose governmental subsidies for local business organised events.
Businesses can apply for funding to organise events such as book readings, street festivals, presentations in their neighbourhood. With this the cooperation and engagement of local businesses is crucial, however, we expect sufficient participation at such events would also increase the visibility of local businesses, potentially winning new customers. Being solely responsible for the event’s organisation, while possibly not receiving much direct income through the event itself, it can be expected that businesses will agree to such extra tasks only when already being sufficiently supported by the city through other direct payments.
Interacting in a pleasant environment provided by such events, will hopefully bring old and new residents together, increasing social interaction in the neighbourhood. ‘Contact Hypothesis’ suggests that intergroup interaction decreases prejudices and fear of the other, by encouraging processes of understanding and similarity finding. Ultimately, we hope this interchange will mitigate many residents’ perception of belonging to a less important and less welcomed group within Barcelona’s population. Providing an environment where they can socially interact with other population groups, amidst familiar environments such as local shops, might provide them with a sense of belonging they thoroughly deserve.
EVALUATION OF THE INTERVENTION
The effectiveness of our intervention is best evaluated by a combination of feedback from both Superblock residents and businesses. Regarding the locals, their community-based perceptions of displacement pressure can emerge from a mix of individual experiences. For some, dealing with neighbourhood friends moving away might leave them without a close social network; for others, the changing social atmosphere at a neighbourhood café might cause feelings of alienation. Using a quarterly Superblock community survey, we can follow developments in the displacement concerns among different resident groups. A pilot survey would be carried out prior to organizing the community integration events, also allowing us to gather residents’ feedback on ways to improve this intervention over time.
A business-focused perspective is also needed to determine how well our intervention can be translated from theory to practice. By receiving and accepting the proposed government subsidies, local businesses bear the burden of organizing events for improving the neighbourhood’s social cohesion. Thus, their quarterly reports about the number, nature and local attendance of such events should be matched with the insights from residents’ surveys. This way, we can get more insight into the relationship between the success of these events and the qualitative decrease in perceived pressure by some attendees to leave the Superblock due to social alienation.
Top-down planning, not the way to go:
In Barcelona, the 2013-2018 mobility plan introduced a revolutionary concept, namely ‘superblocks’, a real game changer in urban planning. The central concept of the superblocks is shown in figure 1.
Barcelona’s urban structure is grid-based, and this concept is also based on the grid structure of the city. Taking squares of 9 blocks, the city council aims to give the inner streets back to the neighbourhood to the people, and regulate the majority of traffic around the blocks (Love & Stevenson, 2019). This area will no longer be used mainly by cars, but it will transform into public spaces including greenery, playgrounds and sitting areas.
This concept would reduce premature deaths as a consequence or air and noise pollution, lead to heat reductions and increase public space in a major way, as can be seen in figure 2 (Mueller et al., 2020).
Poblenou was one of the first superblocks being implemented. It was an ad-hoc, top-down way of implementation, resulting in established residents feeling excluded and as if they no longer belonged in their neighbourhood. During the tour throughout the city with a city planner, it became clear to us that there is a real divide in the neighbourhood. Older buildings form a stark contrast with the new state of the art architecture. Redesigning and improving a neighbourhood is great, however, it needs to include and cater to the residents of the neighbourhood. The low acceptance of superblocks and the lacking sense of community are both outcomes we have aimed to improve.
How to solve a complex problem
While taking a closer look at the case, we discovered a few significant factors which were obstructing the acceptance of superblocks in the community. The first culprit in this case turned out to be top down planning. Recent superblocks have been met with more protests as residents were not involved enough in the process of establishing these superblocks. Residents have shown concern about these superblocks interfering with their way of life. Next, the factor of group think is significant here as the communities come together to protest against these superblocks as a part of their group identity as they presume that their daily lives and businesses will be negatively affected, for instance due to limited accessibility. On the other hand, superblocks have in reality reduced the levels of pollution and aided pedestrians as there are more of them compared to automobile drivers. This would make one think about the gap in communication and community involvement for this project.
Looking further into this case, we found that the factors of negative signs of the protests, lack of information about the functionality of superblocks and the need to be included in a group are the factors which make the acceptance of the superblocks lower. This has been summarized in the figure below. Therefore, the immediate solution that one proposes for this problem becomes tackling this problem together as a community. An inclusive and participative process to implement superblocks would not only increase the amount of knowledge about these superblocks but also provides the superblock planners with the opportunity to take community insights into account. As for superblocks that have been established already, it would be beneficial for residents to exploit the new benefits of these superblocks such as using the exercise areas and parks as the superblocks allow the increase in space for citizens. Moreover, it is important that the residents are informed about the health benefits they receive which is most importantly the cleaner air that reduces pollution related fatalities.
The proposed hypothesis here is that increasing knowledge about the benefits of superblocks will subsequently increase superblock acceptance. Among the most significant benefits are health and sustainability, as well as social cohesion. Possible ways to do this are an integrative process of establishing superblocks and encouraging community involvement. A way to possibly test this would be to compare the change in the number of signs opposing superblocks before and after making attempts to increase knowledge about them.
Based on the model explained in figure 3, there are four factors which could be changed in order to bring about effective and positive change. Table 1 presented below lists these factors, how easy it would be to change that factor and finally, the magnitude of the positive change that could potentially result from changing that factor.
Based on the table provided above, we see that knowledge, bottom-up planning, and sense of community are the three factors which can somewhat easily be changed. Reduction of protest signs on the streets of Poblenou was deemed difficult to change because it is generally people most strongly against the superblocks who hang them from their windows, who are also the group that is least likely to change their mindset. Furthermore, of the three feasibly changeable factors, only bottom-up planning and sense of community elicit starkly positive change. This is because knowledge tends to only be effective when the kind of knowledge shared is specific and action-related (Frick, Kaiser, & Wilson, 2004). In the case of Poblenou, given that the problem requires a change in mindset rather than behaviour, action-related knowledge will likely not be worthwhile.
Increasing acceptance in Poblenou
As discussed previously, top-down planning was one of the main issues with the implementation of superblocks in Poblenou. Bottom-up planning, where the voices of residents and non-governmental stakeholders are given more weight, should therefore ensure that the residents feel in control of their neighbourhood, and can steer the neighbourhood in a sustainable direction which also suits them. Furthermore, more cohesion among residents, aided by the features that a superblock has to offer (playgrounds, benches, etc.), would help residents come together with the interest of not only themselves, but also their neighbours, giving them a stronger connection to the neighbourhood itself. The balance table allows us to see the factors which are most easily changeable, while also producing the greatest positive change. In that regard, bottom-up planning and creating a sense of community are thus what should be targeted through the proposed intervention.
The Intervention we proposed with regards to improving the acceptance of the superblocks in Poblenou, was a multifaceted approach, mainly directed at the individuals living in the neighbourhood itself. It is an Intervention based on strengthening the sense of community and the integration of the community in decision-making regarding the superblocks. We proposed the involvement of social media and other communication channels, in order to spread information and knowledge about the benefits and positive features of the superblocks, with regards to air quality, safety as well as enhanced social environment. Moreover, we proposed the planning of community events, using the superblocks wisely, showing the residents the direct benefits the superblocks bring to the community, in a live-example. In addition, we planned the involvement of the residents in frequent neighborhood meetings, so they would be given a voice in the planning and maintenance of their superblock.
In addition to the intervention, we also thought about ways to evaluate the success of our intervention. It is not only important to think of ways to improve the situation, but also make sure the intervention does what it promises to do. Therefore, the situation should be assessed comparing the acceptance of the superblocks before and after the intervention. Therefore, surveys should be given out to individuals in the neighborhood about the value they prescribe to the benefits of the superblocks, and whether these outweigh their disadvantages. This should be done shortly after the intervention, as well as after a year, in order to measure the short and long-term effect. Besides, neighborhood meetings will be held regularly, in which the opinions of the residents will be heard. Lastly, we suggested the evaluation of the usage of the public spaces before and after the intervention, and an assessment of whether it has increased with time, and the monitoring of active opposition and support of the superblocks.
The vanishing sense of community in Barcelona’s Superblocks
As you walk around the new superblocks in Barcelona, many changes are noticeable. These range from more trees and plants to more places for children to play, which are all positive tangible impacts the superblocks have brought about. However, living in these superblocks might be a whole other experience. This has to do with both tangible and intangible aspects of the superblocks, so not only with the living environment but also with the feelings that this environment brings along for its residents. This is where we, as a team, identified a problem that is of significance and asks for attention from the city officials, but also, especially, from the residents themselves. The problem we identified is the decreasing sense of community residents experience. This is a problem that should be addressed as this sense of community is important for collectivistic efforts to maintain a prosperous city and creates harmony in such a diverse community. For a city with so many inhabitants with different backgrounds and views, think of the Catalonia debate, a sense of community is the glue that holds it together. In this article we will look more closely at the loss of sense of community and develop possible interventions to target this problem. The first step to follow in this article is the analysis of the variety of factors that impact the sense of community.
Along with education, income, food, and security, place is one of the social determinants that affects one’s health. Where an individual resides is a social determinant of the standard of their life. Furthermore, a part of the place is the sense of community a resident feels towards the physical environment. Sense of community is a phrase used to characterize the relationship between the individual and social structure (Chavis and Wandersman, 1990). The individual can have a low or high sense of community depending on how involved or influential they feel towards their immediate environment (McMillian and Chavis, 1986). When an individual feels they possess a strong sense of community they are able to contribute towards individual and community development. According to Chavis and Wandersman (1990) there are three components that aid an individual’s sense of community. The three components are the perception of the environment, one’s social relations, and one’s perceived control and empowerment within the community. These components are applied to study problems mentioned in Barcelona’s superblock.
The first component is perception of the environment and it is how people perceive their environment or their neighbourhood. How it is viewed impacts their feeling of security in the community and thus affects their sense of community (Chavis and Wandersman, 1990). For instance, according to the broken window theory, visible characteristics of a neighbourhood such as public urination, drinking, or deterioration of infrastructure can make residents feel unsafe in their own neighbourhood. Consequently, they limit themselves from community-related activities which creates a more individualistic community and low sense of community (Ren, 2019). The second component is one’s social relation which is essentially the interaction between individuals in the neighborhood, such as borrowing, and informal visiting (Chavis and Wandersman, 1990). The more interactions neighbors have between each other, the higher the sense of community, likewise the higher the sense of community, the more interactions exist between neighbours. This is especially interesting in the case of the superblocks, as there has been friction in the interaction between younger households moving into the neighbourhood and older households that have lived in the superblocks for a longer period of time. Studies have shown that social interactions and activities with neighbours was a significant indicator to longer survival of the elderly (Morita et al., 2010). Finally the third component that is associated with a sense of community is one’s perceived control and empowerment within the community which is one of the most important in the assessment of the Superblocks sense of community. As mentioned previously, the superblocks were implemented through a top-down approach which led residents to feel less involved in their neighbourhood. Perceived control involves the extent to which individual or collective efforts in the neighbourhood could cause an actual impact on…?. While perceived empowerment is where the individual feels as though they are in control of their own lives and have democratic participation in community life (Chavis and Wandersman, 1990). Both of which were hindered during the creation of the superblocks as there was a lack of bottom up approaches that required the participation of individuals or communities.
In our intervention, we are facing an issue presented by the perception of the superblock’s inhabitants about the community they live in and their association with group norms of the local society. This perception can be considered as an abstract variable that depends on personal thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, the model we use is the set of questions based on the paper of Chavis and Wandersman (1990), in which the representatives of superblocks can answer a question by showing the degree of satisfaction starting from 1 (not satisfied) to 10 (very satisfied). These questions will help to evaluate how each respondent associates him- or herself to the superblock community and if the respondent would still prefer to live in the superblock community after having a certain living experience in the superblock neighborhood.
The first set of the questions is aimed to reveal the respondent’s perception of the environment he/she lives in; whether the positive aspects of superblock structure (such as walking areas and playgrounds, green zones) are indeed valued by the respondent, i.e. provide him/her higher level of utility in comparison to the more conservative district. Moreover, this set would also ask respondents to evaluate the facade of buildings and the degree of deterioration of the streets, as the physical appearance of superblocks affects the person’s perception of safety in the neighborhood, which, in turn, has an impact on the sense of community.
The function of the second set of questions in the questionnaire is to disclose the level of interaction between the inhabitants of superblocks, i.e. the social environment of the superblocks. The society in which he lives has a big impact on his social development and the degree of his relationship with the people who surround him. The more that person identifies him-herself as part of this community the higher the sense of community he/she is going to have. Therefore, the respondent thoughts about the number of time he/she sees neighbors, the degree of openness of relationships among neighbors, the possibility to ask neighbors for something (such as help in certain issue or advice) will contribute to his social development and personal utility of living in superblock community.
The third set of questions relates to the inhabitant’s perception of their perceived control and empowerment. Respondents are asked to grade their knowledge about superblocks, their ability and willingness to be involved in the development and design of superblocks. The main focus here is to find the link between the top-down approach of the superblocks and the sense of community. Moreover, the degree of motivation for active participation in the arrangement and development of the block that respondent would choose also reveals the biospheric and hedonic values of the superblock’s inhabitants.
Help and Evaluation
After having visited the Superblocks project in Barcelona, we developed an intervention to address the issue of the decreasing sense of community in the Superblock neighborhoods. With our intervention, we aim to reach residents who have lived in the neighborhood for at least ten years. That is because those residents have more influence on their community than residents who just moved into the neighborhood and are not familiar with the community yet. People who have lived in a neighborhood for longer tend to know more of the residents personally and have more connections within the community. By targeting residents that have lived in the neighborhood, we think our intervention can have the most influence on the whole community.
Our intervention targets several two problems that lead to a decreasing sense of community. The first problem we identified is the physical appearance of the neighborhood. With the broken window theory in mind, we want to improve lighting and have frequent clean-ups in the Superblock neighborhoods. We would like to encourage voluntary communal clean-ups by residents. We would announce these through social media and posters in local bars, restaurants, and supermarkets. The cleaning materials for the clean-ups could be supplied by local businesses and the municipality. In this way, residents and businesses would work together to get a cleaner neighborhood, leading to an increased sense of community.
The second problem our intervention targets is the lack of involvement of the community in decisions about their neighborhood. To target that problem, we suggest community meetings with municipality representatives about issues in the neighborhood. The community meetings could be hosted in buildings in the neighborhood that have enough space to host large numbers of people. This is a way of having residents work together with local authorities in order to promote the sense of community.
The effectiveness of our intervention depends on the number of actors and policies. Residents of the superblock neighborhoods are the ones that should spread the word and get more involved in their community once they read about communal clean-ups and community meetings. Representatives of the municipality should be encouraged to support community activities by emphasizing how important it is to hear about the problems of residents. When residents are given the opportunity to express their opinions and solve their problems, they will be less resistant to change that the municipality imposes on them. This will be beneficial to both the community and the municipality. Local businesses and building owners are also important for the effectiveness of the intervention because their support is needed in the form of allowing us to hang posters in their buildings and use their cleaning supplies.
Currently, there are complaints from the residents about the commercialization of their neighborhoods. Instead of walking past each other’s houses, they are starting to see more and more shops. This also decreases the sense of community, so policies keeping commercialization contained at low levels are necessary for effective implementation of our intervention. Increasing prices for renting apartments in the superblock are also leading to people being pushed out of their homes because they cannot afford their rent anymore. Policies keeping rent from increasing quickly are also essential to keep residents from moving out and thereby decreasing the sense of community.
We will evaluate the effectiveness of our intervention by having surveys with residents before and after our intervention. We will also perform a qualitative analysis through focus groups with residents to assess the sense of community in the superblock neighborhoods after the intervention. We will aim to understand the feelings of residents about the community by interviewing them and asking follow-up questions.